Monday, August 03, 2009

The Change

One of the reasons it is no picnic working with me is that I like to get things done at a somewhat rapid pace that is not always compatible with the workstyles, lifestyles, and priorities of others. I hope that I have not been too obnoxious too often over the years, but I know that there are times when I have been.

But I have calmed down a bit over the years, although I noticed this only very recently. Perhaps the change was recent or perhaps it was so gradual that I didn't perceive it. The change did not occur when I got tenure and it did not even occur when I was promoted to Professor. It is even more recent than that and not related to anxiety about my career, although there was certainly an element of that earlier in my career.

I think mostly I just like to get things done and, if there are exciting results to report, I like to write them up and get them out there. That hasn't changed, but I think it is possible to be a bit mellower about work while still being as interested in it as ever.

Example: In the past, if a colleague wrote to me and said "I got the revised manuscript you just sent me but I won't be able to look at it for 2-3 weeks", I would have been in agony.

But now this: A few weeks ago, in early July, I sent a manuscript to a co-author for comments and he wrote back saying he would be able to look at it sometime after July 27. When I got his email I was disappointed at the delay but I thought "OK, that's not so bad, just a couple of weeks."

That's how I knew I had changed.

Now it is August and I have not heard from this colleague and I have not even written to him reminding him to look at the manuscript. That is further evidence that I have changed.

I was very aware when July 27 came (and went) and I have thought about writing to him every day since July 27, so I haven't changed completely. And if I don't hear from him in a day (or two), I am going to send him a reminder. He did say "sometime" after July 27 (unspecified), but maybe he can specify now.

Another reason I was thinking about this general topic is because a young colleague of mine is the exact same way that I used to be. We zap manuscript drafts back and forth to each other at a rate that makes us both very happy, and we are both currently waiting on another co-author who just told us that he will require several weeks to get back to us with comments on a recent draft. My colleague is in an agony.

I am not in agony, though I did sigh deeply when I found out we'd have to wait a few weeks.

I am definitely not saying that I am calm about submitting and revising manuscripts at a slower pace than I would prefer -- certain colleagues who read this would no doubt choke on their lattes and be compelled to comment if they thought I was saying this. I am, however, saying that I am calmer, and I suppose that is a good thing.


rj said...

I'm impressed by the fact your co-author gave you a date, rather than saying "thanks, I'll get onto it when I can"

kamikaze said...

I want a collaborator like you or your colleague :/

hkukbilingualidiot said...

I'm like that but it seriously drove my summer job boss, my tutor, mad, as I work rediculously fast.

Anonymous said...

Some things appear to be similar across disciplines. I sent a manuscript to a well-respected colleague and he said he would look at it after 5 or 6 weeks. This would be okay with me, except this colleague and his clique knew I was working on another result and scooped me using my ideas. It is customary in my field to offer to collaborate (may be different in other fields). So with every passing day I worry.

Dr M said...

One of the reasons it is no picnic working with me is that I like to get things done at a somewhat rapid pace that is not always compatible with the workstyles, lifestyles, and priorities of others.

This can certainly be a source of irritation, but unless it is completely over the top this is much, much preferable to the opposite. Especially in relation to graduate students or postdocs, where you are in a supervisor position, the worst that can happen is if they feel you don't really take an interest in the work they're supposed to do under your supervision.

But of course, the best is to be able to maintain some sort of balance, if nothing else for the sake of your own mental health. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I read this just after sending a reminder to a former postdoc reminding him about comments on his manuscript. I haven't calmed down yet, though I imagine FSP and I are from roughly the same era. It would be good, as it would likely lower my blood pressure.

Mark P

Ms.PhD said...

this post made me think 3 things.

1. I agree with kamikaze. I could only WISH to have collaborators like you.

2. Sometimes it is perception. My adviser takes *forever* to get back to me when I ask for revisions, but when it is my turn to put in changes, if I don't do it yesterday I am perceived as being lazy or slow.

It's true that I have fewer responsibilities to fewer people, but it's not true that I can move at warp speed (and sometimes unclear to me why I should have to, when I have been waiting for so long when I could have been working more productively all that time?).

3. As I'm sure you know, it matters more earlier in your career, and things move faster these days (at least in my field) than they used to. Things are moving exponentially faster than they were when my adviser was where I am in my career (of course my adviser was already a PI at my age, as was typical in those days).

Charles Sutton said...

I agree with kamikaze and MsPhD that I'd love to have a collaborator like you, but in my case that's because I imagine you constantly making jokes about your cats.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit hyper too, when it comes to work. Look, if you are not you don't get tenured, that is the bottom line. It selects these kinds of people (perhaps in the past it was different and that is why we still have a lot of dead wood around). In any case, if I work weekends to get a paper in shape, I expect my coauthors to work very quickly after they receive it. Do you really have vacations? My vacation is travel for conferences or talks! Works for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm a physicist too but as a dog person, regardless of your research interests I don't know if I could collaborate with a cat person.

Unknown said...

I tend to be calmer, but I'm also a hypocrite. I like it when people get back to me quickly, but I don't always do the same with others. However, I am more likely to respond quickly if I know they will be pushy about it.

It doesn't help, though, that I am currently helping to prepare three different proposals, revising a manuscript, helping to prepare another manuscript, and helping a summer student cram a last week's worth of research before he returns home (the poor kid had a summer fraught with software issues and we only just started making progress), all in addition to the research I'd like to be doing.

I'm sure I left a few things out. I know that not all of the above activities are getting the attention they deserve, and so my colleagues wait...

Candid Engineer said...

FSP, do you just have to accept it when co-authors cannot look at manuscripts for 3+ weeks?? Have you ever taken the approach of telling them to respond by a certain date?

I work in a scoop-sensitive field, and I just don't know what I'd do if people told me to wait that long.

I also have to wonder what I'll do when I'm ready to submit a manuscript and my supervisor, who is in charge of ~40 others, takes weeks and weeks to comment. Maybe in lieu of his advice, I can send my manuscript to you and we can go back and forth quickly with revisions? Ha, I'm sure you'd love it. :)