An example of what is currently wrong with chemistry culture, even though it is dated.
Future chemistry faculty will have to be twice as smart, work with twice the efficiency, and reach the correct positions of influence if they want this type of unhealthy cultural attitudes to finally be put to rest. This is my goal at least.
Update 1: Guido Koch now.
Update 3: This story has really struck a cord, thank you for sharing this link and supplying our first 20,000 visitor day!
Update 4: A transcribed letter from Robert Tjian
From now on, I or someone designated by me will take attendance at group meetings starting at 9:10 am. If you are not there, I will not sign your salary sheets. Also, if you haven’t noticed the number of people working on weekends and nights in the lab is the worst I’ve seen in my 17 years. The frequency of vacation, time taken off and other non-lab activities is bordering on the ridiculous. In case you forgot, the standard amount of time you are supposed to take is 2 weeks a year total, including Christmas. If there isn’t a substantial improvement in the next few months, I’ll have to think of some draconian measures to “motivate” you. I also want to say that the average lab citizenship and community spirit of keeping the lab in functioning order is at an all-time low. Few people seem to care about fixing broken equipment and making sure things in the lab run smoothly. If the lab were extremely productive and everyone was totally focused on their work, I might understand the slovenliness but productivity is abysmal and if we continue along this path we will surely reach mediocrity in no time.
Finally, those of you who are “lame ducks” because you have a job and are thinking of your own nibs, so long as you are here you are still full-fledged members of this lab, which means participating in all aspects of the lab (i.e. group meetings, Asilomar, postdoc seminars, etc.)
I realize that this memo won’t solve all the problems. so I am going to schedule a meeting with each one of you starting this Saturday and Sunday and continuing on weekends until I’ve had a chance to speak with everyone and to give you a formal evaluation. Sign up for an appointment time on the sheet outside my door.
This is the first time I’ve had to actually write a memo of this type and I hope
it’s the last time.
Update 5: Erick Carreira responds in an interview with Christopher Shea from The Boston Globe, vaguely claims the letter may have been a joke (link: Chemist who ordered night and weekend work replies to critics). Selected quote below:
I wonder whether you would think it fair to be judged on the basis of a letter 14 years old, especially when the comments and rash judgments are made without knowledge of the context or the circumstances surrounding the individuals involved. Indeed how does anyone out who is so quick to pass judgement and who is coming to conclusions know that it is not part of a 14-year old joke (or satire as you state) that backfired? …
Update 6: Comparatively tame letters from Paul Gassman and Albert Meyers, but they have some good information in them about standard expectations.
If you have similar letters you would like to share send them in. Any identifying information can be removed upon request.