work-life balance

Why Women-in-Science Panels Aren’t Very Useful

Based on my experiences with women-in-science panels, as a member of the audience as well as a panelist, these events tend to be a nearly complete waste of time. I don’t think these panels achieve very much and have left me wanting every single time, regardless of the role I played. Recently, I have been thinking about why that is so. (If you think these panels are awesome, I would definitely love to hear about what you found useful.)

Maybe these panels are like intro-level textbooks, useful for a novice, but once you’ve struggled with certain issues for a while and are ready for an advanced course, they no longer suffice. These panels are also a cheap way for organizations to pretend they are doing something for young women, without actually having to do much of substance.

The women in the audience come with two sets of questions: 1) succeeding professionally (perhaps as woman in a male-dominated field) and 2) work-life balance (which in practice translates to “how to have kids and still succeed”). Panels tend to spend most of their time on the second type of question, which I think it at the core of the low utility of these panels.

The young women who have been very successful thus far and have great pedigrees come in ready to kill it in the professional arena. Often, they don’t believe that the issues of bias will apply to them and are largely convinced we live in a post-sexist society. In contrast, no midcareer or senior woman in STEM thinks this. So there is a disconnect between what the older women say will be an issue and how to overcome it, and the fact that younger women don’t think this will apply to them because they themselves are excellent and academia is a meritocracy (Honorary Dudeness etc.), or they really believe sexism is a thing of the past (so everyone but the dinosaurs is enlightened). In reality, they simply haven’t had enough experiences yet to convince them that sexism is alive and well, thriving in many young guns, and more insidious than ever.

Then there is the issue of work–life balance (again, this is usually a euphemism for kids–work balance). Whether you are the primary caregiver (which most women are, whether they work or not), whether you breastfeed, whether you have multiples, how flexible the spouse’s job is, whether you have a nanny or use daycare, how long your commute is, not to mention whether your baby is healthy, are all issues that can cause considerable disparities in the stress levels of new moms in academia. There are young women who are approaching motherhood with trepidation and come to these workshops to brainstorm logistics, but there are women who may or may not have kids on the tenure track, or ever, but are definitely not interested in talking diapers or breast pumps right now.

There are young women who want to discuss the details of childrearing and associated challenges, but these are really better addressed in a peer forum rather than a panel. For the most part, panelists do not give these women the details they crave; mostly, panelists come off as women who have it together, much more together than what you want to see if you have just become a new mom and your world has been shaken to the core. I am not sure panelists mean to seem cold and calculated, but in my experience they almost always appear that way, often because these topics are something they dealt with in the past (we always seem much more together in hindsight than we really were in the moment  of crisis), but also because a woman’s work persona in STEM is one that always keeps it together.

As a panelist, I always feel that there are things I wish I could share, but they don’t seem to fit with where the moderators are going  or they seem inappropriate because the rest of panel has already driven the discussion in a different direction, and I never want to take up too much panel time (in contrast to some other panelists; there’s always someone who drones on). I always  feel that these panels are way too short and that we barely scratch the surface of what awaits people on the tenure track, let alone beyond. Many senior women seem eager to be done with the obligation and on to the next meeting of the day. The dynamics of wise and worldly and busy panelists talking at (as opposed to with) young and uninformed audience is not really conducive to establishing rapport, especially since the young women are not incompetent. The little time we do have is spent on things we all know already, and we never get to the things that are really at the core of the issues. And there are never many questions, which means the panel didn’t resonate with the audience and that there wasn’t enough time to do it right.

The oldies (I guess I am among them now) and the young women both know how to be tough in their professional arena, and that’s how they interact among themselves, yet these panels are supposed to address issues that are generally quite personal, and that’s the source of a serious disconnect — everyone is posturing, everyone is talking to strangers, and nobody really wants to (nor should be expected to) share really personal anecdotes; when they are shared, they are either trivial, featuring some minor drama that of course ended well, or, on a rare occasion when someone touches upon something really personal, everyone is embarrassed.

