I hear the term "exploitation" being bandied around by trainees when they talk about the training regimen of life science research. The pejorative seems to be tossed around a bit carelessly, I understand that the system sucks and that there are not enough PI jobs for all of us, but lets face it I'm not sitting in sweltering jungles of (insert 3rd world country) stitching together Nike sneakers for $5 a week. Don't get me wrong there are exploitative PI's, they do exist, but I feel they are a minority. I'm willing to wager for every Kern, there are at least 3-5 good bosses to work for.
But I pose a question for trainees to sit and chew on for a bit. Are we not exploiting our PIs? Do we not wholeheartedly consume their financial and intellectual capital to try and get us to the next step in the game. Are we not sponging off them for their grant dollars, ideas and projects, collaborations, and other assets in order to take our science to the next level and then take off for our own greener pastures. Some trainees even get to leave with their projects (or a piece of them) when they move on to take over their own lab (thus negating the feudal analogies that I here graduate students and postdocs whimper about).
There are PI's that will work you like a rented mule and cast you aside when you appear to show the faintest signs of a limp, but are we not also trying to squeeze every ounce of resources and advantages out of them as well? It is a two way street after all.