Thursday, February 17, 2011

Misadventure

There has been much blogospheric discussion, here and elsewhere, of (good) ways in which "career interruptions" can be mentioned in grant proposals, so that no one is penalized for a temporary decrease/halt in productivity owing to certain important life experiences (babies, illness, elder-care etc.).

My personal favorite way in which information about Personal Interruptions is requested is in the instructions for writing Australian Research Council grant proposals:

F14.1. Provide and explain:
..

(iv) Any career interruptions you have had for childbirth, carer’s responsibility, misadventure, or
debilitating illness;

It's great that this is included in the proposal instructions, and I don't mean to make light of an important issue that has only recently been adopted by large federal funding agencies in certain countries, but I must admit that the request for an explanation of any "misadventure" is rather intriguing.

In fact, I don't think I can wait until December for my usual (northern hemisphere) winter break FSP contest on some (strange) text/document related to academic life. So here is the challenge:

Provide and explain any career interruptions that you have had for misadventure, real or (better) imaginary. Your explanation cannot exceed 475 characters (with spaces). For example:

I was unable to submit any articles for publication between 23 August 2007 and 13 November 2008 because I was kidnapped by pirates and, although I was not otherwise mistreated, I was not allowed access to the Internet. I did, however, scratch out some manuscript drafts on spare pieces of sailcloth using a gull feather and an ink mixture that I made from mussel shells soaked in beer, so as soon as I was released and had Internet access, I was able to resume publishing.

or

Immediately upon receiving tenure in 2005, I was beamed aboard a spaceship on a secret mission I cannot reveal here. At first I was unable to communicate with the life-forms piloting the craft, but over the years I learned their language, customs, and the songs they like to sing on long journeys. Eventually they returned me to my office, and I have subsequently resumed my academic career, no worse for wear but with an unfortunate gap in my CV.

Now it's your turn to describe your career-interrupting misadventures.

23 comments:

Gears said...

The past 6 months has been less fruitful for research because my previous proposal was not funded. I banked everything on my previous proposal for the Greatness Grand, which received the highest possible marks by all reviewers. Sadly, however, it was not funding because I submitted it 5 minutes after the midnight deadline. You see, there was this unfortunate incident where some witch transformed me into a horse to pull some weird carriage shaped like a pumpkin to take some woman name Ms. Cinderella to some ball...

Anonymous said...

I have known a field biologist who was in a plane crash, and can imagine circumstances where snake bites and other wild animal injuries could occur. I imagine rehab for such things would take a while.

Anonymous said...

I know one chap that was bitten by a caiman while doing fieldwork, that would hamper you... I myself have gotten closer to crocodiles than I should if I want my H factor to improve. We are ornithologists, these things should not happen so often!

Anonymous said...

Of course injuries occur during field work of various sorts and these would probably come under the heading of "misadventure", but I agree that it's interesting that the term "misadventure" is used instead of the more boring "injury". Some people are so serious.

Anonymous said...

Uhm, you haven't spent much time working at Australian Universities I guess. "Misadventure" describes a typical workday for some of my Aussie colleagues.

"If I remember rightly cos(pi) = 1" was published by the Australian Mathematical Society after all.

Alex said...

This is most embarassing, but due to an unfortunate temporal anomaly I spent the past 5 years in the 1990’s. The work I did in that time was seminal, since I had the obvious advantage of having slipped through a rift in time to wind up in 1993 with 2006 knowledge. However, it meant that from 2006 to 2011 I was not in the present, and hence I haven’t published in 5 years. I hope that my seminal contributions in the past might mitigate my recently low productivity.

Anonymous said...

I have a gap in my publication and grants record of a few years because I thought I was in Australia but it turns out I was in Austria. I didn't understand the language and everything looked different, so I thought I had a brain disorder. After I was released from the hospital, I resumed my active research program.

Anonymous said...

I have seen NIH grants in which investigators mentioned career setbacks resulting from loss of a lab in a natural disaster (hurricanes Katrina and Ike), loss of transgenic mouse lines in an animal facility flood or fire-- not as funny as alien abduction, but perhaps a more common type of "misadventure".

Anonymous said...

I saw a recent article about a Fulbright scholar who had a bad reaction to antimalarial medication while in India, had amnesia, and was hospitalized for quite a while before they figured out what was wrong. An example of a non-injury misadventure.

rox said...

that sounds like it could be classified under "illness"

Anonymous said...

well you see I would be further along in my research if

- My observatory had not burnt down in the latest bushfires.
- The big summer hailstorm didn't trash my greenhouses destroying the last few years work
- The university/my field location wasn't flooded (or burnt down this is a recurring theme)

All of these could truthfully appear on ARC applications before you get into the more bizzare stuff (usually including animals). Misadventure is just part of Australian life.

unlikelygrad said...

