In review!

Well, what do you know! The delinquent co-authors got their comments to me.  I suggested to PA that I could move a project that was important to PA to the top of my priority list – once PA got comments on that manuscript back to me, of course. And PA sent the comments back in less than two hours. Then I used the fact that PA had already sent comments to shame GS into sending comments quickly too. And now the paper is submitted!! Hooray!

Waiting for co-authors

At the moment, I do not have any articles in review, which pains me. I do have four that are pretty close to getting out there (or back out there, as the case may be for a few of them) – two are papers on which I am the first author, and two on which I am a co-author. All four of these have two co-authors in common – my postdoctoral adviser (PA), and a grad student (GS) in PA’s lab.

PA is notoriously busy and important, though well-meaning, and it always takes a long time for PA to get around to reading and commenting on drafts. I won’t lie, it pisses me off – but I try to remember that PA puts a lot of work into reading carefully and making helpful comments. Also PA has been around a long time and has hundreds of publications, and my research is somewhat outside of PA’s main research interest. So, I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.

GS takes even longer to get drafts back to me. GS has gotten entirely too self important for GS’s own good, I think. Though still a grad student, GS claims to be “too busy” and gets “too many emails to keep up with.” If GS is supposedly too busy and important now, what on earth is going to happen when GS is a faculty member?

Yes, GS does good work, and some of it may end up being pretty important in the field. But it never will if GS doesn’t hurry up and finish something for once in GS’s life. GS has no first-authored papers yet – and only because GS is so unbelievably slow to get things written and submitted.

It took GS and PA over two months to get comments back to me on the draft I wrote in November. I made major revisions (in just a few days, mind you) last week and sent it back, asking for final approval to submit. I wonder how long that will take?? I am trying to work up the energy to get back to revising the thrice-rejected Paper that Will Not Die, but part of my reluctance is related to the fact that GS and PA are co-authors. Why bother hurrying if they are going to take months and months to read it?

And of course, the other two papers on which I am co-author – yep, GS is first author. One of those is a revise and resubmit that has been sitting around for well over a year, while more established people in that particular subfield have published several papers. All of GS’s time has been devoted to trying to get the other paper reviewed by a couple of journals who have single-word-titles, both of which have rejected it without review (and have also rejected GS’s subsequent appeal to the decision). It’s been nearly six months of this. Can we move on, please?

My life choices shouldn’t make you feel bad about yours

Telling academics that you don’t want a tenure-track job is a lot like telling regular people you don’t want to have children.

Seriously. Try doing either one, and you’ll often hear the same set of responses: It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done; How can you be fulfilled if you don’t?; You’ll change your mind when you get older.

I never had any doubts about not wanting children. I did struggle quite a bit with the decision to leave the tenure-track path. My struggle was summed up very eloquently in a paragraph by Dean Dad, singled out and quoted by The Happy Scientist:

I’m convinced that one reason some people won’t let themselves let go of the dream, despite years of external signals suggesting that they should, is a sense that it would reflect a personal moral failing. They’ve identified so completely with the ‘meritocracy’ myth that they feel a real need to redeem themselves within it. It’s more than the money; other fields often pay more. Instead, they see the status of “tenured professor” as a sort of validation of everything they’ve done. Leaving the academy would be admitting defeat and accepting failure; lifelong “A” students, as a breed, aren’t very good at that. It’s not what they do.

Yep. That’s it.

As of next week, I will have been at my position here at the research center for 6 months. I am really and truly enjoying this job. And the paycheck. And I did a short teaching stint last month, and remembered how much I did not enjoy teaching. At this point, my doubts about leaving the traditional path are pretty much gone – it’s something I started considering long ago, back around the time I finished my Ph.D. in 2005, and the fact that I am happier now than I have ever been is very affirming. I am finally feeling secure in my choices.

Try telling that to other academics – especially grad students and postdocs who are out there on the job market. Am I threatening their choices? I never say, “Only an idiot would want that job”; I always carefully phrase it as, “It’s just not the right choice for me.” Why do they feel the need to defend their pursuit of the traditional path?

My choice to remain childfree has nothing to do with other people’s choice to reproduce – but perhaps they have deeply buried doubts about it, and my choices threaten their peace of mind. I suspect it’s the same with academics. They have their doubts too – that maybe the traditional path isn’t right for them either, but they really don’t know what else to do.

Academia may seem like a liberal haven, but it’s not progressive enough to encourage people to stray from the traditional path. To any academic who has their doubts about that path, I say: don’t let them make you feel like a failure. There is so much more out there, so many options that can make you feel happy and successful. Don’t let other people define your life.

Snow Day Ramblings

Ah… I’m snowed in at home, the power is still on, and the university announced yesterday that it would be closed today. What a perfect cozy day, the kind I always dream about. Of course, now that I am faced with this amazing opportunity for productivity and focusing on my own research, the only thing I want to do is snuggle under the blankets on the couch and watch movies all day. (“Groundhog Day” is high on the list, as is “Hot Tub Time Machine”…)

But I must resist this urge and Be! Productive!  I have some Center-related work to get done that will, honestly, probably take me less than an hour but will seriously impress the Powers That Be. I have lots and lots of my own research to work on. In particular, I have not even touched the rejected manuscript, or the manuscript that my co-authors finally sent comments on. Both of those are going to require a lot of work and I just don’t seem to have the mental energy for it yet. I really should take some time and work on at least one of them today… or maybe next week.

The one thing I have been working on is plans for this summer’s field research, which is pretty exciting. My collaborator and I posted job ads for a field assistant and an REU yesterday – and we have applicants already! I suppose that’s not too surprising given that our new field site is in one of the most beautiful places in the country. I certainly have some work I could do today related to that project, including a small grant application.

I would also really like to get some things done around the house. I have an overwhelming urge to clean up and reorganize my home office, but maybe that’s just procrastination talking. Perhaps I’ll work for an hour and then reward myself with some reorganizing.