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?


*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


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