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Postdoc in Paris for Bayesian models in genetics . . . differential equation models in Stan

Julie Bertrand writes:

The BIPID team in the IAME UMR1137 INSERM Université de Paris is opening a one-year postdoctoral position to develop Bayesian approaches to high throughput genetic analyses using nonlinear mixed effect models.

The candidate will analyse longitudinal phenotype data using differential equation models on clinical trial data with Stan and perform simulation studies to compare different approaches to test for a genetic association (e.g. Laplace or horseshoe priors and prediction projections).

At BIPID, we design, perform and analyse clinical trials and cohorts in order to better understand variability in response to antimicrobial agents and for epidemiological description and prognosis assessment of infectious diseases. The group is based in the north of Paris, next to the Bichât Hospital.

A successful candidate has a PhD in Statistics/Biostatistics/Biomathematics, with a strong academic capacity in the form of publications and/or other scientific outputs. You are experienced in Bayesian modeling and inference. It would be desirable if you have experience in pharmacology or infectious disease. The gross salary range between 2 600 and 3000 euros per month.

Applications for this vacancy are to be sent to Julie.bertrand@inserm.fr. You will be required to provide a CV and a supporting statement. Only applications received before the 30th of March 2021 will be considered.

Cool! I’ve heard there’s all sorts of new developments coming with Stan’s differential equation modeling, and it’s always good to work on live applications.

19 Comments

  1. Rahul says:

    A general observation, why are postdocs so crapily paid?

    2600 EUR gross in a high cost of living locale like Paris sounds ridiculously low for having spent 10+ years of post high school education to getting there!

    • This is very true; the pay is unfairly low. But even associate professors and profs don’t get paid much in France. Especially in Paris, 2600 gross is a ridiculous salary. However, I think there are some advantages that the French system has that other countries don’t. One is mid-level positions (poorly paid) but tenured; and another is the health care system. E.g., in Germany, for a government healthcare insurance, Techniker Krankenkasse, I pay something like 800 Euros a month (almost) for my family’s insurance (wife+kid+me). I don’t think the French have such overheads.

      Another thing I noticed about France (at least psycholinguistics): people don’t publish much in international journals (if at all) and there seems to be no pressure to publish. They write obscure articles in French in French journals which I assume someone reads, but which do not reach the wider community (Japan has this issue too). You can have a tenured person not publishing any major paper for 10 years, no problem. People seem to have a real quality of life there; they take long lunch breaks, usually accompanied with wine. I think I spend 10-15 minutes on my lunch when in office (hasn’t happened for a year now of course). Also, if I were to publish at the rate of the typical French academic in psycholinguistics, I think the German funding agency would shut down my lab! There are exceptions in France, some people do publish regularly.

      So, I think they created a high-security environment but at the cost of low income. I think it’s a trade-off that may be worth it. French academics, even if they don’t publish much, are top notch in general, they really know their stuff. So you have highly competent people in place for life, for a low overhead, and nobody actually starves. I have seen worse systems. E.g., in Germany, they literally kick you out of the system 6 years after a postdoc period if you can’t get a professorship by then (some loopholes to this rule exist, but I have seen many a career end due to lack of openings in universities). I think the German system sucks, and I prefer the French system. The French might not publish much, but IMO publishing much is over-rated. Most published stuff is garbage anyway, as we have learnt from this blog over the years. The French may be doing us a favor.

      • Andrew says:

        Shravan:

        Interesting thoughts. We pay our postdocs $80K/yr but maybe the job is more stressy.

        • Rahul says:

          …which would make this Paris post-doc about half as much as what you pay.

          Interesting to see why there’s so much of a variation in pay: NYC and Paris both seem comparable cost of living locales.

      • Michael Jetsupphasuk says:

        That’s pretty interesting. It reminds me of earlier in the pandemic when someone observed, in regard to a covid topic, that scientific consensus in other countries was different than that in the U.S. Which made me wonder how differences in norms, practice, and philosophies between countries affect science. Some practices like NHST seem to rely on tradition so it might make sense that older institutions would rely on those traditions more heavily and be slower to move away from them. In contrast, if higher education / universities are relatively new then would that country have an advantage in moving to more modern scientific practices more quickly?

      • Rahul says:

        Thanks Shravan. Germany vs France comparisons apart, I’m trying to understand the larger picture.

        What is the value to society of a person working for a year towards the goal of “understanding variability in response to antimicrobial agents and for epidemiological description and prognosis assessment of infectious diseases”? Is the value so low that we would spend only 30000 EUR per year on it?

        Or speaking relatively, is the value much lower than, say, driving a truck for a year?

        Or is the value high but we are spreading such important goals over too many projects with the side-effect that each allocation becomes too small? Quantity over quality?