When entering the local brewery six months ago, I saw a pitcher of beer on an otherwise empty table. Next to it was a glass with a sign saying "Drink Me," so I did. Next thing I knew I was three inches tall.

Life as a height-impaired person was challenging. Even getting back to my lab that evening was difficult--I had to escape a cat who thought I was a mouse, I had trouble crossing the street due to the height of the curb, and so on.

This delayed my research and publishing greatly, because:

(1) I had to type by jumping from key to key on the computer keyboard. My best typing speed was 50 wph (yes, words per hour) so by the time I finished a sentence I had frequently lost my train of thought.

(2) I could not demonstrate even the most basic lab techniques for my grad students; I was incapable of using pipets, syringes, and other lab equipment.

(3) Most of my grad students immediately turned their focus from their research projects to finding a cure for my condition. Luckily they succeeded. While the antidote will form the basis for a future publication, it is sadly outside the scope of this grant, and my research in general.

CaT said...

shit! i just submitted my fellowship application...! wish i had read the contribution of alex earlier...

Anonymous said...

I think/know that FSP doesn't need a lecture on how rugged Australians are, even academics, but I am glad to see some people get into the spirit of the 'contest'.

Anonymous said...

While walking from my office to my lab, I slipped on a banana peel, hit my head on the incisors of a wombat fossil that was lying around in the corridor, and developed amnesia. For 17 months, I was unable to recognize any of my colleagues or students. Unfortunately, I regained my memory suddenly one day in a faculty meeting.

Materialist said...

The new enzyme we discovered was unfortunately given a name that was on a terrorist watch list. All of our computers and lab notebooks were confiscated, but due to a secret gag order we were not allowed to discuss this matter until the mix-up was straightened out. This took 15 months, and the deported senior post-doc still isn't allowed back in the country.

Anonymous said...

I am American on sabbatical in Australia and have seen those forms in the ARC applications. One person wrote that his son disappeared and was found dead, having committed suicide, four months later. Needless to say, that wasn't a personal illness but it certainly hampered his ability to perform for some time.

I wish NSF and NIH did the same. Other things about the applications aren't so user-friendly but I like this aspect.

Anonymous said...

I have to walk through a dark and scary forest on my way home, and one day I became a bit lost and scared, in part because of the wolves. Then, just when I thought I was a goner, a large scary beast rescued me and brought me to his castle. He looked terrifying, but wasn't, at least not all the time. We danced, fell in love, stuff happened, he turned into a prince, we got married, and then I was finally able to return to my lab and start submitting proposals again.

Anonymous said...

For a few years, I thought I was a cat. Most cats do not write papers or proposals, so of course I did not do so either. Eventually I realized that I could retain my essential cat nature and also my job, but only if I published and submitted proposals, so I have started doing these things again.

Alex said...

I was on my way to a workshop in California, driving on a dark desert highway with cool wind in my hair. Up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim. I had to stop for the night.

After that it all becomes hazy, but when I came to, I was in the bushes outside my lab, five years later. Amazingly enough, that one lazy grad student was still there. So, yeah, I went a while without any papers.

Anonymous said...

Last year, my grandmother declined and died during a period I was travelling a lot to disseminate research results amongst far-flung stakeholders. That month I got pregnant. Then they found a large tumour in my abdomen. Then my grandfather died. Then a paper of mine was picked up by international media. Then my mother was suddenly stricken with a severe illness. Then I had major surgery to remove the aforementioned tumour (benign, phew!). Then my mother died. Then I had to settle an unexpectedly complicated estate. Then I had a baby (healthy!).

...so I'm currently taking some time off. If that isn't misadventure, I don't know what is. I dread ever having to explain it all because it sounds like I made it up.

wheels said...

I went skiing and drank really, really good beer.

No further explanation needed.

BuoyantOne said...

Apropos the kidnapped by pirates example: my next field trip will most likely be inside the maritime piracy high-risk zone... Must take note of those manuscript-writing tips before I go! (sailcloth, gull feather, mussel ink)

A friend of mine was annoyed about some apparently abandoned samples that were lying around uni, gathering dust & taking up storage space, but when she complained to a professor she was told that the grad student whose project it was had been killed by pirates during fieldwork some years previously. So you never know what kind of misadventures await...