Never mind about me, let's talk about you
As a follow-on from my last post, last night I dreamt that it was pouring rain and I was working in a space that was sort of a combination of my thesis lab and one of my rotation labs (like the buildings had been joined, Inception-style). I just realized I was going to have to run a new kind of experiment I had never done before, but first I was going to have a cup of tea and start reading protocols and deciding how to do it.
This was a pretty good dream. Especially since supposedly pouring rain usually means good things are going to happen; same for tea, apparently.
In other news, I met with somebody who was supposedly going to, I don't know, be a potentially useful career contact or mentor.
But this person epitomized everything I do not want to be when I grow up:
3. Enamored of Famous Names while apparently being unable to tell (or care?) that their science is crappy
4. Miserable & stressed out
I'm wondering if I have to thank the person who set up the meeting. I think I'm supposed to be polite like that, even if the experience was not enjoyable or particularly useful. At least it was thought-provoking (as many of the worst experiences are).
This experience reminded me of what I don't like about scientists. And why it was always so hard to find anyone I admired to guide me through all the pitfalls of trying to make a living doing science.
But it amuses me that everyone seems to assume that I don't want to continue working on what I worked on before.
I guess it's because I'm not in academia right now. There's just this collective assumption that it's a one-way street, you can only leave but never go back, there's no other ways to do research, and nobody in their right mind would leave if they really cared about their project.
But how could they know any of that? Nobody ever asks me about my work.
I don't know why. It's kind of baffling to me. I ask them about their career path, and they don't seem to have even the basic manners to pause in their pre-recorded perpetually playing self-promotion tape to ask me about what I've done and why it was interesting.
Maybe I just look boring.
But don't we all know people who light up when they start talking about their favorite things?
I was reminded again that, boring or not, I still look very young - young enough to be quite often condescended to by people who are just a couple of years older than me.
And all the while, the Condescenders don't have any idea what I know or don't know. Because I can't get a word in edgewise without interrupting rudely.
It's always awkward when I'm meeting with someone who goes off on a condescending lecture, and then I have to jump in and say that I know, and how I know, which often leaves them in embarrassed silence.
When I'm feeling magnanimous, I'll make a joke about it to charm them into thinking I won't hold it against them (but of course I'll make a mental note of it!).
And when I'm annoyed, I just let the silence linger.
I read something recently on the topic of job insecurity and how it affects the productivity and happiness of workers. It was yet another take on why we don't have more innovation in this country.
I was thinking about how this applies in academic labs, where the PI and sometimes staff have relative job security (tenure, etc.), compared to the grad students and especially postdocs, who are constantly in fear of being kicked out.
Basically the article (sorry, I don't remember where or I'd include the link) proposed that prolonged job insecurity essentially induces a perpetual state of panic, which impairs thinking and creativity.
Generalized panic, they said, makes it difficult to remain calm in relatively normal situations, like negotiating with a boss or collaborator. And it makes people avoid all but the most essential confrontations. They just can't handle the additional stress. So they're less likely to ask for respect or recognition, for example, but they're also less likely to report a coworker who is conducting dirty deeds, for example like stealing petty cash from a small business, or in science, the equivalent might be something like manipulating or fabricating data.
So clearly, if this proposal is correct, then perpetual job stress is terrible for scientific progress, and yet at least until recently, the thinking in academia was that keeping students and postdocs "on their toes", as it were, was actually better for productivity. I guess it's a kind of capitalist thinking about working hard.
And never mind about how creativity flourishes best in a state of relaxation, and is usually stifled under prolonged stress.
Meanwhile, capitalism may not be my favorite thing, but clearly, communism is not the solution. The story about the Nobel Peace Prize continues to interest me. I love watching China pathetically begging people not to attend the ceremony.
We need an equivalent for science, some kind of ethics award for peaceful protests.