I am not sure how to best support young women on the tenure track, especially in the physical-science STEM fields, where the percentages of women are ridiculously low. You cannot force people to genuinely share their struggles and fears with virtual strangers; you definitely cannot force guarded overachievers, whose work persona has been toughened up specifically to not show weakness, to all of a sudden act all vulnerable and nurturing in front of a roomful of women who are also smart and competitive, and who are perhaps showing signs of doubt, weakness, or indecisiveness, but only because their protective armor hasn’t had the time to fully harden just yet.

You cannot expect women to relate as nurtures to other women in a professional context. This type of support has to come from a place of personal connection, and cannot be forced by the institution. Putting a whole bunch of women of different ages together, pretending they would make fast friends, is bullshit and a waste of everyone’s time.

What can institutions do? They can make sure to bring in women as technical speakers, have clear guidelines regarding maternity leave and tenure-clock stoppage, improve access to affordable childcare for students and faculty and staff. They can be unapologetic about affirmative action and relentless about educating the people already there about the massive body of research on implicit bias.

The institutions could also not hire a$$holes, but rather both men and women who will seek work-life balance (with or without kids) and will be interested in helping younger colleagues. This will never happen, of course, because research institutions in physical and biomedical fields want to hire first and foremost the people who can raise lots of grant money; hotshot prodigious fund raisers tend to prioritize work over all else.

Departments could create mentoring committees that include colleagues whom the young faculty member actually will not be afraid to ask questions. For example, of my two assigned mentors, one was never around and I never asked him a single thing; I was also afraid of him, as he struck me as someone who’d weed me out if he perceived I were a weak link. The other mentor was nominally friendly, but in practice so elusive and impossible to meet up with, that I gave up. I got most mentoring from two male collaborators, one midcareer and one very senior. We obviously never discussed breastfeeding and the like, but they were very helpful regarding strategies for grant submissions, interactions with program managers, department politics, etc.

As for women-in-science issues, among my female colleagues across the college, I found that there were very few who organized their lives similar to how I did. First, my female colleagues on average seem to pay for much more outside help than DH and I do (e.g., multiple nannies, often in addition to part-time daycare, appears to be a typical arrangement) or have spouses with very flexible occupations (some had stay-at-home spouses for a while). It’s hard to discuss these choices without judging or being judged, even with one’s close personal friends, let alone with peers who sit with you on committees and who are your competitors for internal awards.

So what do we all do in terms of support for junior faculty, especially women? I think panels, and generally any advice-giving interaction with colleagues, should be focused on troubleshooting for professional success, without connecting it with childcare. Professional success and the challenges on the way to achieving it are (largely) common to women and men, people with kids, people with elder care, people with disabilities. For instance, it is okay to talk about how much travel is necessary, how to best accommodate periods in which you cannot travel, the strategies to maximize publication output and your record in general when you are temporarily grounded — this can be because of kids, because you have a disorder that periodically flares up, or because you have elder care. I think we underestimate how many people have challenges other than childcare and who would benefit from brainstorming how to navigate their career just as much as a temporarily zombified breastfeeding mom would, yet they self-select out of these work-life panels. (One perk of being senior and partaking on university-level committees is that you meet many people across campus, see many CVs, and realize that almost everyone has had some personal stumble at one point or another.) Everyone would be better served if we refocused these panels on success in the face of professional challenges: dwindling grant support, amplified need for travel and exposure, increased pressure to publish, all with raised tenure bars and diminishing safety nets in terms of intramural funds. There’s plenty to discuss, without ever mentioning diapers.

And for emotional support? Friends and family, in meatspace and on the Internet.

A Good Little Girl

When you are a woman in a male-dominated STEM field, weird things happen to you. People say weird shit or give you weird looks or write weird letters of recommendation for you. And this is just the good guys, the male colleagues who are at the core respectful and supportive of you.

A few years ago, there was some paperwork to be submitted by a deadline as part of a large collaboration. I was stressing out about it, and a very senior collaborator (older than my father) was mocking me for wanting to make the deadline “like a good little girl.”

