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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Pedigree and productivity

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/05/02/study-when-it-comes-research-output-where-phds-get-hired-matters-more-where-they

This is an interesting study that shows that faculty productivity depends on mostly on the institution where one is at not the institution where one got their Phd.

The message is that if the organization is excellent it brings up everything. This was an argument used in the past at the labs as why we needed excellence at the labs. In other words having excellence in open science will bring up the quality of all parts of the lab. 

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...productivity depends on mostly on the institution where one is at not the institution where one got their Phd."

1) "where one is at" should be "where one is located' or similar. Just really bad grammar.

2) it is "Ph.D." not "Phd" This just flags you as a long-time intellectually and educationally deficient poster who has no real knowledge of the labs or of science.

Anonymous said...

5/02/2019 6:03 PM


Well that really addresses the point of the poster.

Anonymous said...

"2) it is "Ph.D." not "Phd" This just flags you as a long-time intellectually and educationally deficient poster who has no real knowledge of the labs or of science."

Suppose that is true, the point of the poster still stands.

Anonymous said...

The poster is a long-time troll. He knows nothing but pretends to have inside knowledge. Ignoring is best.

Anonymous said...

The poster is a long-time troll. He knows nothing but pretends to have inside knowledge. Ignoring is best.

5/03/2019 5:07 PM

This poster is a long-time troll, he refuses to use logic to address any issue. He has not worked in the lab for 12 years and has a clear agenda.

Anonymous said...

"The poster is a long-time troll. He knows nothing but pretends to have inside knowledge."

Troll or not the poster has raised a valid point and everyone can agree that it is certainly relevent to the NNSA labs at least at LLNL and LANL. There is no insider knowledge needed to see that these places are no longer anywhere near the scientific level that had been in the early 2000s, 90s, 80s and so on. I think a few years ago there was a study of the ranking of US institutions in terms of scientific output which LANL and LLNL had both been in the top 30, now it is like 150 and 350, and LLNL had taken the biggest hit. Maybe someone can get that data again.

Anonymous said...

What is the point? What do you suggest? Or is it just complaining, or worse yet, schadenfreude?

Anonymous said...

What do you suggest?

Hiring better people would be a good start.

Anonymous said...

Due to the overall degradation of US education there are no better people. Get used to American 2nd-rateness in science.

Anonymous said...

"Due to the overall degradation of US education there are no better people. Get used to American 2nd-rateness in science.

5/06/2019 4:57 PM"

I have to disagree with you on this point. 25 years ago the labs would commonly get postdocs from the top 10 schools. In the number
was close to 35%, now it is down to 5% to 3%. There are plenty of good people out there but they are simply not going to the labs anymore. After Nanos it got out that at least LANL was not a stable place, so if you are postdoc you are taking a significant risk that you
could really hurt you career if the lab gets stood down for year or more. It happened once who is to say that it will not happen again.

Anonymous said...

Who is to say it will happen again? You want a guarantee of no risk, or you want Los Alamos on your resume? Plus, a good Post doc experience can turn into a lifelong career.

Anonymous said...

" Plus, a good Post doc experience can turn into a lifelong career."

The problem is that during the Nanos time a number of postdocs did not have good Post doc experience and this got out to rest of the world so as you can take a guess it gave LANL a bad name so top people who have many options simply will not go to LANL.

Anonymous said...

5/07/2019 10:08 PM

"...a number of postdocs..."?? How many? "One" is a number, so is "two," so is "three." Maybe it was just you? Not a very solid statement to build a case on. Are you a scientist?

Anonymous said...

So-called “top people” have avoided the DOE since there was a DOE. Nanos just locked the door. Those days are over.

Anonymous said...

