I am fortunate to deliver a fair number of research seminars at various institutions and in that capacity seem to find myself having lots of “pizza lunches” with grad students and post docs. After hearing about what they are up to, it is inevitable that someone will ask me a question like this… “How can you publish so many papers - I can only assume that you don’t sleep?” I also read the paper published on hyper-prolific scientific authors, and found it (especially the appendix) interesting and alarming. Some of the most productive (in terms of paper output) researchers were very willing to share that they credit such productivity to getting little sleep and working virtually non-stop. Having a large research group and other things like that fed into it too but in general one walked away with the idea that all of these individuals lacked any level of reasonable (a subjective term) work-life balance. My concern is that such a message would be exactly what would be remembered by early career researchers and in doing so go down a similar path. That was the basis for my tweet that has been variably considered to be an audacious humble brag, an entirely tone-deaf statement, or perhaps a genuine statement regarding the importance of work-life balance.
Tired of people assuming that I don't sleep becuz our lab publishes 60+ papers/yr. Guess what: reason our lab kicks butt is becuz we DO sleep & have balance in our lives. More time DOESN'T = > "productivity". Failed relationships, depression & crappy parenting is NOT success. pic.twitter.com/MWgYDzd4TR— Steven J. Cooke (@SJC_fishy) January 27, 2019
Andrew asked me to think about trade-offs – what am I trading off to achieve the “productivity” judged by paper output. A few things about me… I study fish and got into science because I loved fishing. I continue to be an avid angler and thus there is an inherent blurring of work and pleasure. I read fishing magazines for enjoyment but it also helps me to understand what is happening in the real world. I go fishing for fun and almost always take a data book with me. However, I also get to spend many days a year fishing for research and therefore, in effect, get paid to do so. I can take my kids to work and hand them a fishing rod and they are in heaven (and I am collecting data; in this picture they are catching bluegill off our dock that we subsequently tagged as part of a spatial ecology study).
Don’t spend too much time AT work (and find your writing zen spot). The more time I spend on campus, the more behind I get with my work. I obviously need and want to be there for interactions with my team members and colleagues. To that end, I use my time on campus to interact with people. Writing (even collaborative papers and grants) is an individual activity and for me I can’t do so on campus. I bet I have not written 100 words of a paper or proposal on campus in the last decade. I do edit the work of others while “at” work but I do not write. My zen spots include a favourite chair at home, airplanes, early mornings at the cottage in the summer, and the back corner of a wine bar or pub (writing from a riverside pub during trip to Australia in fall 2018 depicted in photo).
FINALLY - I will end with a tweet from one of my favourite change-makers – Elena Bennett from McGill. It is a perfect way to close my blog and start the discussion.
Can we just let everyone find their own balance without so much judging? Each of us has a different life situation, and so our happy balance places are not going to be the same. Which means each of us, including @SJC_fishy, can be a good model for someone.— ElenaBennett (@ElenaBennett) February 1, 2019