And you know what? He was right. As a woman in science, who’s always done well in school, I have always been a good little girl who played by the rules. I see the same thing with the students in my undergraduate courses. Young women are very rare, but the average performance quality of the women is much higher than the average of the male students. And the good female students follow the class rules, while many of the good male students do not. The good female students come to lectures, come to discussion, and start their homework on time; when I emphasize something in class as important to remember, they remember it and are able to do it on the exam. With good male students, there are those who are “good little boys,” but there are a number of those who really have atrocious study habits, who skip classes, then cram and bother me mercilessly right before the exam to try to make up for what they missed; there is nothing of the kind among the strong female performers.

Even in my research group, the young women are uniformly the cream of the crop. They write the best-quality, well-commented code; when I ask them to complete the code documentation before they leave, they actually do it. On average, their technical writing is better, they are more methodical and less sloppy in their research, and generally follow instructions better/are more coachable than my male students, and thus improve faster along every training direction (technical competence, data visualization, technical writing, presenting).

With smart male students, I sometimes have to battle over the stupidest things. Yesterday, I told a student to try something because the simulation wasn’t working. He was grumbling because he “knew” it wouldn’t work; I said he had to do it anyway, and to do it and come show me. Of course, it worked, and he seemed surprised that it was actually a good idea. *eyeroll* I never have to put up with such crap with female students. If I ask that they do something, they go and do it, and then also build upon it and develop it in different directions or augment or try something new. There is never that step that’s like pulling teeth to get them to simply do what I say. I am not saying all male students are disobedient, far from it; rather, if I have to pull my hair out because someone is obstinate, it’s always a boy, never a girl.

I am sure these experiences have to do with how boys and girls are socialized. Across cultures, girls are taught to be people-pleasers and to defer to authority (men from certain cultures are taught the latter, as well, and it shows in how they respond to coaching). The challenge is to get women to balance this deep-seated deference with speaking their own mind, developing and sharing their own ideas, and getting recognition for them.

Now, where am I going with this? Say, a good little girl grows up and gets a faculty position. Maybe that good little girl is me, or you.

The good little girl is in danger of a) doing much more service then necessary, b) doing much more or more laborious teaching than the colleagues who are not good little girls, c) generally being misinformed about what all that teaching and service really do for her career, because everyone expects her to act as a good little girl and, at the same time, thinks less of her for doing so.

People tell you that it’s important to do service, because journal editors remember you when you review for them and university colleagues remember you when you serve on their committees and program managers remember you when you serve on their panels. I am definitely guilty of vastly overestimating how much certain service roles would benefit my career. For example, I sat on 3-4 panels by the same program manager at the NSF, where I thought I would eventually get funding. I never did, and he left, so all of that is just a waste of time. Sure, maybe it helped make me a better proposal writer, but I doubt it; it’s the case of diminishing returns — I either know or don’t know how to write proposals at this stage of my career, I am not going to have my eyes miraculously open in this regard over a decade into a faculty position.

Similarly, there were university awards that I felt my service on certain committees might help me get. I did get them. But then I saw my colleagues, who completely eschew all service, getting similar awards, and I felt like I have wasted a ton of time for no good reason.

I review papers for journals, probably a paper per week, because I feel that if I am to be entitled to good reviews of my own work, I should do the same for others. It turns out, there are plenty of people who have high demands on the reviews they receive, but review very little themselves because they feel it’s not a good use of their time. (How does the dichotomy not blow their minds?)  A colleague with a huge group literally laughed at me for reviewing a lot for a journal where we both publish. “You realize that’s not going to help you get your own papers published, right?” he chuckled.

It is entirely possible to be very successful and to be completely selfish. These people are the ones who are happy to let the likes of me — good little girls, who feel insecure about their belonging in the enterprise of science and thus want to do their share, to please, to not feel like they take more than they deserve and they deserve so little — do well more than necessary, as it benefits them. Women do more teaching and service than average in their academic STEM departments (this is true across my college) because everyone gently perpetuates this myth that more teaching and service will benefit the women in the long run. Maybe, but it’s a weak, higher-order effect.

Scratch that. It’s mostly a lie. Any recognition or warmth or fuzziness that your willingness to please and serve and make deadlines and generally play by the rules will produce for you, the good little girl, among your colleagues, takes too much of your time (the time that’s subtracted from research, family, hobbies, watching grass grow) yet is much, much  smaller than the recognition than any of your self-centered colleagues gets for bringing in another grant or publishing another Glamour Mag while doing minimal service and teaching.

