02 January, 2007

Why 2007 might be better than 2006

If I was asked to sum up my life last year, the phrase ‘treading water’ would seem appropriate. Although I passed my PhD and had two papers published at the beginning of the year, the work that went into them was mostly done in 2005. Since then, my research output has stalled a little, other than a couple of co-author credits. This hasn’t been helped by two first-authored papers submitted in June being consigned to review purgatory, but the depressing reality was that my position was not designed to help me build my own scientific career, rather to support others’ (my boss, other members of the group). This was far more depressing, and irksome, than the strange disconnect between my position (and salary) and my teaching responsibilities. Worse, my attempts to find a new job (both academic and non) had all fallen flat, so much so that offers from someone I know in the exploration industry to join the Dark Side were starting to seem tempting – a sure sign of dissatisfaction. Some have it much worse than me, of course, but I was starting to feel trapped and seriously demotivated.

Suddenly, though, a change is in the air, with an almost-to-good-to-be-true job offer from a research group in South Africa. They need a postdoctoral paleomagician to work on some really old cratonic sequences, and come February, work permit permitting (I seriously hope I’m not jinxing this by mentioning it), I’m it. Exotic fieldwork? Check. Potentially interesting reseach? You got it. A chance to escape my current not-so-inspiring job? Woohoo!

This move is not without risks, of course. I’ve gone from a permanent, if degrading, job to a fixed term (one or two years, depending on circumstances and progress) postdoc. Although the guys I’ll be working with seem to have a decent output, South Africa is not exactly the centre of the academic universe. And I’ll be living in Johannesburg, which hasn’t exactly acquired a reputation for cosiness in the past few years. However, I feel that if I turned down this opportunity just because I found the idea a bit intimidating, I’d likely spend the next few years, maybe decades, regretting it. Whatever happens, at least for now I have something to look forward to in 2007.


James Annan said...

You have to consider the possibility that science isn't a good career. It could be that science is a crap career. This is not the worst thing that can happen. Crapness is better than boredom.

(With apologies to Jim Uhls and Chuck Palahnuik, but the omission of a smiley is deliberate.)

CJR said...

I assume by 'crap' you mean low salary, long hours, and poor job security? If so, I'm in complete agreement. I could have put up with the slightly exploitative nature of my present position if I'd actually been given more to do than hold other peoples' hands for them, or produce data with no remit to analyse them.

Simon Packer said...

Me again.
I'm currently in SA (joburg) working for a charity. If you're round here you may wish to look at the Sterkfontein caves and Marapeng for humanoid evidence.
I've had a look. Not very conclusive to my mind, I must say.