Open rough draft for forming a RC advocacy group.....

rmchamberlin at rmchamberlin at
Thu Jan 18 13:29:40 EST 2001

Normally I don't respond to Art's flamebaiting, but I'm feeling generous
today, so:

In article <946u2g$itk$0 at>,
  Arthur Sowers <arthures at> wrote:

> Then, we have
> all those who are in nice, cushy situations and essentially say to
> themselves "I've got mine, I'm not going to help anyone else" or "I've got
> mine, I don't want anything to change that migh affect 'mine'." People
> like Becky and Josh seem to be totally uninterested in the health of the
> PhD culture and I don't recall hearing either of them complain much about
> their own situations and hardly if any complaints about the PhD culture,
> itself, either.

You're right, I don't make a career of using the internet to "help"
people I don't know personally and whose circumstances I can't fully
understand.  I personally don't believe that one-size-fits-all advice is
as valuable as one-on-one interaction (i.e. "mentoring"), which is why I
put more energy into promoting the careers of the people around me than
those on src.  You, Art, cannot possibly know what I do outside of src,
and I'll thank you to refrain from making assumptions.

As it happens, I'm *not* particularly concerned about the "health of the
PhD culture," if by this you mean the health of traditional academic
careers.  Having entered graduate school with one career path in mind,
transitioned midway through to another career path, and ultimately found
myself ensconced in a third (with an ongoing curiosity about some future
options), I frankly can't relate to the distress of those who have been
singlemindedly pursuing the classic academic research path since the age
of 12 and then find that it's not all they imagined it to be.  I don't
think they're bad people, I just can't understand what motivates them.  I
think life's a journey and if you aren't exploring all the paths
available to you, you're missing half the fun.

An advocacy organization for PhD's?  Art, I salute your dedication to
this cause and I wish you the best of success, but I prefer to spend my
energies elsewhere.  I've just gotten started last fall on adult basic
literacy tutoring, which is really exciting to me.  People who have
completed a science PhD will face setbacks and challenges in their lives
and will need support at times, but clearly they have a strong set of
skills that can be leveraged into almost any imaginable future.  People
who can't read at a functional level face a world of challenges that you
and I can scarcely begin to imagine.  That's my "thing," and you have
yours, and even if you can't respect that I have different values, you
can at least have the class not to insult me for it.

You want me to complain about my job?  I am a strong believer in action,
undergirded by optimism, humor, loyalty, and common sense.  Ernest
Shackleton (my hero!) wrote that "Optimism is the highest form of moral
courage."  I find that I am a happier and more productive individual if I
leave little room in my life for complaining and pessimism.  If you must
hear some complaints:  I work under spirit-crushing security and ES&H
regulations, exorbitant overhead rates that prevent me from participating
in most civilian research arenas but are still too low to maintain a
functional infrastructure, constant berating of my community and my
workplace in the local and national press, and a job description that
changes frequently at the whims of Congress and assorted program

On the plus side, I earn (and can pay the people who work for me) a
generous salary doing stimulating, purposeful work.  I work under
managers who respect and value my talents and work hard to give me
opportunities to advance in my career.  I have ample opportunity to
collaborate with interesting people across various disciplines and from
different institutions.  Most important, I live in a beautiful (albeit
crispy) community with people who have shown that they will
unhesitatingly give their heart and soul to support each other in times
of crisis.  I have counted my blessings many, many times in the past


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