When the war finally came to an end, I was at a loss as to what to do… I took stock of my qualifications. A not-very-good degree, redeemed somewhat by my achievements at the Admiralty. A knowledge of certain restricted parts of magnetism and hydrodynamics, neither of them subjects for which I felt the least bit of enthusiasm. No published papers at all … Only gradually did I realize that this lack of qualification could be an advantage. By the time most scientists have reached age thirty they are trapped by their own expertise. They have invested so much effort in one particular field that it is often extremely difficult, at that time in their careers, to make a radical change. I, on the other hand, knew nothing, except for a basic training in somewhat old-fashioned physics and mathematics and an ability to turn my hand to new things … Since I essentially knew nothing, I had an almost completely free choice …
A short update about this blog — given that my last posting was almost two months ago.
I’m still interested in the topic and in this blog, but at the moment the times are … interesting. After working for over eight years at a research institute — first four years to do my doctoral thesis, the next four+ years as PostDoc in different projects — I have quit working for that institute with the end of the year. Actually, I went to work at the institute for the last time on the 28th of November. Even at the end of the year, I still had enough vacation time left to take the whole December off.
And I needed that time off.
Don’t get me wrong, I owe the institute a lot of things. I could do my doctoral dissertation with a huge degree of freedom, worked in two very interesting projects during my PostDoc time. Both interdisciplinary and one also internationally. I had access to a very good technical infrastructure, access to study participants, could teach university courses, visit conferences, had access to proof readers, there were (at times) interesting high-level discussions in colloquia, and virtually no restrictions when it came to which topics I could pursue. And I did learn a lot — conducting studies, present the work in reports/papers and orally, do peer-review, learn how to program iOS apps (on my own), or how to work well with different people from different disciplines and with different nationalities.
But after about eight years it became clear to me that I could not continue working this way and expect to have a career in academia. There was a mismatch. Academia is publish or perish, but the topics that interest me and the way I think is “best” to conduct research does not fit to a high publication count. And there were other issues which I will not discuss here.
In short, after becoming more and more tired and — in the end — burned out, I decided that the risk to be without a job is preferable to slowly wasting away in the wrong job (for me). So I did not ask to have my contract renewed and it was not offered to me either.
As endings go, it could have been worse.
But it leaves me in a strange place at the moment.
I still love science. I still think that we owe so much to it, and no matter the scientific discipline, there is much that science can offer. It’s a creative endeavor — with all its benefits and risks. But it must be done well. And when it comes to psychology (or similar disciplines related to observing, describing, explaining, predicting or controlling human experience and behavior) — yeah, psychology can contribute a lot. If it is done right. It’s one issue I take seriously when I see study results that are published, and it’s something I take seriously when I do science. And at the moment I think it’s difficult to do good science in Academia.
So I’m probably going to look for something outside Academia.
The question is what. Like the quote at the beginning of this posting, I am in the strange position of having virtually no attachments, not even to the city I’m currently living in (being solo and living simple does have its advantages). And as for skills, I know some statistics, some topics, know enough of different methods and designs to evaluate and conduct studies in different areas, I can teach, present, and write. I have a rather … diverse knowledge of work methods and an affinity to technology (who says that blogging and writing just-for-fun books doesn’t have advantages).
But I have no idea what to do with it.
I mean, there are still a few things on my bucket list, but they are not that important to me. The most important ones I already did. I wanted to get the academic title of doctor since I was a child, and I did. I wanted to write non-fiction and fiction books and I did (self-published or unpublished, but it’s the work that counted for me), and a couple of other things I better not write about here. 😉
So … now I am a bit lost. And I kinda feel like I felt as a child, probably around 10, when I read that in five billion years the sun will explode and destroy Earth. That took the wind right out of my sails.
Anyway, life goes on, hopefully, although for some it ended yesterday which made me feel disgusted and angry at the same time. But that’s something for another posting.
As for work, I’m eligible for unemployment benefits which I have no qualms accepting — giving the amount of money I have paid in taxes over the last years. Well, at least for a (hopefully very short) time. I don’t like to live on handouts and I have worked since school. My parents did not have/give me the money for a computer, I had to earn the money myself during the summer breaks (working 9 to 5 in an office every day of the last two summer breaks I had). And I worked since the third semester at the university because I wanted to move out and had to earn (almost) all of my income. So it feels strange having no job, nothing that covers a huge part of my identity. Although while I am no longer an Academic, I will always remain and regard myself as a scientist.
As for this blog, the postings I had in mind are still there, unfortunately only in my mind (and my idea collection, because you can’t remember everything). But at least a major project is progressing well. About a year ago I asked whether there was interest in a wiki — which was met with strong favor. The idea is still on, although I have moved from a wiki to a handbook. Given the things I have learned in my 8+ years in Academia, I have decided to write a somewhat different book about Academia and doing one’s doctoral thesis (or any other major piece of academic writing). And it’s going to be a bit different (I hope). More the basics with more information as links and references. But some things you should know before you try to accomplish an academic career. I have the table of contents and parts of the content outline down already. But at the moment, I’m not going to predict when it will be finished.
Anyway, more (on topic) hopefully to come soon.
I feel sorry to read that “at the moment I think it’s difficult to do good science in Academia.”
Your decision is a courageous one and I pay homage to you for that. Your situation makes me think of the Ralph Waldo Emerson poster quote (from Zen Pencils) I have in my home office wall: “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered you will never grow”. This kind of thinking led me to get my MSc degree and consider a doctoral one.
I can’t give you advice (and you didn’t ask for it either) about how to proceed with your professional life (it will be snobbish of me), that’s a personal quest, but I feel developing your writing is in your future (in Portugal we say that if advices were any good you should sell them, not give them…)
It is natural to feel a “bit lost”, you are putting behind ten years of your life, with all the commitment and effort you put into it. But I am sure that “as time goes by” you will find what is best for you and gives you sense of fulfilment.
I wish all the best for you!
thank you for your message and the advice. Perhaps writing in my future … as for making money of it, yep, that’s something I’m really bad at. 😉 Not sure, but perhaps the book about doing a thesis is a step in this direction.
Thank you again and best regards