I have had a half-baked post in my mind now about my new job (yay!) and about what it means for my self-identity (at least career-wise), but I never did manage to figure out the right angle for it. I haven't started at the job yet, and I tend not to be a person who looks back, so reflecting on my life in academia seemed a bit pointless, while I didn't have anything at all to write about the future.
Charles Greenberg made the following comment on my previous post comparing the open science movement to the open-source software movement and Wikipedia:
I've had essentially no time for reading lately as I'm doing SAHD thing, moving into a new house, and coding like a maniac whenever I get a spare hour, but there was so much buzz on Twitter around Jason Mitchell's essay about replication studies in social psychology that I had to take a half-hour to read it. And for all that is holy, let me just say: What. The. Fuck. That's 30 min of my life I can't get back. I will replicate the highlights below so that you don't have to read it yourself.
I recently finished Clay Shirkey's "Cognitive Surplus" and there are a number of great points in here relevant to the open science movement. This might seem a little surprising given the central thesis of the book: for academics, contributing to knowledge creation and dissemination is not really "surplus", it's their job. Nevertheless, the values at the heart of the open source software movement, Wikipedia, and so on, are really the inspiration for open science, with the added kick that if so much has been done by people working for free, a class of professionals paid to contribute to human knowledge should be able to do even more.
Last week, Nature published a news item analyzing the use of the so-called "contributed" track at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (also called PNAS). For those who aren't aware, members of the National Academy of Sciences "can submit up to four papers per year to [PNAS], through the 'contributed' publication track. This unusual process allows authors to choose who will review their paper and how to respond to those reviewers' comments."
In Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff, the author makes a distinction between communications that have value as a result of being current versus communications that have value as a result of being curated, accurate and complete. You can think of one like a river - information that is constant flowing, and the other like a lake - information that is discarded when it becomes obsolete but comparatively stays quite stable over time.
I've had two discussions recently with organizations trying to implement open science-type platforms, and the conversation keeps coming back to the same thing: "How do we get people to contribute?"
I have reached a point in my academic career where there is nothing to be gained from staying any longer. I'm luckier than most: my spouse has received a teaching position in our home country and the salary is enough to support our family for a while. I've had time to plan this and I've been investing in skills beyond the lab bench. We're moving to a place with a bustling economy and low unemployment.
Even though I have known for some time now that a career in academia is not for me, blog posts about people being forced out of academia still tug at my heart strings in a way I can't quite explain.
This is a very difficult book to summarize, so I'll begin with a very specific argument the author makes, delivered completely out of context, but probably familiar to most people of my generation: