Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

My friends and colleagues at Nature Network (yes, I am a member of their auspicious group, although I have yet to start a blog there), have been passing a meme around amongst themselves. Martin Fenner is the culprit who started this whole thing off, so go yell at him about it. Anyway, in an effort to reduce NN’s inbreeding coefficient, I have decided that this is a perfectly good meme for the greater blogosphere, or at least for ScienceBlogs, especially since it is navel-gazing at its best, and who doesn’t enjoy picking through their own belly-button lint?

  1. What is your blog about?
  2. Well, my blog has always been about science, but in addition to this, I write about other topics. My blog started out discussing my life as a postdoc in molecular evolution and the challenges associated with academic/research job-hunting (read: what it feels like to read hundreds of poorly-punctuated and mispelled rejection letters). However, my blog rapidly devolved into missives about unemployment, poverty, food stamps and medicaid, hopelessness, despair, mental illness and all the odd jobs I’ve applied for but am “not qualified” to hold. But thanks to my readers, my blog now mostly focuses on science, especially evolution and behavioral ecology, birds and birding, my travel adventures, NYC life, politics and social issues.

  3. What will you never write about?
  4. Not sure. It seems that anything is fair game these days.

  5. Have you ever considered leaving science?
  6. I have never seriously considered leaving science. The fact that I was discarded like so much trash by academic/research science does not mean that I wouldn’t trade everything I own (a futon and roughly 15,000 books) to regain my lost career.

  7. What would you do instead?
  8. I write a blog about science, just to prove to the scientific world that they can’t throw me away so easily and also to remain in close contact with my colleagues and their research. But I would like to gain the courage to write a book, especially since I seem to have the writing ability, the necessary ideas, and even one of the best literary agents for science in the world on my side, so what’s holding me back? My fear of failure, which is almost palpable, at this one last thing that I love. I never was afraid of failure before because I always thought that working hard at something you love is sufficient for success, or at least, for not failing. But my rejection from science taught me that hard work and talent are not enough for success, and also that there are worse things than death.

  9. What do you think will science blogging be like in 5 years?
  10. No idea. I expect it will be more important as a communication tool, but the level of importance/influence it will occupy in academic and research science is not something I feel qualified to speculate about.

  11. What is the most extraordinary thing that happened to you because of blogging?
  12. Wow, shall I make a list? First, I have connected with hundreds of postdocs around the world who are suffering similar employment issues, so I know my “failure” isn’t because I am an inept scientist. Second, I was invited to join ScienceBlogs as part of their “first wave”, which was an extrordinary honor that continues to provide me with both the professional credibility and community that I need. Being at ScienceBlogs has opened the door to speaking engagements around the world, guest lectureships at local universities, blog writing opportunities at professional conferences, book reviews and meetings with authors of those books that I’ve loved, and countless other joys. Third, my readers remind me that there are some really wonderful people in the world by supporting me with their compassion, gifts and donation$ to my landlord.

  13. Did you write a blog post or comment you later regretted?
  14. I am sure the christians and other religious wingnuts think I should regret some of the things I write, but no, I haven’t regretted anything I’ve written.

    I think.

  15. When did you first learn about science blogging?
  16. Actually, I had not heard of science blogging until some months after I’d actually started writing a blog, when I accidentally found the Tangled Bank blog carnival and then, a few days later, found another blog carnival, Grand Rounds. I was so pleased to find several groups of like-minded people that I ended up hosting both of these blog carnivals within six months of discovering them.

  17. What do your colleagues at work say about your blogging?
  18. Considering that writing my blog is my work at this point, all my colleagues’ input is positive. However, before I became unhappily unemployed, I received a mixture of feedback from my colleagues at work. Some thought that exploring blog writing about science was an exciting new medium for public outreach and education, while others were strongly dismissive and openly hostile towards a blog and indicated having a blog would destroy my career. This second type of feedback was the reason I chose to write under a pseudonym.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 30, 2008

    Great cont. to the meme, and I do hope that you make money as a science writer, too.

  2. #2 "GrrlScientist"
    November 30, 2008

    thanks, mike. i guess i should tag some people with this meme, but the NN peeps never did, so i am simply holding with their tradition.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 30, 2008

    I never got tagged, either, but I joined anyway. Bora has been adding to the list of people who did this meme.

  4. #4 Coturnix
    November 30, 2008

    There is a list on NN with some collected choice answers.

  5. #5 Martin Fenner
    November 30, 2008

    Would you like to tackle that extra question suggested by Heather Etchevers?

    Extra credit: are you able to write an entry to your blog that takes the form of a poem about your research?

    I’ve summarized all blog posts using the meme in a blog post today. And Bora has also listed (most) of them.

  6. #6 Marilyn Terrell
    November 30, 2008

    Although NN didn’t ask me, here are some of the reasons I enjoy reading Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted):
    great bird photos
    painstaking documentation of NY subway mosaics
    honesty and clarity of the writing

    cheers!

  7. #7 Heather
    December 1, 2008

    Heather won’t hold you to it, one way or another.

    I think no one bothered tagging anyone because that’s almost coercive, if contagious, and also perhaps because no one thought to do so.

    You write, “I always thought that working hard at something you love is sufficient for success, or at least, for not failing. But my rejection from science taught me that hard work and talent are not enough for success, and also that there are worse things than death.”

    Don’t you think that (a) your rejection from science is not necessarily permanent, given your perseverance and (b) you might professionally benefit from the once-again fashion of recycling that seems to be gathering steam?

    But we’ll always be up against the truism that life is not fair and that people don’t necessarily deserve what they get.

  8. #8 "GrrlScientist"
    December 1, 2008

    heather — i do believe that my rejection from science is permanent, especially because there is a never-ending supply of new PhDs who are also looking for work, and who are perceived as being more valuable than i because they are, well, new graduates while i graduated/defended in 2002 — a long time ago, by modern scientific standards.

    as far as recycling (in science) goes, i am not sure what you mean .. can you clarify?

  9. #9 ThatsBlog
    December 2, 2008

    Thanks for your submission to the Twenty-Ninth edition of the Blog Carnival: Blogging. Your post has been accepted and its live: http://thatsblog.com/?p=174

    -ThatsBlog.com