Academic shaming

Shaming. It’s basically the act of making any person feel inferior. Whether it be based on someone’s appearance or an action, shaming cuts you to the emotional core. The aim is to hit you right where it hurts.

There is slut-shaming, fat-shaming… but is there academic shaming?

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*I bring in the exception of dog-shaming. That’s funny.

Academic shaming isn’t going to go viral on the internet. Nor are people going to protest it in the streets of the city.

But that feeling of utter dread at the pit of your stomach upon receiving that email from the editor of a journal you’ve submitted to, or seeing the hand raised by the outspoken researcher after a talk… conjuring feelings of inadequacy, and that your hard work is about to get ripped apart. I hate this.

Sometimes, academics forgo any semblance of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all”. And understandably, when someone is presenting research that you completely disagree with it is easy to point out the flaws, and what better place to do it than in front of an audience of peers. And after reviewing a paper that contains, in your opinion, methodological or interpretive flaws, why not let rip and shred it to pieces?

To academics and researchers, you publications and outputs (presentations of your work) are your currency. Without these you have no credit to play the research game, which involves scoring grants to further fund your work. Research is therefore a game that is intricately entwined in the presentation and reputation of the researcher, which comes down to how you sell yourself. Furthermore, very few get to the post-postdoc phase without their research being a part of your identity. So it’s not surprising that direct criticism feels personal.

Painful though the process may be, your skin becomes thicker. Like breaking in a new pair of boots, you have to keep up the process. The inevitable negative comments will arise, but on the upside they can be used when relevant/substantive to improve your work. Criticism is a feature of academic life and it sucks, but it can make your work stronger.

But I have to say the most important thing I have learned in dealing with the shit academia throws at me is having enjoyable life outside of my job.
By having meaningful things that make me feel good about myself in my free time, then I feel less dependent on my job to nurture my ego and less devastated by criticism. Hey my paper may have been squashed – but today I benched a PR with my gym buddies. Or although I got rejected from a fellowship, I get to go home and cuddle with my boyfriend and watch a movie. I can use these things to thicken my skin by distancing my work life from my personal life, because although I live and breathe my job daily, I don’t have to deal with these things all the time.

I leave you with a link… Peer review – it’s a battlefield

Eye update, 2 months later

I got the all clear last week from the eye surgeon, my ocular pressure had returned to normal (17/17) and all the inflammation has gone down. Which means no more eye drops for me (although I do still have some lubricating ones for if I get something in my eyes – like an eyelash or dust).

Vision is superb in most lighting conditions. In the daytime it’s awesome, at night it’s also very good. I went to see Queens of the Stoneage and Nine Inch Nails on Thursday and all the light show (although brilliant) was a little too glare-y for me at some points, although I was assured that other people found it like that with “natural” vision.

Eye update for those interested… (1 month post surgery)

I am beginning to adjust to having awesome vision all the time. Particularly at night. It’s still a novelty to wake up in the middle of the night and be able to see the clock (not so much to be awake in the middle of the night).

My eye pressure is higher than normal in both eyes (25, 26 – normal is between 10-21), so I get to go into the clinic every week to have check ups. I don’t get any headaches / nausea / dizziness though as it’s only a mild increase.  Also, I am in the process of gradually weaning myself off the eye drops, I’m just using predneferin once a day now, to keep inflammation down. I have some normal eye lubricating drops for if I get something in my eye or they feel a bit sticky.

I only get halos in my left eye, and to be fair they aren’t very intrusive and are decreasing gradually. About the worst thing so far was getting onion smell in my eyes the other day, so much burning pain!

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Sentiment and silliness

dead umbrella

I try not to be a sentimental person. I try not to attribute emotions to inanimate objects. However, the sight of a lost child’s toy lying alone in the street does make me sad, as does a lone glove, or a deformed umbrella that has failed in it’s battle against the weather (but only if I’m feeling particularly emotional).

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A couple of years ago I got burgled. As I walked home from work I did not suspect that I might have been burgled, but was instead thinking about making risotto for dinner and whether I should stop and get a bottle of wine en route. When I got home the door was locked as per usual (they got in through a double glazed window) and I discovered a whole lot of my belongings had been taken. It was a genuinely horribly violating feeling knowing that some horrible people had got into my home and had rummaged through my personal belongings and taken what they wanted.

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Lab life

Hello all. I have been setting up my lab hence the silence on here. I’ve also been sorting out my permanent residency. And writing a grant. So all in all January was a horrifically expensive month and I am in that period where my personal finances resemble the pictures after natural disasters have destroyed everything. My financial clean up attempt will have to wait until things normalise, in the meantime I’m eating a lot of tinned tuna and pasta as it’s cheap.

I am still able to see, which is awesome, as it means my new eye lenses haven’t been rejected (I don’t think they can do that) and I have intact retinas (stupid giant misshapen eyes). My eyes are still quite sensitive. I didn’t know how much onions sting your eyes until I was hacking one up the other night to make spaghetti bolognase (contact lenses are like eye armor so I never got onion sting-eye previously). Other eye related things – waking up in the morning is more difficult as my eyes are a bit “sticky” and sleepy first thing. Or maybe that’s the physical manifestation of the feeling of the first week back at work, overt concerns that I’ve got to get my lab functioning, general life craziness type stuff.

