People in academia are mean (Part II)

13 May

A while ago I wrote a post in which I described my so far disappointment and disillusionment with fellow human beings in academia. Of course, I do not mean to generalise or insult anyone. Just like in any other profession, society, circle or a random group of people, universities and research institutions are not really promoting kindness and humanity. And somehow I used to believe they automatically should.

And I could not make my exit without making a point, and why not make it twice. I would first like to share my experiences with journal publications. I was very fond of the second paper that I wrote because it was largely my baby, I came up with the topic, had the data available and quickly did the analysis with less than the usual involvement from my supervisor. And here is the thing, it was a paper on well-being. You know, happiness, the thing we should ultimately care about because what do we need money, jobs, security for if they do not translate into increased life satisfaction? So questions from fellow economists, such as “What’s the point in studying it, we cannot measure it?” were sort of hard to swallow though perhaps — to some extent — fair. I belived that even though we cannot measure a number of things,this is no reason to stop investigating them. But perhaps this topic would not make a top-rated journal publication. Oh well, I think I did not lose any sleep over that.

Then came the moment to submit the paper to a journal, and a few months later a positive response came – I could revise and resubmit. I was thrilled, naturally. For someone who struggled so much in the masters’ programme, failed and had to retake courses and live on despicably little income to achive that, I felt like my efforts and insane work have been rewarded. Then reading the comments of one of the reviewers, I was a bit puzzled. I perhaps should explain that the journal is more of inter-disciplinary not strictly economics oriented. Though the points and suggestions of that particular reviewer were largely useless and it was clear to me he could not understand the basic methodology (and it really is not difficult to understand), he felt the need to waste a paragraph ranting about my bad English. I was surprised to see such a comment because I believed and have been told my English is quite good for a non-native speaker. And most of all, when they invite you to review someone’s work, they specifically advise you not to be adamant into pointing English mistakes as, obviously, it is so much more about the content.

After spending days pondering over and implementing the suggestions, I received an answer back saying that this particular reviewer was ‘repelled’ by my obfuscated English. I myself was flabbergasted by his short-sightedness and blunt obstinancy. Sure, my English is not perfect but given that a native speaker had read my manuscript, and I work part-time as an editor, it cannot be that bad after all. And here is some irony for you, I had to spent some not trivial amount of my editing salary on editing services. If you ask me, this is what Alanis Morissette should have sung about, not wedding days and unicorns.

Then comes another manuscript and a different journal. That one I was very fond of as well because it was my first project and I do take the topic personally. In very short, it had to deal with child physical and sexual abuse and later problematic outcomes. There, after sending it to a journal, we received an immediate desk rejection saying that the topic is not really important enough to be published in their journal. And there I was, thinking that violence was a bad thing and we should try to prevent child abuse. The cynic is me is sure Catholic priests rejoiced worldwide on that day.

So, looking back, I think there is currently little remorse in my mind about leaving academia and trying to get the normal, boring 9 to 5 job. At least, in such environment, people do not use fancy academic titles to feed on whatever complexes they have. If they are mean, I somehow would feel less betrayed.

I don’t think I was ever this angry while writing a post. I hope you did not get too fuddled by my obfuscating writing.

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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in PhD life



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