Dear St. Kern (and all your wannabes)

You've read St. Kern's blather.  You've followed the twitter fun - and doesn't that just make you k3rn3d!, because, alas, you were not curing cancer during the fun times you were having mocking St. Kern on twitter.  You've read Drugmonkey's excellent takedown of St. Kern.

And what?  You know what's next.  The zombie St. Kern wannabe PI hordes are gonna come crawling out of their nicely appointed offices, borrowing the language of "I was walking around this weekend and didn't see you slaving away over the bench at 11 pm on Saturday" and "you gotta have PASSION!  PASSION, I tell you!" and "Science doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays" and "the children! think of the poor children with cancer dying because you had to go home and kiss your baby."  The "5 on Fridays" bit is a direct quote from my master's thesis advisor a month or two after the sudden and unexpected death of my dad, when I told the advisor I was having a bit of a hard time coping with everything and wanted to drop an elective course.  The St. Kern's we have always had with us.  

Well, my puke's too good for the shoes of those d00dches, but I'll tell you what.  I don't know about you, but I didn't go into science to work like a mule in a coal mine.

When my parents scrimped and saved to send me off to college, it was so I could get out of the blue collar life, and have a job that paid reasonably well with decent hours "where you don't have to work shift work" my dad said. Come home in the evening and be there with your family. His dad told us the story of the mules he worked with in the mine when he was younger. How if they found a good mule that would work for them, they worked it and worked it and worked it until it dropped dead in its traces. "Don't be that mule" he told us.

7 responses so far

  • LadyDay says:

    Thank you, Zuska, for the excellent post.

  • skeptifem says:

    I would get it if he would champion something besides cancer exclusively, and if it was an argument for restructuring society so that there were enough people to reasonably work on science 24/7, but he doesn't. He wants the existing scientists to not have families, as if he can really say that if they did they would find a cure for cancer. If there is a cure for cancer it might not come from a cancer research group. So yeah. I don't think someone who does research really thinks this shit, it is veiled Get Back In The Kitchen talk.

  • DSKS says:

    Agree with the point of the post, but I think it unfairly gives credit to Kerns perspective that people are leaving at 5 and going home to watch Glee and ignore their kids. As others have pointed out, he assumes that the only science that can be done is science in the workplace. As other have pointed out, the tremendous emphasis on writing grants and papers, preparing reports and presentations means that a substantial amount of scientific labour simply does not require a bench. In addition, the advances in automation mean that for many scientists, experimental work is about designing the experiments and then merely supervising the equipment as it executes them. I don't routinely sit by the PCR machine for an hour to make sure that it's doing its job.

    And yet, regardless of these advances I cannot think of a colleague who spends anything less than 60-70 hours a week with their science firmly in mind; whether doing it, drumming up funds to do it, or thinking about it at 1 am in the morning because the Ambien hasn't kicked in.

    Kern's trip is the typical traditionalist tosh from an old boy with selective memory and bad eyesight; and yes, conscious or no, there is a distinct vein of misogyny running through it. It's embarrassing. Particularly at a time when the medical profession, the one we're ultimately supporting, is trying to cut back hours because the time demands on physicians and nurses are counterproductive in terms of quality of care.

  • Abel says:

    The more you make me read Kern's goatfuckery, the more agitated I become. I just looked up his Everett and Marjorie Kovler Professorship in Pancreatic Cancer and learn he was just named to it on July 1 of this year. The submission date of the Cancer Biol Ther pontification: July 13.

    I'm sure that the Kovler family is delighted that this work was St. Kern's first thought when seeking to solve the enigma of pancreatic cancer. Yes, Mrs. Kovler passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1970 but the family is best known for their support of writing and the arts in Chicago as well as a remarkable foundation that treats the victims of torture and their families.

    Perhaps the scientists who aren't in the JHU laboratories when St. Kern comes around with his lab-sniffer are contributing to their communities toward causes Mrs. Kovler found equally worthy of support. These activities must certainly be more enriching to society than worrying who's in lab and who isn't.