Open rough draft for forming a RC advocacy group.....

Arthur Sowers arthures at
Fri Jan 19 01:47:49 EST 2001

On Thu, 18 Jan 2001, Rich Lemert wrote:

> Arthur Sowers wrote:
> > On Wed, 17 Jan 2001, Rich Lemert wrote:
> >
> > >   Regardless of my views on this endeavour, I recognize that I cannot become
> > > involved in this if you are for the simple reason that I don't think you or I
> > > would
> > > ever be able to work together on anything, and I don't think you are about to
> > >
> > > dispute that claim.
> >
> > On the contrary. I know of a few situations in my life where I have run
> > across people, including myself, who have openly said that their personal
> > feelings say one thing but that they know that what the situation calls
> > for is really something else. If people can be found who have the
> > overiding understanding that what a situation needs is not something
> > derived from their personal preference, then it has a chance to work. How
> > you work within a serious context is, however, an unknown to me.
>   I am pleasantly surprised that you feel there could be a context in which
> wecould work together. 

I appreciate your recognition, however.....

And I'll agree that there are several areas in which we
> agree
> in general, even if we disagree about the details. I believe, for example, that we
> agree that students entering into the study of science and technology should be
> given as complete and accurate a picture of that field as is realistically
> possible.


> Where we disagree, I believe, is what that picture is and the conclusions the
> students
> should reach regarding career prospects in that field.

I think the conclusions should be obvious if the accurate picture shows
there are two guys coming out of a program for every relevant job that is
expected to be produced. 

>   However, the key to your statement is the statement "they know what the
> situation
> calls for is really something else," and that is where we will run into problems.
> Of
> all the regulars on this group, you are the only one I believe could have the
> passion
> needed for something like this to succeed.

I think you are more right on this than anything else I've seen get posted
here in years. But, I wanted to give it one more shot just in case there
might be a serious lurker out there. 

 I certainly do not, especially since
> I'm
> not yet convinced that there is as great a need for this advocacy group as you
> feel
> there is. 

No big deal, there are people out there who don't like Ralph Nader,

If I was, then perhaps I would feel we could work together despite our
> different opinions. But if this goes forward, I would be more of an impediment to
> it's success than an aide, and you don't need to add another challenge to those
> you
> already face.

No need to appologize, but I appreciate the comment.

> >  It really may be that the PhD, the PhD,
> > and the academic culture and the mindset really are not sufficiently
> > capable of the cohesion, sense of common purpose, and brotherhood
> > (compared to other cultures) necessary to protect their culture and interests.
>   I suspect that here lies a major root to the problem your advocacy group isgoing
> to face - I don't think there is _a_ PhD culture, I think there are a variety
> of PhD cultures. There are commonalities (the need to chase grants - at least
> in academic positions - for instance), but there are also significant differences.

I think our society is full of cultures, subcultures, mindsets, etc. I
could name many.

> As an engineering PhD, I have trouble relating to the culture of the biologists,
> and I'm sure they have trouble relating to mine. (You'll note, for instance,
> that we have separate national acadamy's of engineering and science.) This
> is going to be a serious impediment to getting a 'general' advocacy group started.

Looking at the women's movement, I have noticed a great deal of
heterogeniety in sentiment AND participation by women in a wide range of
occupations and pursuits. I would like to think that S&Es might
learn to regard and recognize themselves, collectively, as a resource that
needs to look out for itself just as, say, lawyers and doctors do. You
emphasize a technical detail in "relating to the culture" of a different
discipline when there are a lot of shared details, similar preparation
steps, and history of discovery and evolution. Its unfortunate that its so
easy to throw up "specialization" as an excuse ("That's not my department,
so I don't have to deal with it").

> > Then, we have
> > all those who are in nice, cushy situations and essentially say to
> > themselves "I've got mine, I'm not going to help anyone else" or "I've got
> > mine, I don't want anything to change that migh affect 'mine'." People
> > like Becky and Josh seem to be totally uninterested in the health of the
> > PhD culture and I don't recall hearing either of them complain much about
> > their own situations and hardly if any complaints about the PhD culture,
> > itself, either. Almost the only ones we hear from are the ones who had
> > trouble.
>   This is the only place where I had any problem with your post. You are making
> the mistake of thinking that because others don't support your chosen cause with
> the degree of enthusiasm that you think it deserves, that they don't support other
> causes.

S&Es are one of the only populations of workers who are as educated as
much as they are and are also almost impossible to organize and/or
unionize. I'm really not talking about a "cause" here as much as
self-preservation. I'm not talking about a hate group or a Nazi group or
some political "cause", but a group of people whose activities and 
products generally benefit all of mankind but are often exploited and have
less or no interest in protecting thier own "kind". It has not escaped my
notice that members of other professional groups _have_ looked out for
their own interests, but I see that it _has_ escaped the notice of eveyone
else here, or they have "cop-out" reasons to "look the other way."

I will reiterate that, almost universally, people in good situations don't
contribute much to those who are not in good situations. Even statistics
have shown recently that the wealthy "give" less than people much lower on
the socio-economic scale. 

 None of us can support all the causes we think are worthwhile, so we
> have to pick and choose which ones to devote ourselves to. (I'd say more, but
> Becky's reply speaks much more eloquently to the issue so I'll stop here.)

I'll deal with Becky's reply next.

Art Sowers
> Rich Lemert

More information about the Bioforum mailing list