Tying up loose ends

Jan 01 2014 Published by under Academia, Uncategorized

A lot of people outside academia don't realize how slow the gears grind. Projects have to be conceived, funded, performed, written up. Submitted, rejected, submitted again, rejected with revisions, resubmitted, and then, finally, published. In an ideal world, the process takes months. In reality...it can take years. I'm out of academia. But I am not free of it. I have four first author papers still waiting. In my first few months out of academia, I spent all my free time writing three of them up. Checking all the data, dotting the i's and crossing the t's. Two have been submitted, and returned with major and minor revisions, respectively.

And now my spare time is devoted to revisions.

People ask me lately what it's like to be out of academia. It may be years until I'm fully "free." In some ways it feels like claws pulling me back to my old life. The revisions get harder and harder to do, as I get further and further from the lab. I begin to forget the literature, the established ways of writing, the phrasing. I forget how to think about things. It's hard to switch from your daily job to the work still unfinished. Especially when it's 10pm at night.

And unfortunately, the worse you get, the more you get chastised for doing things badly. And the more you fear and expect the chastisement. Emails from your old life make you sick to your stomach, even though most are completely innocuous. Academia loves sticks, and carrots a feel like they are deliberately undervalued. It really says something about academia that often, acceptance with minor revisions sounds EXACTLY like rejection until you ask somebody else.

This makes it very, very hard to complete those papers. Then you realize you're the one procrastinating and you feel even WORSE. I know it's my fault. I know. The papers need to go out. I know it's my responsibility to do them and do them well. But it is a slog. At best.

I'm determined not to give up. So far, I am putting in 30 min per day on a paper. Response to reviewers, reading it over, edits, reading relevant literature. Often, if I get into it, the 30 minutes will stretch to an hour or more. But sometimes I'm gritting my teeth and telling myself "30 minutes, you can do 30 stinking minutes." It's not much. It's not enough. But it is something.

6 responses so far

  • Even within academia I find it hard to get back to a paper when the revisions come in. After spending a month or more on other projects, trying to remember how I analyzed this or simulated that is such a hurdle. It must be 100x more so to do that having a different type of job entirely. 30 min a day sounds like a good idea though.

  • qaz says:

    It does say something about academia that acceptance with minor revisions sounds exactly like rejection. It says something even more about academia that potential acceptance in a GlamourMag (which we all know is "the key to carreer success") actually IS a rejection. (Every paper I know that has been accepted into a GlamourMag [not just my own, but my colleagues' as well] was first flat out rejected and had to be appealed.)

  • fredt says:

    It is not even about doing them papers the best we can, correctly, but it is about doing them "their way". I had an Engineering boss/editor who had some "bad English" habits, and those bad English habits had to be adhered to. Bosses, overlings, (not superiors but would like to think they are), have bigger egos. That is reality in the world, and in the academia world, it is even worse.

    Enjoy freedom.

  • dr24hours says:

    I feel this way, sometimes. My job does not require academic work, but I do it because I want to, and because I'm doing the same thing I was doing when I had a more academic job. But it's grating sometimes. I got an "accept with minor revisions" last night. On New Year's Day (some editor was toiling away...). Relevant verbiage:

    "I am sorry to say that the paper in its present form is unacceptable for publication in [Subspecialty Journal]. "

  • […] Dealing with acceptance. Sci Curious describes the tedious business of manuscripts “accepted with minor revisions”. […]

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