Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why would anyone spend time on administration?

In a post from last week, I mentioned, how the position of "assistant department head" was invented at my institution in order to recruit women into administrative positions*, and how, I felt, that move sent a conflicting signal about women needing special training in order to move up in the hierarchy, in a way men did not. At the same time this "lower level administrative position" also became an attractive stepping stone for young people like me towards the decision-making level of the institution, and it was actively encouraged by the institution as a career-enhacing step.

Administrative work in academic institutions is often described as a thankless job and something that should be avoided as long as possible. To some extent I suppose this is true, and being swamped by administrative work can surely derail an academic career quickly, especially as long as one is at the entry level.

So it is not surprising that Wilhelm asks in the comments to the above post:

"Why on earth would you want to take on an assistant department head position, though? From what I have observed, something like that would put a serious dent in your scientific output and give you all kinds of mind-numbing administrative tasks."

Rather than just giving a brief answer in the comments I wanted to expand this a little. