Friday, May 18, 2007

On Hold

This week I tried to organize my thoughts about manuscripts and proposals that are in some form of active state: either in preparation or in review or in revision. To make a bad analogy with juggling, there are always some balls (or flaming torches, depending on how you look at it) in the air and some in hand, and the proportion of things that are in the air vs. in hand can vary considerably from time to time depending on various factors, some of which I control and some of which I don't.

The part that is in my control -- sort of [insert herding cat analogy re. advising students and working with colleagues] -- is to keep the various research projects moving along. The part I can't control is how long a review will take once I send a manuscript off.

At the present time, I seem to have an unusual number of things in the air (= in review), some for an unusually long period of time. This is surely a random occurrence, and my fear is that everything will come back from review at the same time, no matter that I submitted some of them months before others. I would prefer a gentle trickle of manuscripts with constructive and positive reviews to appear throughout the summer, but that is a delusional academic fantasy.

Much more likely are reviews containing comments such as these recently received by one of my grad students:

Reviewer 1: "Unfortunately the manuscript is poorly written" and "unacceptable for publication".

Reviewer 2: "The data are clearly presented..and the results are superb .. It is well-written and I suggest that the paper be published with only very minor revision."


Anonymous said...

well, what did the action editor have to say?

Female Science Professor said...

Do you mean about the reviews? If so, the editor said it was a promising paper and we should do a serious revision and send it back with detailed responses to reviewer comments. I think it was a very reasonable reponse in the face of two opposing reviews.

S.W. Lussing said...

I write little scientific papers on any old subject all the time, mostly my take on the fundamental nature of reality, but I am having trouble getting people to share what they think..

How would you rate this ( discussion and what do you think about what i said?

Anonymous said...

Which of the reviews do you mostly agree/disagree with? I think it undermines the sincerity of one (or both) of the reviewers.. ? Don`t you?


Anonymous said...

This comment has nothing to do with the current post, but I'm just curious...what possessed you to go into academics, where it is more than well-known that underhanded, sexist, racist, and political misdealings are the norm rather than the exception? Especially in the physical sciences, where creepy men are also the norm, rather than the exception.

I'm a white male (of the non-creepy variety), and I am about to graduate from MIT with a PhD (also in the physical sciences) after six years in this place. I have to say, that it has been the most disgusting six years of my life. I cannot believe the things I have seen and heard--and you probably wouldn't believe the stories I could tell you. I have heard it all--comments against Women, against African Americans, against Jewish people, you name it. And that's about the least of the stuff I've heard and seen.

I do love science, and that's about the only thing that keeps me going in this place...but I have to wonder. Why would anyone put themselves through this nonsense? You spend six years in graduate school getting kicked around, three years as a postdoc earning $30-$35k a year, which is frankly absurd for someone with the highest level of education possible, not to mention 5 years' experience. You have to constantly deal with people who just don't know how to interact with others (again, the norm rather than the exception), and on top of it you end up spending every spare moment of your life up to about age 35 engrossed in your work just so you can "keep" this wonderful job that nobody has any respect for anyway. Then, you get to kick back and enjoy the life that just passed you by!

Haha, what a rant. I apologize--I wanted to be an academic too when I started graduate school. But having seen it in action for this long, I just think it is the silliest enterprise imaginable.

Good luck to you. I do wish you the best, and it is good that people like you are trying to turn the ship around. But I do sympathize with you--wow, what an uphill battle.

Female Science Professor said...

I'm in it for the science and the interesting and fun parts of research and teaching. Those parts dominate over the unpleasant parts. If you love what you do, it would be too bad to let the jerks take over.

Anonymous said...

Man, your blog is B-O-R-I-N-G! I'm glad to NOT be taking science lessons from you.

pluto said...

FSP: I appreciate you allowing that last comment by "anonymous" ('Man ...!') to pass your moderating process. It shows a well-placed confidence in the quality of what you're writing!

Lakshmi said...

Yes, some of the reviews can be pretty aggravating. I write research proposals for a small R&D company, and the excuses for a "reject" range from "the idea won't work" (really? how do you know?) to "this is an excellent idea, but should not be funded at this time" (why not?).

anon said...

anonymous MIT grad student,

I think the negative comments also depend on certain departments. Some of the best universities I've been to, in some of the most liberal cities, curiously had a high incidence of racist and sexist graffiti (not saying that it relates to the department). In contrast, this place is alright.

I suggest you take a look at some other departments, besides MIT. Not all departments give the same representation of 'monolithic academia'.