The Boomers Strike Back

There is a kill the oldes fest going on in the comments over at Drug Monkey’s. There is lots to say about this, but I’ll try and limit it to the rational.

Boomers, by definition were born between 1946-1966. That means that the youngest boomers are not even 50 yet. It also means that anyone over 67 isn’t technically a boomer, but a member of The Greatest Generation (someone had a good PR person). Though, to be fair, the vitriol is mostly for GreyBeards and BlueHairs which is less generation specific.

One of the things that makes me laugh are all the young people who want “rules” and “age limits” for grants. Its amusing because I remember listening to more senior Asst Profs proposing the same thing 25 years ago. Of course, those folks are now on the other side of the equation. Irrespective of the probability of it happening, if it does, it will come back and bite you on the butt. The alternative to that happening is that you will be dead.

DM said: “And he’s probably at cap, does he contribute 2-3 times the value of a youngster? “. I can’t speak to the prof in question – I don’t know who it is. But for the salary differentials in my department, age is secondary to degree. I am senior, but I am sure not making 2 -3 times any junior faculty. And, junior (asst prof) MD’s are making 50% more than me (and 80-90% research), and one new associate makes twice what I do. He’s a superstar,  multiple grants, blah blah blah, and of course, he’s at the cap, but the dept makes up for that pesky fact by giving him sizable bonuses (about the amount of a clinical PhD salary). Yes, its a case study, but having signed off on all the grants, I know that all the MD’s are above or near to the cap, and none of the PhD’s are close. My question is “do those MD’s at the same 80-90% research time, have research that is 2-3 times the value of the PhD’s?” Nope. Salary inequity is not just about age.

Older faculty are not a disadvantaged group. But there was some significant weeding out that happened along the way. Less than half of my PhD cohert is still in academia. Of the folks I was junior faculty with, probably 20-30% didn’t get tenure or chose to leave. When that was happening there was a lot of bitching and moaning and cursing as to why it was happening. It doesn’t sound much different from today.

The aware ones of my generation, the good mentors, the ones who do add value, know there is a problem. The good ones are doing what they can to change things. Indiscriminately turning anyone over 50 or 60 or 70 into soylent green is not going to necessarily make things better. It’s easy to set a picture on fire, smash a glass vase, or even bomb the shit out people who are different from you. It is much much harder to look someone you consider “the enemy” in the eye and figure out how to turn them into your ally in making changes in our world.



2 thoughts on “The Boomers Strike Back

  1. You don’t seem to grasp the difference in objective data on career success from 1970 until present day Potty.

    Also note the more global economic issues. It is indubitably the case that the Boomers and the end of the prior generation paid for their glorious lifestyle by indebting the future. Not just $$ either, we’re talking deferred infrastructure, lack of prospective investment, etc. those generations need to own up to what they did and continue to do.

    • First, I’m not talking about the global issues – I agreed (to a large extent).
      As for the data, I am well aware of it from both statistical & personal (yes, I’ve watched trainees over about half that period of time). But, it is worse now than before, but it was worse then then it was way before.

      I still think the real answer is regular (and fair) reviews on the order of 3-5 years for everyone. Yes there are lots of selfish, self-indulgent, arrogant BSD greybeards. But there are also ones who still do science, mentor well, and do what it takes to place their trainees (including cutting back lab size because they can’t find places for all of them). Making decisions based on age is no more useful or optimizing than what I used to hear: women have a husband, so they don’t need to have a job, fire them first.

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