Thursday, February 17, 2005

Swimming to Cambodia

Well, today started out pretty well. I've made myself virtually indispensable to our visiting scientist on sabbatical, which is sort of an ego boost, feeling like I know useful things and can help. It's also sort of a hassle, she's constantly interrupting my work with questions.

It's just like having a student, except she's not working on my project or anything related to it. So the benefits are very indirect.

Went to lunch with a friend who is very much in the same place as me, we're to the point where we think we can stand one more year of postdoc- barely- and want to get a job, any job, after that. After that, we said, that is the end of it. We can only stand so much, even if it means giving up on being a professional academic. She gets all the issues about stupid male advisors, crazy advisors, competitive backstabbing peers, etc.

It was actually pretty therapeutic. And even she had to admit, we're kind of glad to see people dropping like flies. Anytime someone quits, or turns down a job we would have taken, we view it as working in our favor. It's horrible, but this is human nature in a time of famine.

I'd rather be a cheeseburger in paradise.

Came back to find I had an email from The Journal about The Paper. It's kind of hard to understand, but I think they're saying they want me to revise it. They don't say it is accepted or rejected. They don't say if it will have to go back out for review. I think they're saying it will go back out. Which means another month, and absolutely no guarantees. But I am thinking I might write or call the editor to try to wring an actual answer out of her before I bust my butt doing revisions.

There should be guarantees. Publishing should be standardized. We waste way too much time trying to unravel the mystery of each journal's layout, website, etc. And each editor's semantics. It's ridiculous, when you think about it.

WE WASTE WAY TOO MUCH TIME!! Doesn't anybody care about curing cancer??

My advisor says to revise it over the next week or two. Personally I'd rather do it fast and quick, like ripping out hair, and get it over with. This has certainly dragged on long enough already.

So that kind of ruined my day. It's like when an experiment doesn't succeed or fail, and you're not sure why so you have no idea how to fix it. No clear outcome, no useful information upon which to base the decision.

And I am really sick of trial and error. It's unscientific, this brute force, repetitive approach to learning how to publish. I think it's insane that our whole livelihood depends on publishing, but NOBODY TEACHES YOU HOW. You write maybe a handful of papers in school, if you're lucky, but you don't always get a lot of feedback either way. And you NEVER learn how to write a cover letter for a paper, much less a rebuttal letter, in school. Nobody teaches you how to decode reviews, or letters from editors. Nobody teaches you how to try to care about a paper you've long since given up on.

And don't give me that crap about how your advisor is supposed to teach you how to publish. That's a bullshit answer, and you know it. The apprentice system simply doesn't work with this many people in it.

I went to a seminar today, it was a young hotshot professor, and he gave a great talk. But I can't help going to these seminars now and wondering if I will ever get there. Do I really want to become one of these people? Right now, it just seems impossible. No matter whether this western works today, or if the data I haven't finished analyzing yet looks amazing, it is still such a long way to dry land.


At 4:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an interesting thread that is beginning on the Science Online career forum? Have any comments about this posting? Do you agree or disagree? Is this really the way the system works?

At 6:06 AM, Blogger GrrlScientist said...

I sympathize with your paper writing woes! I am finishing a requested rewrite of a research paper today (I hope!). This rewrite is waaay overdue and the editor has been er, unhappy with me.

But how do I tell her that I have been unable to rewrite it according to their barely comprehensible standards because I have been so paralyzed with terror at the prospect of becoming homeless because I no longer have a job that rewriting a stupid paper seems to be the least of my problems? Well, the answer is that I don't tell her this, I instead say I had limited computer access because I was "in the field" for the past five .. months.

There is no point to what I just wrote, except that I just wanted to let you know that I am struggling, too. Struggling with jobs and paper rewrites. It's incredibly tiring.

I am glad to know that you have someone to share lunches (and woes) with.


At 3:33 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

I will check out this post to the Science Online forum and probably write a separate blog on that.

Hedwig, I am amazed that you can even do this in your field. You must understand, in our field, waiting 5 weeks might get you scooped, and 5 months, definitely. The journal would refuse to publish the paper if you waited that long! But I'm sure your stuff is too original, and would take too long for someone else to reproduce, so you are probably fine.

Anyway I like your excuse about being in the field and not having computer access. You could just tell her you've been dealing with some personal issues, people usually assume you've had a death in the family or something and that is always an okay reason to take some time off.


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