If you feel teaching and service are important, that the institution wouldn’t function without them, and if you really truly enjoy these activities, then go ahead and do them. But please don’t do them because you think they will benefit your career, other than in a very small and indirect way. People who are whispering these lies in your ear want you to be the one doing the dirty work, so they’d be free to pursue the really high-payoff activities. They are not evil incarnate; they do it because they can. They simply recognize that you are a good little girl, and we all know the good little girls will do anything to be liked and useful and helpful. There is no benefit to you if you do as expected; there is a likability penalty if you don’t.

Don’t fall for the bullshit. Your success does not depend solely on them liking you. If you kick their butt with your record, they can dislike you and you will still be fine. More than fine, actually.

You may be a good little girl, but you are not a stupid one.

Are you postponing working on your own papers or proposals, or not relaxing over the weekend, because you are constantly backlogged with service obligations and teaching?
Don’t. Just don’t. As someone who does that constantly, I am telling you — just don’t.

You have tenure? Congratulations! Now:

  • Go, right this minute, and put a “Not available to review” status at journals that often prompt you to review for them. Commit to rejecting all new review requests, no matter who sent them, for the next 2 months.
  • Get off of any new committees that you were put on in the past month. Or the past six months. Cite a scheduling or personal conflict.  Apologize profusely.
    Many people think women are flakes anyway. You might as well act like one, for once.
  • Stop attending faculty meetings till the end of the semester. Cite a scheduling or, better yet, a research-related conflict.
  • Write down (or pull up, if you have it already) a list of all papers you have in the works with your students, and write a revised, accelerated timeline for the submission of each. Meet with students at least once about each of those papers in the coming 2 weeks.
  • Write down (or pull up, if you have it already) a list of all proposals you have in the works and write a revised, accelerated timeline for the submission of each.
  • Decide on a small number of trips you will take each year. I traveled twice a month every month of the last year and have barely recovered.
    I think I should aim for a number of trips between 5 and 10 per year. 1-2 funding related, 4-6 talks at conferences/universities. 1-2 freebies, such as conferences where you can learn something new. That’s plenty.
  • Commit to 2 months of no work email on the weekends. None whatsoever. (It can be done. So I hear.)
  • Commit to 2 months of reading 1 nontechnical book per week. (Or running. Or yoga. Or blogging. Or anything that you can do just for you.)
  • Vouch to never again miss out on family fun (or quality time with your dog/marathon/whatever) because of stupid service.

People seem not to realize that good little girls become awesome grown women. Even the women seem to occasionally forget it.

We could and should be just as self-centered as any mischievous little boy.

 

Notes from the Road 5

After this post, some commenters have been wondering about my origins. There are many countries in Europe that would fit the description of tiny and inconsequential (whether or not their citizens are willing to admit it). Knowing which one specifically I am from would probably not bring much excitement or illumination to most of my readership.

Now, finding out that I am secretly Martian, or royalty, or a 60-year-old truck driver named Big Mike who suffers from hypertension and enjoys ballroom dancing — now those would be fun revelations!

I can also vouch that even finding the identity of a pseudonymous academic blogger is essentially anticlimactic. I mean, who could the person possibly be? Unless they are a Houdini-like master of deception (which sounds quite exhausting and I can’t understand why anyone would want to impersonate a professor), the person turns out to be who they say they are: another faculty member at some school, working in a field likely different from yours.

I mean, it would be a revelation to find out that a colleague from down the hall, who I am willing to bet doesn’t even read blogs, is in fact FSP. Or it would be fun to find out that CPP worked as a male stripper to put himself through college, or that DM spent his youth smoking (and dealing!) pot. But other than that, they are just people doing the same job elsewhere and in a different field. I think we are generally fine not knowing one another in meat space; it doesn’t add anything to the online experience. Besides, as a few bloggy friends who know me can vouch, and to paraphrase nicoleandmaggie, I am probably cooler online than in real life.

