Another combo post, from the long comments I have a tendency to leave on other people's blogs.
1) In response to DrugMonkey's post on the proper assignment of credit (co-authorship) on scientific papers. More specifically, on when and how to sever ties with a previous advisor/group.
About 6 months into my tenure track, I had a heart-to-heart with my PhD advisor (I didn't do a postdoc) and told him that I had been told by the folks at my new university that it would look bad for my tenure case if I continued to have papers with him for too long. We decided we'd wrap up one more paper with his name on it and that would be the end. No one was upset or disrespected. Well-meaning advisors realize you need to sever the umbilical cord (both in reality and on paper), and the person whose tenure is on the line needs to make sure (sooner rather than later) that everyone understands what must be done and why.
I did a similar thing regarding severing co-authorship with collaborators: a student came to me from a friendly group, with an MS and a piece of code developed there. Over the next three years we did a lot of new work that somewhat relied on the code he had brought with him and his previous advisors were on all the new publications. After their involvement had become purely that of looking over the final manuscript and catching typos (worth an acknowledgement, not a co-authorship) and stayed that way for nearly two years, I decided it was high time to address the issue head-on; I exchanged a couple of emails with them, saying that perhaps it's time to part ways as we have moved too far from the topic where their original contribution lied. They were both OK with it, one even acknowledged that for a while he had been uncomfortable with the essentially courtesy co-authorship.
A case in point for the PI being the corresponding author on a paper: the first author (student or postdoc) simply won't be at the current email address permanently, whereas the lead PI (last author in my field) typically will. Sometimes students/postdocs feel robbed of their ownership of the paper if they are not listed as the corresponding author. In those cases, whenever possible (which is often in my field) I request that both the student/postdoc and I, the PI, be listed as corresponding authors.
2) Dr. Sneetch (awesome and on the tenure track) wondered how to deal with a belligerent co-PI who would love nothing more than to take his/her share of money on an awarded grant and do something barely related to the work described in the grant, leaving the PI to justify the detour to the program officer.
Sneetch, I don't have first-hand experience (PI on a grant where someone just takes the money and does something totally unrelated) but I have had the experience of being a co-PI on a multi-investigator grant where another co-PI has either gone off and done the same (blown money on whatever), and then either severed all communication with the rest of the team or tried to argue that he is of course doing stuff related to the main project. Such a renegade co-PI indeed endangers the whole project and chances of renewal (especially in DOD agencies, where you better do what you promised and not aggravate your program officer).
I understand your frustration. You are unfortunately not tenured, so you have to tread lightly around asshole senior colleagues. Rule No 1 -- never again engage in additional collaborative proposals with a person who would not honor the project. It's not worth it, find someone else to do the same work even if at another university. As for the grant(s) you currently have where a colleague has gone over to do his own thing, how is the money managed? Is it a common account, or do you make small subaccounts for each co-PI? If the latter, you are kind of screwed. If the former, I think nominally all expenses would have to go through you and you have veto power.
Anyhoo, if you are the PI and one co-PI is asking to do something unrelated to the main project and you really think it's too far out and are uncomfortable supporting this change of direction, I would employ the good old "it's not me, it's the program officer" routine: tell him that you think you have no problem with it, but that you talked to the program officer (even if you didn't) and the PO doesn't agree it's within the scope of the program, so your hands are tied even though you would really really like to help/comply. *bat eyelashes here*
If you are actually OK with changing the scope and it's NSF, you can fill out the "change of scope" or similar forms when you submit annual report, and you should consult with the PO as soon as possible to get the formal OK from him/her. (Many PO's at the NSF don't care about a reasonable change of scope as long as you crank out good papers.) Other agencies have similar mechanisms to change scope -- but only if you as the PI are OK with the change. If you are not, as I said, play powerless and blame it on the program officer that your hands are tied -- this until you get tenure; once you are tenured, just say "Sorry, no."
3) Massimo muses on the appropriate etiquette for academic job seekers with multiple offers.
After I had interviewed (has it been 7 years already?), the first offer I received was from my first choice (among the places I interviewed), let’s call it Uni A, and they gave me something like 4 weeks to respond; the second offer came a week later, from Uni B. After hearing that I had received an offer already, Uni B gave me a week to decide. Actually, Uni B had been the first to interview me, more than a month before any other; I liked them a lot, and if they had been prompt about making me an offer, I would have likely taken it. Instead, they waited more than 2 months to give me an offer, during which I had two more interviews and fell in love with my current place (Uni A). I ended up deciding about 10 days after receiving the 1st offer (from Uni A), and 2-3 days after receiving the offer from Uni B. At that time, I also withdrew my application from Uni C, the third place where I had interviewed only a couple of days before the first offer came in; I knew I would never consider Uni C's offer as competitive to those of Uni A or B (too high of a teaching load and part of the country I would really not want to live in if I could help it -- bad public schools, a very red state); a couple of people actually suggested I should wait to see if I could get an offer from Uni C too, just to see if I could get 3 out of 3, but I thought that would be totally unethical and douchebaggy of me.
Anyway, I think it’s important to assess whether the candidate genuinely seems like he/she would want to work at your university. Sometimes we get these excellent candidates, but they don’t click, there is a marked lack of interest on their part, yet we still give them offers and waste a lot of time waiting and they of course don’t accept. For instance, we interviewed a woman a few years back, she had 6 or 7 interviews that year. She gave a great talk and had a stellar record, but you could tell she didn’t particularly care about the impression she left on us; she had her sights set on greener pastures. That’s quite alright, but we ended up giving her an offer anyway, which she of course declined, and we ended up wasting a lot of time on her that year and ended up hiring no one.
I am contrasting this with another excellent candidate where there was an instant chemistry with everyone in the department and he was genuinely excited about the city and the potential collaborators. You could tell he would be a great fit, and he really is! My interview was a bit like that — love at first sight, both with the city and the potential collaborations. I never regretted my decision.
4) Dr. Sneetch wonders how much her career suffers when she temporarily slows down due to childcare obligation.
One piece of advice is not to overshare with people at work what your absences mean. I learned this from a senior female colleague who is a master of maintaining the aura of aloofness that makes everyone think she's some kind of deity. You are covering your teaching and non-negotiable service, and that's great. How you organize your time beyond that -- well, it's (almost) nobody's business. You could be going to a string of conferences or review panels, right? You are simply not available -- that's what most people need to know. What it is that you are doing in that time -- most people need not know.
That colleague I mentioned -- she only says "This week does not work for me." No explanation. If you want her time, you have to propose another date and time. Whether she is doing aerobics all week, or is at a conference, or her kid is sick -- no one knows.
Anecdotally, when men are away, people assume they are away on business. When women are away, people assume it's family. Don't give them more ammunition to further stereotype you.
And don't worry about putting research on the back burner temporarily. The work-family balance is never a balance; more like a seesaw. When a kid is sick, of course research is a lower priority. In my experience kids really seem not to get sick very often past a year or two in a childcare setting.