I was at the top of my graduate school class when I took a postdoc at LANL, and stayed for 30 years. Lots of others like me in the years since. I could reel off names, but you wouldn't know them. Lots of prestigious academic award winners. You have no clue what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

"I was at the top of my graduate school class when I took a postdoc at LANL, and stayed for 30 years. Lots of others like me in the years since. I could reel off nam

30 years, that kind of tells you all you need to know. But I suspect you are not who you say you are.

" You have no clue what you are talking about."

It is no secret that the quality has gone done, in fact this is most apparent to anyone who has been at the lab 15 years much less someone who claims to have been around 30.

"I was at the top of my graduate school class "

This is another odd statement that kind of gives you away. What on earth does it mean to be the top of your graduate class, I can understand what that means to be top of an undergraduate class but it makes little sense in terms of a Phd program since it is a research degree not a degree based on grades. One could have the most papers of voted the best thesis but if have been to graduate school even these kinds of things are bit vague since within a single department there can be very different fields of research. To be honest I have never heard any ever say "I was top of my graduate school class" or ever refer to others as "top of the graduate school class". It is simply not the kind of language used by anyone in academics, which is why I suspect that you not who you claim to be.

" I could reel off names".

I could also read off names of many of the top LANL people who have left for faculty positions, Google, Microsoft, ORNL, ANL, SLAC, Perimeter but you wouldn't know them. We are no longer getting the people of that caliber anyone.

Anonymous said...

When I joined LANL back in the late 80s, we had 5 weeks vacation and student and postdoctoral salaries were well above the national average. The reason given was that LANL was in an isolated place and to attract and keep good people they needed to make the place attractive despite its drawbacks. So employees needed time away and good salaries so they could bring a spouse who might not find work in such a small town. It was said the end of the year closure was to force people to take time off as otherwise they were so devoted to the job some never took any time away.

Then HR got into the picture and they knew better. No, they said we should look at national averages and do no better. At a National Laboratory costs of doing research are higher than universities and there are few benefits except of course the joy of having to do training and security paperwork. So now we only get people who aren’t terribly interested in research and can’t get a university job. And that is the pool of people who go into management and hire new people. They have no idea how research is even done. Worse they see it as risky: research money doesn’t just flow in every year whether anything is accomplished or not. Thanks HR I doubt we can ever go back.

Anonymous said...

My experience was that it was necessary to achieve high grades in an intensive Masters program in order to earn candidacy for the Ph.D. So it is certainly meaningful to say you were in the top of your graduate school class, at least during that period of time. Many other less formal "markers" are also available for finishing Ph.D.'s including time to finish, publication authorship, thesis committee membership, etc. No one mistakes those markers.

Anonymous said...

"My experience was that it was necessary to achieve high grades in an intensive Masters program in order to earn candidacy for the Ph.D. So it is certainly meaningful to say you were in the top of your graduate school class, at least during that period of time."

So you are saying you where top of the masters levels class? Does that have any meaning for someone with a Phd. Again I have never heard anyone ever say that they are "top of their graduate school class". It simply makes little sense because the Phd is a research degree. Now you could win best thesis prize or something but no one would ever say that makes that "top of their graduate school class.

"Ph.D.'s including time to finish, publication authorship, thesis committee membership, etc. No one mistakes those markers."

Few places would consider "time to finish" to have any bearing since the average time to finish strongly depends on the research topic, field and if one is doing theory versus experiment. I have never heard of this ever being used to evaluate someone. As for thesis committee membership, that is most bizarre one yet. What on earth does that have to do with anything? People may care about who your advisor is but no one cares about who is on the committee, heck even the committee members don't care.

"publication authorship," Ok now you have something. This is the only thing that really matters for a science Phd. A modern thesis is usually just a series of the papers and some added introduction. It is the publications that carry all the weight.

I have the sense that you are not very familiar with the academic world or how it works.

Anonymous said...

"My experience was that it was necessary to achieve high grades in an intensive Masters program in order to earn candidacy for the Ph.D."

Most programs you advance to candidacy after an extensive exam or qualifier. In many schools very few classes are required and these are simply done to prepare the student for the examine. Think about how odd it would for someone to say "I was the top of my Phd class because I got top grades for a masters degree".

I figure there are two possibilities: (1) The person does not have a Phd is just pretending or likes to think there ms is just like a Phd.

(2) The person does have a Phd but just declared themselves top of their class for no good reason at all and there is no such designation in their school for this designation. Of course if checked the persons publication record for their Phd is probably far less in number or impactful as his cohort.

Anonymous said...

Two completely uninformed (or at best, narrowly informed) posts by the same person, who has been lurking here on this blog for years, and gives himself away by his (again uninformed) persistent use of "Phd" instead of the correct "Ph.D.". Although the original poster made some comments that might or might not be true depending on his/her graduate school program and in what field, the "Phd" guy is just winging everything he says. At least in my case, it was VERY important whom you attracted or were able to convince to be on your thesis committee. Those recommendations were gold for the best post doc appointments.

Anonymous said...

"At least in my case, it was VERY important whom you attracted or were able to convince to be on your thesis committee. Those recommendations were gold for the best post doc appointments."

That may have been true a very very long time ago. Letters that carry weight are from co-authors, not random thesis committee members who have not written a paper with the student. Sure I am totally uniformed and winging everything ;). Like I said it appears that you are not very familiar with academics.

Anonymous said...

That may have been true a very very long time ago.

5/16/2019 1:49 AM

Only if you are very, very young. I don't remember myself or any of my graduate school contemporaries having "random" thesis committee members. They were carefully chosen for expertise and respect in the relevant field so that the granting of the Ph.D. degree would actually mean something. The thesis advisor saw to that to ensure the candidate's, and his own, reputation.

Anonymous said...


6.04 PM

Nope, the whole thesis committee has been pretty irrelevant for the past 25 years, at least in the United States. Some places in Europe have a more formal process which is more of a tradition than anything else. For the past 25 years the thesis are now just an accumulation of the the students papers. Once the thesis is done no one even reads them anymore, you simply cite the papers that resulted from the
thesis work. Who you advisor matters in terms of letters, but no one cares about who is on the committee. I have no idea where you got your degree or when but it seems wildly off from anything that that has been going on in the US for 30 years or more. I will stick to my assessment that you are not very familiar with academics.

Anonymous said...

You talk as if you have very broad experience in many if not most US Ph.D. - granting institutions in recent times. I doubt that. I suspect you are speaking from your own very limited experience, and extrapolating your limited experience to an undeserved global view. Typical of younger people.

Anonymous said...

"You talk as if you have very broad experience in many if not most US Ph.D. - granting institutions in recent times. I doubt that."


Gee, why would I talk like this? To be honest it sounds like you are familiar with exactly one institute and even in that case you may talking about your personal case not eve that of the other people at your institution. I have never heard of anyone ever bragging about people on their committee, beyond their advisor. I have to say that LANL has a few "Ph.D's" that have been extremely isolated from the broader scientific world for a very long long time. I personally do not think this is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I bow to your obvious greater intelligence, experience, knowledge, and self esteem. You know everything. (How old are you?)

Anonymous said...

"I bow to your obvious greater intelligence, experience, knowledge, and self esteem. You know everything. (How old are you?)"

Thank you, I am not sure why self esteem matters in this case but the rest is a fair estimate, at least in this case.

Both LLNL and LANL have greatly declined as scientific intimates over the last 20 years which does not bode well for the labs in terms of value or mission. Here is just one piece of evidence for you, 20 years ago 20-25% of the postdocs came from the top 10 Universities in the US as defined by the US-News world report rankings. Now it is closer to 3 or 2 percent, almost an order of magnitude drop. (This should give you an idea of my age). There has also been several compilations of data on the ranking in terms of publications for various US institutions. LANL and LLNL had been in the top 10 and top 30 respectively 20 years ago, now they are closer to 100 and 150, again an order of magnitude drop. Now this is not saying that any individual at LLNL or LANL is not outstanding scientists but the number of these has dropped. I could say that NNSA should take note of this however one will notice that the decline in quality of the labs also coincides with the creation of NNSA.

