Research targets: the pirate code for academics

Today I had a short conversation with an early career academic that made me thankful that I decided to start this blog. I enjoyed talking with her – it was our first meeting, and she came across as smart, ambitious and engaging. She is also working at a punishing rate. She told me that six days a week she starts work at 5am and keeps going for 12 hours. She is currently teaching three subjects, has seven funded research projects, and has joined several committees. She has a young son. Her refrain was: It will get better, I just need to make it through this semester. 

Image result for just my mind

Source: Dirk’s Big Bunny Blog

I didn’t ask her about her hobbies. I mentioned that I’d started this blog and work three days a week. I talked a bit about why: because my wellbeing and that of my family comes first, because work has to accommodate the shitty things that sometimes happen, because my academic work  is not the only thing I love, and because work has to feel like something that I can keep doing well.

Like many, she questioned whether I am paid for three days but actually work a lot more. In the past, I would have answered something like ‘Of course I work more but so do all the full-time academics I know.’ But having worked as a 0.6 academic for almost seven years, I am getting better at it, and I have a lot of strategies to contain my work hours (and still get promoted). I will share these over time as I articulate them to myself, but one emerged clearly as a result of our conversation. I live by the pirate’s code for academics.

This ECA mentioned the high expectations of academics. I agreed. Take, for instance, the research strategy here which sets the following annual goals for a Level B or C academic: publishing 4-5 journal articles in high impact factor journals, having publications cited 5+ times per year, receiving $80-100k in external research funding, supervising 5 PhD completions. Note that for most academics research accounts for 40% of their workload, so there is also teaching and service to add to this list. Exhausting and unsustainable if not impossible.

It turns out she was seeing these targets as minimum requirements to achieve success. I think of them as a Pirate Code (more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules):

This is a conversation to have with your colleagues (senior and junior): do they follow the pirate code?

6 thoughts on “Research targets: the pirate code for academics

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