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I spent a lot of time with my former PhD advisor, and we had a great time and a lot of beer. The topics of inspiration and the passion for work and regretting the time spent or not spent on work or on family came up. He is still as passionate about his work as ever, in his mid-70s’, and he mentioned this quote from Steve McQueen’s movie “Le Mans” (I haven’t seen it):

Lisa Belgetti: When people risk their lives, shouldn’t it be for something very important? Michael Delaney: Well, it better be. Lisa Belgetti: But what is so important about driving faster than anyone else? Michael Delaney: Lotta people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.

Isn’t that a great quote? Science is important to the people who do it well. When you are immersed in the work, nothing else matters. It is hard for people who are not particularly good at much to understand it.

I am constantly guilt-ridden that I don’t enjoy homemaking or playing with my kids or other womanly pursuits very much; I simply enjoy working more. (Some people feel they should come to tell me that I shouldn’t have had kids in that case. If you feel the urge to say that, don’t; instead, ask yourself why you think only women with no professional ambition or drive are supposed to procreate, or worse, why you think women have to squash their professional lives in the service of family.) I crave the mental stimulation and, as much as I love my kids, family life doesn’t scratch that itch. Legos and plastic animals can get very boring very fast (especially by kid No 3); shopping for curtains or home decorating never even manages to rise beyond the level of tedious. Perhaps I am a horrible person, but somehow I don’t think the male version of me would ever obsess about this.

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I just got a resubmission of a paper to review. The first time around, I requested extensive edits, while the other referee accepted with minor revisions. In the response letter, I am amused by how the other referee was thanked for “his/her comments,” while in my case “we thank the referee for his comments… In his point No xx, the referee says…” The authors sort of recognize the existence of women referees, but us ladies must be the softie referee, certainly never the hardliner. Tee-hee.

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I am coming home soon, I can’t wait. En route, I came across this delicious overpriced latte with a gloriously firm head of foam: Latte

Sexist Logorrhea

Apparently, a septuagenarian Nobel laureate thinks women are a distraction in the lab and cry a lot; calls for gender-segregated labs. The Internet erupts.

Whatever. I am actually relieved every time something like this happens. I am relieved that occasionally someone is actually stupid enough to say out loud what many think and act according to anyway.

Over the past several years, I have been a witness of pretty serious discrimination of other women by people considerably younger than Hunt. These men would fight you to the death if you even hinted that they were sexist because of course they don’t think they are; yet, their actions speak differently.

  • We have enough women,” said in earnest by a colleague in a faculty meeting discussing hiring. Women make <20% of faculty.
  • L is not a real candidate,” said by a colleague about a female candidate. The colleague and I were on the recruitment  committee together, I know we ranked all candidates, top 20 were all stellar, L was ranked 3, and we interviewed 5. She is not a diversity candidate, she’s a highly qualified candidate who also happens to be female.
  • A few years back, some colleagues and I went through serious diversity training in preparation for serving on the faculty recruitment committee. I remember finding the training illuminating. That’s where I first found out about how women are expected to act communal and men agentic, and how women are penalized if they act insufficiently communal. I saw the examples of recommendation letters and the difference in the language people use for men and women, how letters for women always veer towards too personal, with comparatively less focus on achievement, excellence, competence, and with different adjectives used for women and men. The male colleagues went through the motions and, when it was all done, said it was all pointless bullshit and a waste of time. We all saw examples of those letters of recommendation; they completely shook my world, but apparently did nothing for my male colleagues. You truly can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.
  • At the university level, we reviewed three candidates from the same general field (different subfields) coming up for tenure. If you just looked at the number of publications and quality of journals where they appeared, the number of  citations, the number of grants, the woman was the best of the lot. But if you looked at external evaluation letters, you’d be appalled by the language. According to the letters, the two men were superstars in the making (not made yet, with writers bending over backwards to attribute lack of citations to the fact that the candidate is a visionary), while the woman’s achievement were downplayed, with statements to the effect that she must have come up with some of her most heavily cited findings by accident! It was disgusting. I read about these instances happening, but it was blatant and real and clear as day. These letters then led to the committee dissecting the woman’s record with a scalpel and a fair bit of skepticism; everything worthwhile she did had to be qualified, while the men were fine just on potential and the letters.  (You bet I was vocal about it.)
  • Being a member of the program committee for a conference in my field, it routinely happens that there are no women suggested for invited talks unless I suggest some. It’s amazing how I can think of 3-4 women easily, and the other 15 dudes together cannot think of single one.

