bad rec's and bad luck

Cindy Hale chale at SAGE.NRRI.UMN.EDU
Wed Nov 27 12:08:34 EST 1996

Paula recently posted the hypothetical scenario enclosed below.  Please 
don't take this as a person attack Paula, but it was the straw that broke 
the camels back.

I am completely sick of hearing (reading) all the whining that goes on 
about "poor us" having to try to manuever around this shark pond of egos 
and politics.  Well, you chose it!  If you are in pursuit of knowledge and 
truely interested in what you are doing then who cares what others think!  
BUT, if you are in pursuit of academic credentials and a "good" job then, 
welcome to the game.  I know you are going to say..." but I NEED a job to 
survive".  Yes, you do, but does it NEED to be as a professor at a 
prestigous university? What about a small university or college.  What 
about a community college? What about contract work? What about a mirad of 
other choices?  You can complain all day that you "shouldn't have to choose 
between these things" and maybe that's true.  If you choose to stay in that 
system and work for change from within for yourself and others, then great, 
you have my support and likely the support of others.  But if you want to 
whine and complain about how unfair it all is to you, grow up!
Let's at least be honest about the choices WE have made and the 
responsibility we must take for being in the situation we are in.  Only 
then can you take real action to examine a situation or system that may 
need changing.  I personally, have made many choices throughout my life, 
some easy and some difficult, not to play the academic game.  there have 
been time that I had to really sit myself down and say "if you choose this 
course, what are the potential adversities you may face and are you willing 
to accept them.  Sometimes that means I choose to work long hours for a 
short period of time to get a project done OR it may mean choosing to take 
a stand knowing that the worst case scenario may be leaving my position.  
None of it is done without a great deal of personal investigating and 
deciding what my bottom line is for how I want to live my life.  I am 
active in research and plan on publishing several papers this year.  I am 
excited and thrilled to be in an environment that allows me the freedom 
to do this.  But, it didn't happen just because someone handed it to me.  
I research, I made choices, I turned down very flattering offers.  I 
will never regret these choices.  I know many others who have made the same 
choices.  We have jobs which provide us with the needs of a simple life.  
We are able to pursue our loves and interests and we are, more often than 
not, able to find ready support and recognition for our efforts.  AND, we 
are happy.  

Cindy Hale
University of Minnesota-Duluth
The Natural Resources Research Institute
Duluth, MN

Here's a scenario- not so hypothetical-

As a grad student or postdoc you decide to work on a project (with 
advisor's blessings/ encouragement/ support etc...) and well, nothing 
publishable comes out- effects are too small, you get scooped etc...

Does a great letter really make up for no publications?  Should the 
student have had the foresight to bail out on the project (assuming 
the advisor didn't)?  What if the advisor chooses to publish 
infrequently (and still retains funding)? 

Just some topics for discussion..... 


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