Thursday, December 17, 2009

Name that lab ...

In the last editorial in Nature, the need for an author ID is introduced with the simple notion that each one of us has specific sets of skills:
In his classic book Management Teams, UK psychologist Meredith Belbin used extensive empirical evidence to argue that effective teams require members who can cover nine key roles. These roles range from the creative 'plants' who generate novel ideas, to the disciplined 'implementers' who turn plans into action and the big-picture 'coordinators' who keep everyone working together.
From this perspective the author ID is a tool that might help us get appropriate credit for skill sets that are currently undervalued. This sort of argument reminds me of a discussion I had several times in the past about the management structure of academic labs. Why is it that we have one single leader in each lab that has to handle all sorts of different management tasks ? Is it ego ? That we all need to have our own lab, named accordingly with our name ?

It does not take long to notice that all supervisors have their strengths and weaknesses and we talk about this openly. Some are better at grant writing, some have good people skills and keep the lab well balanced, a few (rare ones :) still know what they are talking about when they help you troubleshoot your method/protocol. If it was possible to have the same person doing all these things companies would not have come up with their more complicated management structures.

So why is it that we name our labs after ourselves and do a poor management job instead of having multiple PIs handling different aspects of the lab that is named after what it actually studies ?