        Or are post-docs meant to be about people doing what they like to do anyways (i.e. a passion / hobby and not a “job”) and the the right way to think of the wages are as a small subsidy for subsistence? The work being its own reward?

        • Carlos Ungil says:

          > Is the value so low that we would spend only 30000 EUR per year on it?

          Another way to look at it is that if society can get a lot of value for just 30000 EUR so much better for society!

          If society’s goal is “understanding variability in response to antimicrobial agents and for epidemiological description and prognosis assessment of infectious diseases” two people working on that for 30000 EUR each may be a better deal than one person for 60000 EUR.

        • Rahul, I don’t know what the value to society is of someone working on such a topic, but I suspect that the point of this kind of salary system is to provide enough to have a good life. Note that it’s basically only Paris that is so overpriced; if you go work in some small university town, things will be more pleasant for the same salary. For some reason, the French seem to concentrate their attention on Paris, France seems to be very heavily focused on this one city (heck, even the train network seems to be, first Paris, then wherever else).

          I’m only guessing, but someone high-up in France must have thought at some point: we have a great schooling system, and we produce highly educated people, many/some of whom want to become scientists. They can’t all become professors, so we will create what Germans call a Mittelbau structure, a mid-level hire, and create many such positions. That way you retain a long-term academic culture at low per capita cost and the scientists get what they really value (time to think and do stuff, and to teach, at their own pace). This seems like a much better model than, say the US or German one. But I would still give them all a pay raise across the board; they are definitely being underpaid. But I have seen crazier systems.

          BTW, a newly minted statistician in the UK, with a PhD no less, would not earn a whole lot more.

    • Xi'an says:

      Just to put things in perspective : if I were to believe the first figures than came out of a Google search, a 2600 EUR monthly gross salary is above the median salary in France, 2500 EUR, while in the US, the median postdoc salary of $47,500 is below the 2020 median salary of $49,764…

  2. Xi'an says:

    While I agree that the starting salaries for a lecturer are quite low in France, I do not believe a crude comparison of the figures makes much sense.

    To put things in some perspective, the 2600EUR salary for a postdoc is higher than the starting salary for a lecturer, which is about 2200EUR (meaning about 1750EUR “net” after deductions for income tax, retirement, unemployment, health insurance). This salary increases automatically every year or two, or even before when an earlier postdoc position can be accounted as part of one’s career. Costs of living are significantly different between NYC and Paris if you do not stop at a tourist’s perspective (as eg having free kindergartens, schools, universities). (By comparison the minimum wage is 1500EUR [gross[ or 1200EUR [net].)

    And thanks to Shravan for bringing back to life the old trope of French academics spending hours at Gargantuan lunches, drinking wine and lazying the rest of the day by publishing in obscure French journals in French… He is welcome back in Paris whenever he wants for gather (more) data about this!

    I could go on but it is lunch time, you see, so I have to go!

    • Seems I hit a nerve with Xi’an. I actually meant the comment about long lunches (and dinners) in a positive way. I always enjoyed hanging out with French academics in Paris and elsewhere, they know how to relax when it’s time to relax.

      And Xi’an, if I am ever in Paris again I am going to take you up on your offer for more data. We can go out again for a leisurely wine followed up with those cool pancakes like last time.

  3. Oliver Thompson says:

    This is the gig economy for post-docs. A one year contract – please…

  4. Julie Bertrand says:

    I agree, the salary is lower than what would be on offer in other countries, but it comes with free (and good) education, affordable (and good) health care and a reasonable pension package.

    Now, I hope the candidate will also consider the advantages of learning from the group about mechanistic modelling, inference in hierarchical models and clinical research for therapeutic treatment in infectious diseases. We definitely hope s/he will help us assess how we can improve our modelling practice thanks to the Bayesian framework.

    Disseminating the findings from the different research projects led during her/is time with us, with good publications in international scientific journals, is definitely part of the deal (if some insist we can add a publication in an obscure French journal to the mix ^^).

  5. Emmanuelle Comets says:

    Dear Rahul,

    You are more than welcome to petition our government for a pay raise and, even more importantly, more positions to recruit researchers. We are no happier than you are with short term vision and our institutions moving towards US-style project grants instead of long-term funding.

    Meanwhile, consider that in France we have good healthcare, mostly free education, retirement, maternity leave, access to a justice system. It’s not all about what you earn, it’s also what you have access to (in addition to good wine and crispy baguettes).

    Sure, you will not dine out every night in fancy restaurants on a post-doc salary (nor on a young researcher salary), and if you can live out of Paris you’d be inspired to, but you will probably live much better than in the US, and not risk to be shot at (to continue on clichés).

    A post-doc is also about experiencing other cultures, other research facilities, networking and figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life. We can assure you that the French experience is worth it !

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