Sounds just about right
Happy New Year everyone!
Act like a decent person.
Oppose and illuminate the indecent behavior that crosses your path.
I've been doing these year-end summaries for quite some time now. Previously I've posted a link to the first post of every month. For this year I'm going to shake it up and post the last entry of the month.
Jan: In the NIH extramural grant funding world the maximum duration for a project is 5 years.
Feb: There are these moments in science where you face a decision...Am I going to be the selfish asshole here?
May: By now most of you are familiar with the huge plume of vapor emitted by a user of an e-cigarette device on the streets.
Jul: The other lesson to be drawn from recent political events and applied to science careers is not to let toxic personalities drive the ship.
Sep: The NIH FOAs come in many flavors of specificity.
Oct: Imagine that the New Investigator status (no prior service as PI of major NIH grant) required an extra timeline document?
Nov: So. A federal judge* managed to put a hold on Obama's move to increase the threshold for overtime exemption.
Dec: If you love the NIH and its mission, your mantra for the next four years is a simple one.
Someone asked about your first seven jobs on the twitts:
What were your first 7 jobs?
Babysitting, janitorial, slinging coffee, yard work, writing radio news, voice-overs, data entry/secretarial
— Marian Call (@mariancall) August 5, 2016
It's especially interesting to me because I have on again, off again conversations with a peer or two about how the employment history of academic trainees makes a difference. In essence my position boils down to thinking the more you've learned to work hard in shitty jobs, the more you are able to see academic science as a fine privilege that deserves a little bit of hard work. And the less you see it as your entitlement by birthright that functions as an optional vocation that should reward you with a comfortable life regardless of performance.
(#7firstjobs might be entertaining)
My answer was:
1) baby sitter: Probably the first thing I ever did for cash. 11 years old? maybe? It was basically the covering for the parents going out on a date type of deal. So, very easy work putting the kids to bed and watching television for a few hours. We didn't have a teevee so that was part of the compensation as far as I was concerned.
2) lawn mower: I always mostly enjoyed the mowing of my own lawn as a kid. A straightforward job with a clear endpoint. And you could look at your work and see a difference. So I mowed a few lawns around the neighborhood. Not totally sure start and end dates but lets say before the age of 12. Pretty easy money.
3) forestry labor: pulling christmas trees out of the woods in knee high snow, fertilizing and trimming trees in the summer. tree tagging. maple sugaring. clearing stuff from place a to place b. off and on from about 8 or 10 to mid teens, I think. Learned all about getting the thing done, no excuses*, in this stint. And about actual hard work. And, eventually, something about the rewards of being the guy the boss can trust to get the thing accomplished.
4) table waiter: for a few years I worked summers at a Gordon Conference location. three meals a day and all the breaks in between to screw around with the other kids who worked there. high school years.....MAN we had fun. One summer at a real restaurant- better money, shorter overall hours, but way less fun.
5) contractor crew: Dumb labor of "move all this heavy shit over to where the skilled people are" to start. Also "hold this". Eventually learned a little bit of framing, sheetrocking, insulation and some other stuff. Formative job for sure. 10 h days, 4 days a week. Work, home, eat, shower, sleep, off to work again. Trying to get in my bike training- remember that post work scene in Breaking Away? Like that. Working next to 40-50 y old guys for whom this was all it was ever going to be. Boss who rode you no matter the fact you were a dumb laborer (in pay) because he expected you to act like an experienced carpenter. Another really clear lesson about being the guy who gets shit done- my friend joined the crew at same time and was fired in two weeks. Ended a bust ass exhausting summer and went back to school where I wrote a tuition check for essentially the entire amount I had earned all summer (lesson learned, Dad, lesson learned).
6) dishwasher: really brief stint in a nasty, cramped kitchen of a pretty chi chi resort restaurant. The meals we got when on shift were phenomenal, but the work...I may never have been so grimy in my life before or since. Had some exp with industrial dishwashing due to number 4 but...ugh. This blew.
