succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, November 15, 2007

That's not my job

I wish I could think of a way to educate the rest of the members of this school about what exactly it is we do here in the biostats department, and what is and is not our job. Or more specifically, what is an appropriate way to request our help. Someone (presumably a student, sent down here by his advisor) just poked his head in my door, asked, "um...are you guys the TAs?" I glance around my office, which at the moment contains just me. "Well, I am, but it depends on what class you're looking for." Him: "Oh, ah, it's not for a class, I just have this SAS question, for a database thing...I'm just looking for some help." Which is fine, we love to collaborate and help out non-statisticians. But his is not a trivial question and therefore, in my opinion, requires a more formal request for help, and, oh, I don't know, making an appointment! This sort of thing happens all the time, and it just drives me nuts. I would never in a million years consider wandering the halls in another department, sticking my head in offices and going, oh, hey, could you drop what you're doing to explain to me how medicare works? No, I'm not your student, but, you know, you study health policy, so it's your job to answer all my questions whenever I come up with them, right?


Blogger Ahalya said...

I am vaguely guilty of this, though if it's more than a 5 min problem, I usually find grad students just to ask who I should contact who might have the time and necessary knowledge and what is their email? And then, being me, I apologize profusely and try to flirt. I can see now how this is annoying and will try to improve (I do this about once/18 months).

11:33 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Interestingly, I was discussing this with a colleague and he pointed out that much of this attitude is due to us marketing ourselves as a sort of 'technician' or 'service' industry. Much along the same lines that you would call up a plumber to fix a leak, people think they can call up a statistician, a 'numbers person,' and get help. No need to make formal appointments, no need to assume that they have their own work to do, no need to foster personal relationships with your very own statistician, because any old one will do. So it's a two-way communication problem.

12:48 AM  

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