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Are they really suffering?
The New York Times this week highlighted a paper looking at academic work habits, Working 9 to 5, not the way to make an academic living: observational analysis of manuscript and peer review, by Barnett, Mewter and Schroter. It won’t come as a surprise to anybody with a researcher available for observation to see suspicions confirmed: scientists are “on” year ’round, like firefighters or police. From the Times:
Jay Van Bavel, a social neuroscientist at New York University, is vowing not to work during the Christmas holidays.
A few years ago, Dr. Van Bavel had agreed to conduct peer review on a couple of manuscripts before the end of the semester. But he got really busy and ended up having to do one on Christmas Day and another on New Year’s Eve, while his family was visiting.
“I felt like I let down myself and my family,” said Dr. Van Bavel, who gets asked to conduct peer-review 100 to 200 times a year. But he says he has now learned his lesson, and is not planning to do any work in the Christmas holidays this year, except perhaps the odd email.
Emphasis ours, and not to sound too skeptical but… fat chance! Something will come up— it always does. This writer has ample anecdotes available: boats held at docks while emails were downloaded at a crawl via telephone modem, driving in the dead of the night “on holiday” to find a fax machine and being chased away from a tiny regional airport (fax terminal!) by the police, searching for cellular access because a deadline is imminent. Overcommitment is the natural condition of the flourishing academic. And really, this crew seems to thrive on relentless throughput, for the most part.
So Happy Holidays to the scientific army and enjoy your gift of several days of no PhD or steering or hiring or faculty committee/council meetings, so you can work more on the good stuff. 🙂
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