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It has been three months since I joined as a postdoc. This is my first post doc position. I work along with another postdoc to set up pipelines for lab projects. This postdoc that I working along has more years of experience as postdoc but he is also new to the project that I am currently employed. Initially, he helped to get familiarized with administrative formalities like setting up an account to run things in the cluster etc. In the first few months, I started running each step in the pipeline and checking each step. As time passed, he became impatient and he discussed with PI and gave the data to another bioinformatician to set up the pipeline. The pipeline has been set up in different workflow system and it would take weeks for us to understand how the pipeline works.

I started working independently on the pipeline as I like to understand the errors in each of the steps before I proceed to the next step in the pipeline. Now, I am close to setting up the pipeline. But, this postdoc feels that I am wasting my time and insists that I follow blindly the pipeline set up by another bioinformatician. It seems difficult for me to work with this postdoc as we follow different methods to finish our work.Sometimes, I have to explain why we see the errors and it takes a whole lot of my time. He also tries to get information from me about the pipeline and does not share any information about the project. I am sidelined and made unaware of the things happening in other projects.

To avoid conflicts with this postdoc, I have started maintaining a digital lab book, in which I update my work. So, time doesn't gets wasted in explaining about the pipeline. I am also going to present the pipeline that I have been working in our lab meeting (to the lab PI and all the members in the lab). I am also going to suggest that scripts that we work in the lab will be made available in GitHub. So, with inputs from the lab presentation, we have one pipeline to follow for our projects.

I am planning to get an appointment with lab PI and tell him that I am interested in independently working on projects. How do I also tell the PI that I have problem working with this postdoc?. Sometimes, my whole day gets wasted dealing with this postdoc. He thinks that I should discuss every step with him. But, I am ignored and not copied in some of the mails. Can someone advice on how to deal with this kind of situation

I didn't use the word 'toxic' just like that, it is because I am being ridiculed for doing my work. For example, when I send query mails to some of the forums which work on the workflow, he would comment it as stupid and unnecessary. He feels that I should check every step with him, before I start running it. If I have to more specific, I would say this as patronizing behavior.

Thanks

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    Sounds like differences of opinions. Why ‘toxic’? Oct 10, 2021 at 15:20

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Your lab PI has a vested interest in making sure his lab runs smoothly so that he can do high quality research. That involves ensuring good research takes place, administrivia is addressed (e.g., supplies, bills, approvals, etc), recruiting, and—among other things—addressing personnel issues. As you can probably guess, the last item is probably not the PIs favorite thing to deal with, but it's definitely on the list.

To that extent, if you have an issue, feel free to bring it up. That said, make sure you really clarify exactly what the issue is. Reading your description above I have no idea what the actual issue is (you don't like him? he doesn't like you? one or both of you is doing bad work? trust issues?) or how to deal with it. If you have a complaint, make sure its meaningful, make sure you can state it concisely, and bring at least one recommendation on how the PI can help fix it.

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I'm bit concerned with people just slapping a "toxic" label on this kind of behavior and calling it a day. What if it was a PI? "How to deal with a toxic PI not letting me do things my way"? Convincing others there's value in what you do is a big task, don't just take it for granted and communicate.

And yes, do bring it to PI, outline what you are doing and why. Your coworker postdoc does not see how what you are doing will help the project move forward and it is perfectly normal. They are not being particularly constructive with that, granted, choosing to sidetrack you instead of trying to coordinate efforts but I'd argue that burden is on you (and PI).

My point is, there are generations upon generations of scientists who grew up meeting and fighting active resistance to new and shiny techniques from their peers. I'm sorry you feel that way, but it is the bulk of your work as a scientist to clearly show the advantages of new approaches. Sure, getting really good new ideas is hard, but if you somehow thought scientists are supposed to be super progressive and immediately adopt new and better ways of doing something that everyone else outside of academia does already - sorry to disappoint. It is very often not the case, and I'd surely object to it being called "toxic". With how thin resources are, some things considered great in industry like CI/CD commonly don't work at all in academia.

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Three months may be too short to judge a person. I would be very happy if I have someone lead me through the first project as a fresh new postdoc. In nowadays' research group, the PI mostly have no time to do hands-on training to his/her postdocs/students. Having a senior postdoc who is even willing to spend time to provide guidance, generally speaking, is a lucky instance.

I would try to find more evidence to make sure that that "toxic" postdoc is really unreasonable.

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  • Three month might be 1/4 or 1/8 of a post doc position. How long do you want to wait?
    – usr1234567
    Oct 11, 2021 at 20:56

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