Last week, I attended the new employee day at my institute. It was quite a contrast from the last shindig of the sort that I had the privilege of attending two years ago. No flags, no pledging. What they told us was, in essence: "Congratulations. You are gathered here today as employees of the premier research institute in Europe because you have been identified as the best scientists of your generation." To this day, I am still not entirely sure they didn't have me mixed up with the batrachian model of disease guy, but... OK, who wouldn't like to hear this?
Then, somewhat addressing my recent concerns, they went on about what you're supposed to do in your first year: "You have been working really hard to get where you are now. You made it. So lighten up! Look around you. Take time to understand the system. Take time to understand the diversity of experience and expertise of your labmates. Enjoy the opportunity to develop your research in this environment. We, the institute and your country, expect a lot from you. But we have chosen you. We have chosen you because we trust that you will deliver. And we pledge to be by your side to provide the help you need along the way."
Folks, I was quite blown away. Who said France wasn't good at pep talks?
Beyond this ephemeral warm, uplifting feeling, I am not sure what I am taking from this meeting, really. Perhaps I should linger with my impression of that day: when all is said and done, I like the idea of mutual trust that science will advance better than that of unilateral obligation for defense against all ennemies, so help us God.