Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Do you have a research agenda?

I am trying to finish a manuscript for an article before Thursday morning when I travel to grad school city to meet with the co-author. I have a few comments to address, need to fix some details on illustrations and should polish the discussion, and the actual work remaining is totally doable in a couple of days. Yet, there is something holding me back. Partly this is probably my own laziness, but it is also fear and seriously I think some sort of post-partum mechanism. The time spent working on this thing is downright ridiculous. It is research from before I started my PhD and while I obviously haven't worked on it continuously for ten years, I have revisited the project with one-two year intervals since my early twenties. I know it was good research when it was done, and as I'm in a somewhat slow moving field it is not outdated as such, although it has been re-framed several times and might need another serious make over if it isn't published soon.

Part of the fear comes from my coauthor's (and then advisor's) lack of confidence in getting anything published in the top-tier-journals in our field, and the way her extreme perfectionism rubbed off on me during my years as her advisee. I have over the years wiggled myself out of the idea of nothing is good enough for anyone to see, ever, but apparently she hasn't, and since this work was originally shaped under her critical guidance, my own judgement of the quality of work goes out of the window as soon as the question of showing her a draft arises.

This is the last piece of research from my grad school years that is dependent on my former advisers and haven't grown into an independent shape. I'm still mining additional publishable research from my dissertation, but more in the sense of ideas and preliminary data for further studies. Although the focus of the current manuscript has also changed significantly from my MSc thesis it is after all still the same basic idea and as such the last reminder of an ironically rewarding but extremely difficult period in my education and a time it took me years to recover from.

It is however also the time where my views and interests and foundation in my field were shaped and since I have never again been through such a rigorous programme, it is also the one sub field where I feel most confident. It is where know the literature in and out and still ten years on am able to jump straight into discussions, it is where I am able to find ideas and gaps in explanations and the background for any contribution to my current sub field. This is research I want to come back to and where I can see a way forward in applying ideas from my current sub-field. I cannot let this article slide, as I need it to demonstrate that I can handle both sub fields, before submitting research proposals that combine the two. I cannot let the opportunity of drawing on two lines of experience go, and I cannot let a ten year old advisor-advisee relationship bog me down. More important, I can't let this feeling of inadequacy tied so closely to the whole project hang around forever, it is really time to let go and free up some energy to actually develop those future project ideas.

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At 1:58 PM, Blogger post-doc said...

I'm impressed with how clearly you see the situation and hope the paper revisions go smoothly. It sounds as if your grasp of both fields is strong and I agree that your publication record should reflect that. Good luck!

At 10:46 PM, Blogger saxifraga said...

Thanks a lot. It actually helped to write out this post, and I might see the situation more clearly now than a short while ago. It still bothers me though, that I'm still so affected my these old feelings of not being good enough. I get jobs and I publish other stuff and I know I'm not stupid, but any dealing with this paper makes me feel 22 years old and very young and immature. Goodness, in a way I can't wait to get rid of it. Thanks for the support :-)

At 2:34 AM, Blogger Wayfarer Scientista said...

Oh! I have the exact same thing going on. And I'm attempting to manhandle myself into dealing with it because I need to for my own good and because it was good work.

At 7:01 AM, Blogger saxifraga said...

thanks wayfarer, I'm awfully glad to hear that I'm not the only one who have sqeezed myself into this corner. Sorry that you also have to deal with scary old work, though.

At 3:19 AM, Blogger Wayfarer Scientista said...

We can do it!!!


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