Is your PhD worth the same as mine? And does it matter?

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Isle of Wight steam train. Apparently steam trains lead to the introduction of standard time. Picture by Puritani35 through a Creative Commons license.

I have been told that when steam trains were developed in England in the 19th century, one key consequence was that it lead to the introduction of a nation-wide standard time, which in turn allowed for better synchronized production pipelines between businesses in different parts of the country. I don’t know if this is true, but there are certainly plenty of examples in science, innovation and engineering, where having standards and conventions is important and has enabled better research and development. You need only to think of the kilogram, or binominal nomenclature or having standardized file formats in flow cytometry, or the MIAME requirements for microarray data. Considering how standards improve the quality of science in so many ways, I was very surprised when I discovered for that PhD degrees, which one might consider an essential cornerstone of the scientific career path, there is no standard requirement at all. Continue reading

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Woman, know thy place!

Generally, I try not get (too) involved in the whole gender bias, glass ceiling, women having to chose between family and career, etc debate, mainly because I think it’s too complex an issue to briefly discuss in a blog post. But a new Hungarian ad for a fair for women has made my blood boil, and calls for commentary. Continue reading