That is not to say that there aren’t men who really and truly are the champions of women. They exist (thank you, guys!), but are definitely a minority. For instance, I have the good fortune that some of my department colleagues, including the chair, are really genuinely supportive of women,  really put their money where their mouth is: they advise female students and actively support female colleagues. However, I would say that less than 20% of men in my department are true diversity champions, who believe a diverse workplace is a better place for everyone. The rest, a vast majority, make allowances for exceptional specific women (“Of course, you are awesome! You are much better than other women!”) but do not see why there is a need for diversity; science is fine just the way it is! They consider all our “hysteria” about women in science to be tiresome political bullshit that has to be catered to when writing about broader impacts in NSF proposals. They will often say things such as “We hire the best candidate, not an affirmative action candidate!” To everyone who ever said that I want to say the following: it sounds like you have no freakin’ clue how it is to objectively evaluate candidates for anything very competitive. There are always MANY highly qualified candidates, any one of them would be a good choice. Now the question is how to pick 1 or some other small number from among these uniformly excellent men and women. I am disgusted to see that people think all of these few spots belong (!) to “real candidates,” i.e., men. The fact a woman is just as good as any of them still does not make her a real candidate in the eyes of some, even fairly junior colleagues with professional wives and daughters.

So I don’t understand the outrage that another sexist a$$hole suffers from the foot-in-mouth disease. Because, really, it’s not a big surprise. It’s just how things are.

In my experience, many men in the physical sciences, even among those who think very highly of their own enlightenment, don’t really think that science needs more diversity, but rather that’s it’s simply something women want and are very loud and annoying about and should be accommodated on occasion to stop the whining (or to snatch the rarely seen unicorn-female-superstar-real-candidate).  They consider all efforts to promote women as a nuisance that gets in the way of doing science as they are used to. My European colleagues can be a special brand of offender here, as they often see (and speak of) the quest for promotion of women as an American problem and not something relevant to where they live and work (this from a colleague who works on a large team of about 50, with a single woman, a student). It is very hard to change people’s minds when they think they are blind to sexism and that all they see is merit. Trying to convince them that much of the merit is really in the eye of the beholder would be positively quixotic.

Ranty

I think I might explode with anger and frustration. I have a proposal due next week and I cannot get to work on it because I have to finish two nominations (including writing letters) for colleagues (no, they could not have been done sooner because everyone, including the nominees, waits till the very last fuckin’ minute to send me their stuff) and I have to sit in a meeting for a university-level committee all morning tomorrow and then I teach in the afternoon.

And this is the service that is actually not bullshit. And don’t tell me to delegate, because I am the delegate.

Sometimes there is simply too much work for the time available. And the time crunch comes about not from sitting on one’s hands but from constantly having to put out fires; urgent always trumping important, until it’s too late. 

So please, don’t give me advice on how to optimize my time. I assure you I have heard everything and am aware of all the tricks. Most “tricks” involve dropping stuff or dumping stuff on someone else. Or simply being an asshole, like some of my colleagues, and not give a damn if service obligations go to $hit.
I have already cut all that could be cut; this week alone I refused probably 6-7 review requests.

Absent dumping my work on someone else, it is the issue of simple math: there is too much work for the time that I have. And no, it is not my character flaw, or my inability to get organized or whatever. So please refrain from giving advice.

Where will I be all weekend? Right fuckin’ here, in my office, non-stop. Butt glued to the chair.

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Which reminds me: I received reports from a highfalutin journal. Of the three, one was very positive and 2 sentences long. One was blanket dismissive, also 2 sentences. One was misguided and factually wrong (an example of a little knowledge being a bad thing), but at least the person wrote several paragraphs.