Setting up a lab is pretty hilarious. In the way that I’m saying “hilarious” but actually I mean about as funny as wading through knee deep mud. Everything takes about eighty times longer to get done than if I could do it myself with total financial independence / incredible physical strength / congenital inability to sleep or feel tired. Any lab setting up tips are most welcome…

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I made a list of “things to do” that has become this massive flow chart with all the yes/no points that seem to lead to the same answer “talk to finance / tech staff” usually via “go get a coffee” and ending with “return to step 1″.

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So far I have ordered labcoats emblazoned with “Team Reichelt” on them (I initially wanted “Property of Richardson Lab” embroidered on them but decided that my sense of humour is best kept internalised), bought a brain matrix (I’ve just always wanted one of my own), bought a new fridge freezer for samples, spent a worrying amount on antibodies (I feel like I should get one of those loyalty cards like I get for my coffee – buy 10 antibodies get the 11th free), and surgery / dissection tools that will go in my lurid pink toolbox.

I also have my teaching allocation to do, pretty light at 12 hours this year, however my lectures need to be fancied up a bit and then put in for assessment for promotion time. So all in all, as it’s Saturday and I’ve still got piles of work to do, sadly I am exhausted and just want to collapse on my sofa.

ednorton

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Career goals for fledgling researchers

I’ve been on recreation leave for the last 2 weeks as I needed to use up my holiday I’ve accrued over 2013. Oh academia. Yes, I took rec leave to get my eyes fixed when I could have just taken it as medical leave. They even gave me medical certificates.

Recreation leave at home is pretty dull to be honest. I’ve done a minor amount of work (wrote some abstracts, sent some emails), watched every episode of The Mindy Project, went to the gym a few times, cleaned the apartment obsessively, removed crap music from my laptop, read Tina Fey’s autobiography and tidied out my closet of clothes that: don’t fit me (damn you large portions of delicious food), I don’t wear because I may have been in a strange mindset when I bought them, or just are inappropriate (one t shirt had a vomiting skull on it, I decided those days are over).

I’ve also pondered my existence in the upcoming “fellowship” years and attempted to think of things I really want to do with my life, in a vaguely career driven manner (i.e. not discovering the ultimate whisky sour recipe or rekindling my love of crocheting animals and selling them on Etsy). I therefore decided to make a list…

 
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Eye update, right eye, perfect vision

I had my right eye procedure yesterday, and I am astounded by the results already. The surgery took about 30 mins compared to the 60 mins on Wednesday (not that I remember anything, thanks drugs). I think because it was so much quicker, less staring at the light and less dryness, so my vision improved so rapidly, my vision was immediately clearer and less murky than Wednesday. No changes in eye pressure (both eyes 17).
I went for my check up and both eyes are seeing 20/15, and my binocular vision is 20/10!! Better than perfect. This time last week I was something like 20/1000…

By yesterday afternoon I was able to comfortably watch TV and this morning there is little difference between the quality of vision between my left and right eye. I’m so pleased with the results, I can see now how Visian say you could potentially go to work the next day (I’m on holiday leave as I don’t want to get lab crap in my eyes while I’m in the potential infection risk period).

So, umm, yes. I now don’t know what to do with all my left over eye correction relics (glasses, contact lenses). I also can see so well at night, no more bumping into doors, shoes, sinks or any other inanimate objects. I can see the clock at night.

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Eye based update – 72hrs post surgery

Three days post left eye surgery. My pupil is still tiny, Lewis says I have David Bowie eyes as it looks a different colour in comparison to my right eye. Cool. The pupil constricting drops must be so strong for it to be still so constricted 72+ hours post surgery.

Vision is surprisingly good, particularly in bright light (hello sunny Sydney), probably because of my tiny pupil. Low light is more difficult, again, tiny pupil. I reckon it’s about 20/30 as it seems improved from Thursday when it was 20/40. Not as crisp as my right eye with it’s contact lens in.

I am feeling pretty chipper to be fair. My eye feels dry in the morning, but the eye drops sort that right out. I went to the gym yesterday to do CrossFit which was probably overly ambitious as it’s usually pretty killer. I would say I did the class at about 50% effort and the rest of the time gossiping and showing people my wonky eyes, to be honest I’ve been pretty bored cooped up at home so I mostly just wanted to get out. Managed a 2 hour Skype meeting about research grants, but staring at a computer screen definitely wore my eyes out faster than usual. Managed a spin class this morning that was hideously sweaty, I’m taking it pretty easy though as I usually go hard at the gym.

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I’m getting my eyes fixed (part 2)

On Wednesday morning I had my eye operation to insert an ICL into my left eye. My operation was scheduled for 8am and I was told to get to the clinic for 7.15am. I set my alarm for 6.30am, which was pretty pointless as I spent the best part of the night awake with a combination of nerves and continuing jetlag.
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2013, a personal critique

2013 was quite a year for me. There were academic successes and a lot of hard work, however it hasn’t been without personal challenges, insecurities and concerns that have not been easy to overcome. So here is my critique of what I did last year, and how I intend to make 2014 work for me. A personal development plan so to speak…

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