Today's issue: Face time. Or the age old question:
If a trainee is in the lab but the PI isn't, was the trainee really there?
My experience thus far is that despite what an adviser may say about how the number of hours you work or when you work isn't as important as what you accomplish, he (or she) usually does pay attention to how much you're there, when you get in, when you leave. You might earn a snarky comment if, in the eyes of your PI, you are not spending enough time in lab--even though in reality, you might be there just as much as your colleagues who keep the boss's hours.
It is an issue of perception. I understand that it is impossible for a PI to know who is in the lab every minute of every day (unless he installs a webcam... or maybe those ankle bracelets they use for people under house arrest). However, shouldn't a PI consider that some people work better at other times of the day? If a trainee can provide results, or at least an account of what he or she has been doing in the PI's absence, should the trainee be given the benefit of the doubt? I am of the mind that you should go to lab, get to work, and when you've finished your work, leave. Should a postdoc really sit around in the lab for an extra hour, killing time with email or blogging or YouTube just to appease the PI? I'd rather know that when someone's in the lab, they're actually working, not just goofing off.