7) music festival roustabout: Built staging, ran spotlights, picked up the talent from the airport. Don McLean (American Pie fame) was an asshole. Remaining Mommas and Poppas were cool. Bonnie Rait concert was amazing.
How about you, folks? What were your first seven paying gigs?
*One of my favorite lines, issued in the context of putting hay into pickemuptrucks, from the boss of this outfit (who is kind of uncle-like in my development as a man): "Don't wish it up there, Randy!".
The other lesson to be drawn from recent political events and applied to science careers is not to let toxic personalities drive the ship.
Yes this means not giving them control over anything that is really important.
But it also means not letting them control you to the extent you are reacting to them, more than doing your thing.
It applies to grant and paper revisions. It applies to the science you do, how you do it and who you choose to work with.
It means you need to wall the toxic actors off in their own little silo, only dealing with them at need or desire.
Really I've been meaning to, Dear Reader.
I've been distracted by a couple of work related things.
But I do want to draw together a thought from the Democratic convention speeches this week and the profession of science.
We are stronger together. Science works best when it is collaborative...we all parrot this truthism at one time or another. And we do collaborate. Within our laboratories if nothing else.
There is also competition. No doubt, no doubt. Very pointed in some ways. We've talked about the long odds of making it through to the professor chair, of getting the grants funded and of getting the paper published in just the right journals.
It's tempting to go low.
Michelle Obama says she always goes high when they go low.
She's right, you know? In the short term it may cost you a bit. Missing that opportunity to do dirt to your professional competition may let them advance in some small way beyond you. Maybe a not so small way.
I'm convinced, however, that taking the high road tends to work out better in the long run.
My confidence in this was wavering a tiny little bit in recent times. It's nice to be reminded that people who act the ass eventually are going to pay a price. You can get by for a little while but eventually, eventually, you are going to run out of those willing to give you a benefit of the doubt. Run out of friends and supporters. Run out of collaborators.
Because when it comes right down to it there are many scientific collaborators out there to work with. If you develop a bad reputation, they will choose others.
It took until this week to see a full slate of unreserved admiration and respect for the political life of Hillary Clinton on display. To my recollection anyway. It took a long time for her. I don't know that she always took the high road but she sure didn't take many low ones, especially given the vitriol directed at her over the years.
So I'm not saying take the high road because it will lead to immediate recognition and reward. It may take some time. It may never occur.
But hey, at least you can look yourself in the mirror every day without flinching.
I was recently reminded, again, that the science folks on social media are pretty good folks to know. If you happen to notice that you will be travel overlapping in a city with someone you only know via the blogs or the Twitters, reach out.
It won't always be possible* to meet up for a coffee, beer or meal, sure. But if you can work out the scheduling, it is well worth it.
In other news, I finally got a chance to meet Dr. Rubidium. So that was nice.
In case you missed it on the twitters, she's Scientopia's latest newly hired Assistant Professor, starting in the fall.
— Raychelle Burks (@DrRubidium) February 11, 2016
Please join me in congratulating her, if you missed the chance to do so on Twitter.
*and yeah, I know, creepers are on social sci-media too. Be circumspect. Get references from people you trust if you have to! 🙂
1. Entertain yourself.
Nine years ago my dismay at the way certain Ecstasy and pot enthusiasts conducted misinformation campaigns online, and dismay over certain realities of the scientific career arc reached a threshold.
I had been reading science blogs and, particularly, several ScienceBlogs, so the outlet immediately presented itself.
Much spleen has been vented and my sanity kept near the critical line.
I've read comments from people that I would have never known, still don't beyond the confines of this blog in many cases* and learned a great deal as a consequence.
I've gotten to know people in my field that I would have known only at a handshake level. I've gotten to know some fantastic people in other fields or walks of life that I would have never run across.
In short, it has been a lot of fun writing this blog over the past nine years.
I can quit anytime I want.
*as recently as the last few months I've had a long term blog commenter out self to me and I was shocked to discover it wasn't a woman like I thought.