During the preparation of a proposal, I somehow managed to draft my specific aims page quickly enough to be able to solicit feedback. Smartly or not-so-smartly, I gave the thing to about ten people- five professors, four postdocs, and a grad student. Unexpectedly, a very clear trend emerged regarding the nature of the feedback:
Sample comments from professors:
- "Please clarify this one sentence in your background paragraph."
- "Nice job. Only comment is that this clause sounds funny."
- "Looks great."
And then there were my postdoc and grad student colleagues. Hahahaha. Their comments were a fucking hoot. Now, don't get me wrong, I got plenty of good feedback from these trainees. It was just that they were so critical about every damn thing.
- "I hate this adjective!"
- "I think you should say that instead of which"
- "I think aim 3 should study eight mangoes instead of seven."
Four out of five trainees returned my aims page covered in red. And the graduate student... oh my. The graduate student went so far as to say he hated the whole proposal. He found it unoriginal, uninspired, and "exactly what he expected [I] would write". Hahahaha. OK, sez I- I am predictable, and you are retarded.
Makes me think more than ever that those nasty reviews you get on your brilliant manuscript? They really were written by postdocs.
These observations lead me to my hypothesis:
Postdocs are extremely critical of other's efforts because they have not yet realized that there is more than one way to write/study/do something well. They have not done the whole science thing enough times over, they haven't had enough successes, enough failures, to recognize that their way isn't the only way.