Anonymous said...

I could say that NNSA should take note of this however one will notice that the decline in quality of the labs also coincides with the creation of NNSA.

5/23/2019 9:37 PM

So if you care so much, why aren't you actively doing something about this supposedly appalling development?

Anonymous said...

"So if you care so much, why aren't you actively doing something about this supposedly appalling development?"

Actually many people have but there is a lot of pushback and excuses. The first one being denial that there is anything wrong, than
excuses that there is pressure from DC. the very latest is that this is Trumps fault, but the decline goes all the way back to the Clinton days.
The third is that that one should shut up and look for ways to take advantage of the current situation since it is true that the labs are in decline but 25 years ago a managers did not have the opportunities to make the same money. The other is that the labs are turning into engineering facilities so naturally science will decrease which is a good thing. A more crazy one is that the fraction of PH.Ds at the labs is dropping so again the science should drop.

In short yes some people are saying something but who knows how much effect it will have or even how many people at the labs care.

Anonymous said...

The NNSA labs have never fully realized or accepted that their fate is totally dependent on the value the public sees in them. This is a function of science education in the country (failing), the level of science education in the population in general (failing), the value and funding attached to scientific research by the government (failing), the threat of nuclear war as seen by the public (failing), and the degree of focus on science by the public media (failing). All signs are down. The country has been dumbed down to a minor third-world state as regards public understanding and appreciation of science. Guess what happens next?

Anonymous said...

Nuclear weapons have been commoditized in the mind of DOE. They don’t need research and science for old tech. No new weapons remember. No testing remember.

Anonymous said...

Just to get back to the original post : Given that the award of a doctorate in any field by a first-class institution is accepted as a recognition of the recipient's ability to do independent research, it follows that the productivity of the individual (cited publications) will be directly related to the challenges accepted by the individual. Few, if any, challenges are more daunting than assuring the effectiveness of our nuclear weapons without any means for directly testing them.

The most important conclusion from this line of critical reasoning is that that the US nuclear stockpile health can be judged by all and sundry by the scientific productivity of LANL and LLNL. Any decline in cited publications can be interpreted as a direct indicator of a decline in our nuclear deterrent. This is not lost on our adversaries!

Anonymous said...

5/27/2019 8:51 AM

You completely miss the point that at LANL and LLNL, no measure based on open refereed publications can ever judge the quality of the weapon designers and modelers since the main thrust and most important body of their work is classified and will never be published except in the very limited peer reviewed (by other weapons scientists in secret) internal publications. These are prestigious in the community, but not in the open world. Yet another sacrifice by these patriots in service to the nation, to be recognized on Memorial Day.

Anonymous said...

8:51am

Correlation? Maybe. I stand by the fact that the technology is decades old and now being performed by third world dictators.

Does the NNSA value science? This I feel there is adequate evidence to at least hypothesize “No”.

Does the US value the deterrent? A mixed bag for sure. This is what I believe drives our adversaries.

Anonymous said...

"You completely miss the point that at LANL and LLNL, no measure based on open refereed publications can ever judge the quality of the weapon designers and modelers"

You have missed the point of the original post which was that the environment matters more than the pedigree. In other words you
personal excellence is coupled strongly to your environment if the quality of open science is declining at the labs it is probably true the quality of classified science is also declining. It is a variant on the broken windows theory.

Suppose for example that Harvard had a classified research program, it is a good bet that it would be a very strong group since part of the reason it would stick out so much at Harvard if it was mediocre.

Anonymous said...

5/28/2019 5:46 PM

Nice load of supposition and assumption. "Probably true"..."good bet"...

Thanks for posting your inane thought process.

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