To all my colleagues who can’t be bothered to read the whole 4-page letter-type manuscript and who can’t be bothered to write more than 2 sentences: screw you. I always write detailed reports, especially if I don’t like the paper. I do so even if I do like the paper, so the authors would have some ammunition to fight the potentially negative reviews.

Screw you all, lazy referees. You are crappy colleagues. I hope all you receive in the next 5 years are blanket dismissals conveyed through 2-sentence reports.
You don’t deserve my time or my effort to read and understand your papers and write detailed reports.
And neither do you, unbelievably slow editor who actually lets not one but two 2-sentence reports through as actual reviews. Screw you, too.

WTF Editor and What Professors Do All Day When Not in Class: A Two-Parter

I have submitted a paper to a journal that prides itself in rapid turnaround. It’s been a week and no action; it’s sitting on the editorial desk (well, metaphorically; rather in an inbox or a folder of some sort). I am getting really antsy, because they often send out for review within a couple of days from submission.

I have told myself I would give them 2 weeks and then nudge them. But I might have serious problems waiting that long… It’s a journal that does desk rejections, btw.

A few months ago, I had a Glam Wannabe journal sit on a manuscript for nearly a month and then desk-rejected.  I could have received a full review other places in the same amount of time. I was unbelievably pissed that they wasted my time like that. It will be a long, long time before I review for them again, I will tell you that. A$$holes.

What say you, blogosphere? How long do you allow the editors to sit on a paper before you nudge them to ask “WTF is going on? $hit or get off the can!” (Well, the polite version, anyway.) Do your actions depend on the typical or perceived or processing time for the journal? On how badly you want to publish in there? On how much coffee you’ve had?

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What do we profs do all day when we don’t teach? Well, here you go.

Smurf the Little had an owie ear, was taken to a doctor and then to daycare this morning by DH. However, Middle Boy puked repeatedly and quite grossly yesterday evening and last night, so I stayed at home with him today, as I didn’t have to teach. The Puker will be 8 this spring, so he’s not high maintenance, and he was also starting to feel better, so I was able to work. What I did today:

  • reviewed 2 proposals for two different federal agencies (one US, one Canada);
  • reviewed 1 paper (revision, didn’t take very long);
  • wrote 2 letters of recommendation;
  • edited a full-length conference paper a student is submitting;
  • edited a colleague’s paper, which I promised to do even though I also asked to be taken off the author list because I didn’t do much for the project;
  • hastily submitted belated paperwork and a report for an existing grant that I hope to get renewed and I really should be behaving better towards the program manager;
  • filed paperwork for a no-cost extension of a grant;
  • organized and submitted paperwork for a recent trip;
  • filed justification for airfare for an upcoming trip;
  • booked yet another upcoming trip;
  • emailed pretty extensively with two grad students on technical stuff, and talked over the phone with one of them;
  • emailed lightly with three or four panicked undergrads, who realized the reign of terror is upon them as they are taking a class with me;
  • emailed w/ some 20 or so other people about various upcoming meetings or scheduling midterm classroom for my huge class etc;
  • prepped class for tomorrow;
  • scanned some pages for student HW I had assigned yesterday because the library doesn’t have the undergrad text on reserve yet;
  • organized and submitted paperwork to establish an undergrad’s research position  and a add a grad student’s MS to a PhD in another department;
  • read/skimmed two papers that a colleague sent me as of possible interest (they were);
  • worked on my annual report that’s due in about a week;
  • worked on the figures for a manuscript that should be submitted likely by Feb 1;
  • obsessed/fumed over the fact that the stupid paper from part 1 hasn’t gone out to review (or come back desk-rejected) yet. Okay, this is not work, but it takes energy. Even though it’s only dark energy… BWAHAHAHA.

Not bad for a lazy overpaid layabout academic on sick-kid duty, huh? As you can see, I make a great secretary. Who dabbles in teaching and research.

I still haven’t done the stuff I need to do for the awards committee I am on, and I have yet to write the paper to accompany the invited talk I am giving in February (I really shouldn’t have accepted the invitation, I don’t like to publish conference papers — too much time on something people don’t read or cite). Two journal papers are nearing submission by end of February, and a grant too; I am chipping away at those as well, but didn’t today.