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Sign of the Times: Missing US user group meetings

Yesterday, I noticed that the application vendors of modeling programs that I use aren’t having as many user group meetings (UGM) in the US as they have in the previous two decades.  One of them is suspending its US UGM for 2013.  One other seems to have decided to display at ACS (American Chemical Society) conferences around the country, and a third says it is trimming back on the ACS meetings displays for a UGM in Montreal.

However, almost all of them are continuing to have UGMs in Europe, the Netherlands and Switzerland, specifically.  The Netherlands seems to be a convenient location for a couple UGMs.  It would be easy train rides for French and German scientists, and a channel crossing for the Brits.

Other than that, as business dries up in the US, there are fewer reasons to spend a lot of money on hotel conference facilities.  Not only are they not profitable for the vendors, fewer scientists can get the money to go.  So, that means that you’re going to have to be a senior level person, who probably hasn’t docked a protein in 10 years, to attend a  European UGM.  I predict lots of schmoozing, networking and license negotiations over wine and pate.  The rest of you, get back to work and just forget about talking to your peers.

Oh, and Astra-Zeneca laid off last week and decided to close a couple more American sites.  Couple that with the effects of the sequestration on grant approvals that I have heard about, and we have the makings for a disaster in the scientific infrastructure for generations to come.


21 Responses

  1. Along those lines, from yesterdays comments on another blog

    Let me preference my remarks by saying I’ve read Dilbert from the beginning and I’m big fan of Scott Adam, I just think he is not looking at the big picture.

    In Adams article “The Management-free Organization”, Scott gushes “When employers were limited to hiring people who lived nearby…company[s] would necessarily absorb a lot of losers….now entrepreneurs can hire the best people from anywhere in the world”

    Did it ever occur to Scott Adams that if the conditions he finds so attractive in the USA today had been true when he was starting out, that he, a less than stellar employee by his own admission, would not be in his current position to render such a judgment today? Honestly Scott, you kicked around for 15 years at numerous jobs that you sucked at, before you found yourself. Now, I am glad you found yourself and that you are now the “perfect” employee, but neither your life, or society would be sustainable by the rules you now promulgate. I worked in the valley for a decade, one of the most annoying things I encountered was people who, after receiving a major career break, decided to pull the ladder up behind them. Given your life story, of having to take jobs that didn’t suit you, don’t you think showing a little mercy towards people like yourself [but younger] might be in order?


    • I suspect Scott Adams went “Wall Street” many years ago; the way others are thought of as “going Hollywood”. So he is beneath and below understanding your comment. But some of his readers may well
      understand it, and that is how better-grade thinking spreads around slowly.

    • They’re still absorbing a lot of losers even on the global scale. What matters in getting hired is proximity. You need to get the attention of the hiring managers and the only way to do that is to know somebody who knows somebody. And that means that networking is crucial. You have to have the right academic pedigree and connections. The rest of the global employee human resource system is outsourcing to asia where things rarely turn out the way the executive hot shots think they will. The IT staff aren’t as well trained as we thought they were and they write subroutines that need to be corrected by the US based staff who are already overworked. The Chinese and Indian R&D professionals turn over rapidly and are used to making knock offs. Or they’re CROs that do contract intermediates. Nothing wrong with that but it’s hard to tell if they’re brilliant if you give them nothing but tedious tasks to do.
      What we have is a return to Jane Austen’s world where the gentry and the aristocrats have been to the right schools and have the right connexions. Everything else is sent to the colonies. Nowhere in this scheme was there an expectation that the best would be culled from the global employee pool. Instead, it was the Michael Faradays who were making progress, poor, badly educated but curious and driven. Eventually, he was recognized as the exceptional experimentalist and admitted to the Royal Society. But the obstacles that stood in his way? Sinful.

      • Let’s not forget Alfred Russel Wallace, who through repetition was finally able to get the theory of evolution through Darwin’s thick skull. Anybody who has taken the time to read their letters will see who’s the teacher…and who the pupil was.

    • Hear, Hear. S. Brennan.

  2. What a bunch of self-conflicting nonsense. Put science at the center of everything by firing 3,500 scientists?Pfizer, which bills itself as the world’s largest research company dropped research spending from 9.074 billion in 2011 to 7.870 billion in 2012. Johnson and Johnson, which has slightly increased research, is now within $200 K of Pfizer.

    Not surprisingly, although Pfizer claims its research pipeline is growing, the fact is that patents are expiring and income is dropping. Duh.

    The people running these companies have slowly turned a can’t miss industry with guaranteed profits of 15% to 20% and incredibly high barriers to entry into hulking shell games of their former self.

    Want to see what US research on full speed looks like? The Manhattan Project employed 130,000 people. At current price levels it cost $26 billion. Got results, didn’t it? No shareholders and Wall Street types sucking out the lifeblood there.

  3. but, but, but, the deficit……….

  4. I despair.

  5. Wall Street will ensure our access to the finest China made pharmaceuticals/rat poisons made when Big Pharma implodes.

  6. I got some pre publication photos of the soon to be opening theme park Willard World.

  7. How H1-B’s, H-2’s, L-1’s, 0’s, ect are used to circumvent US equal opportunity laws for women.


  8. The same thing is happening in Medicine. Very few meetings presumably because the Big Pharma sponsors are drying up and noone can afford to go anyway. Sample cabinets are bare because most pf the drugs we are pretty much forced to use by Big Insurance are generic. If we’re satisfied with the drugs we have now, that’s good because we aren’t going to see much new coming out. More and more companies are sending samples by mail as they no longer have reps. Most of the “new” drugs are either new packaging of old drugs(minivelle, loestrin 24,beyaz, femcon } or “esses” of old drugs(nexium, lexapro etc). These are merely attempts at patent extension and not real scientific breakthroughs. Very sad.

  9. Joe Cannon has a post up, apparently Obama is getting ready to throw seniors under the bus. He wants us to contact the White House, I say put the screws to your Senators and Representative as Obama doesn’t need your vote.


  10. The interests of Empire trump the parochial concerns of the Homeland and its middle class, naturally. The average Roman got it in the shorts too. From Bush onward it appears that Empire also trumps good government, efficiency, and even profitability.

  11. Oh, and another problem here they’re not accounting for is the different views on research ethics. I could go on and on about my daughter’s experience in a university research lab where some…not all…Asian postdocs thought absolutely nothing of fabricating and fudging data as the need arose. Melmac in the baby formula anyone?

  12. You must be moving, RD. I’m jonesing hard for your writing.

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