Money and self-esteem

Sabine Dippel sabine at
Mon Sep 15 12:00:33 EST 1997

Hi there, 

today, when thinking about the choices I have made in the last week
(namely to look for a job in industry and forget about academic science,
and maybe about actively doing science at all), I came up with one thing 
which, small as it may seem, in a way looks to me like the driving factor
in my decision making process. I don't know how typical my situation is,
but I thought it would give a good point for discussion.

Up to very recently, I always thought I would try
to stay in science. Once in a while, whenever I saw people doing so much 
better outside, and whenever I saw what a hard time excellent (in all senses,
in their subject and pretty good at political things like marketing themselves)
people had in finding jobs, I seriously considered getting out, but this feeling
never lasted long. I applied for a post-doc grant, and thought everything would
be fine. However, when trying to find out what possibilities there are for me
if this grant does not come through, I found out that nobody of the people I 
know in my field and who keep telling me how they value my work is able (or
willing?) to pay me at least for a few months until the next deadline for 
another organization approaches. I know that I did not play this whole game 
too well politically (I don't want to go into details, but I think there would
have been ways to pay me if I had negotiated differently with people from the
start), but still the fact remains that these people tell me they would love
me to work for them, but I have to bring in my own money.

Not a very uncommon situation, but thinking about it I started to wonder 
about a few things. I admit that I am one of those people who see science
pragmatically as a job, who have fun with their work, but who also enjoy 
(and have always managed to have at least to an amount large compared to many
of my colleages, small compared to people I know outside science) a lot of 
other things. I wanted to stay in University because I think I am a good 
teacher and am good at doing research, besides being able to sell my work
to other people, so I thought it was the ideal job for me. Only now I'm 
realizing that probably this is not enough - that you have to put up with
far more than I am willing to put up with, and which you maybe can only 
put up with if you feel a far deeper love for science than I ever did. 

But then, I wonder - even if one does it for the "love of science" - 
if people do not seem to have high enough esteem for your work to pay you 
a decent salary (or to pay you at all) - is this work really worth it? 
For me, it definitely is not, so now I am definitely and seriously looking
into other possibilities (whoever suggested patent law here a while ago -
this is one of my favoured options at the moment, especially as there are
presently openings at the European Patent Office, where I would even get to
(and have to) use the 2 foreign languages I speak). 

So, the question I would like to put up here is what you feel about it - 
do you think your work is really so valuable to yourself (it it were valuable
for society, society should pay for it) to put up with the financial situation
as it is? Because if it is really valuable for society or your employer (advisor,
PI, whatever), doesn't the small amount of money paid for it show that "society" 
or your boss does not esteem your work high enough, and you should go somewhere
where this is valued? 

(Somehow I feel I am not getting clear what I really want to say, but maybe
it starts a discussion that will clarify it.)

Just some thoughts,


(who's thinking too much about other things than writing the last 
chapter of her thesis)

| Sabine Dippel     | e-mail: s.dippel at                  | 
| HLRZ              | phone : [++49] (2461) 61-2318                   | 
| FZ Juelich        | fax   : [++49] (2461) 61-2430                   | 
| 52425 Juelich     | WWW   : | 
| Germany           |                                                 | 

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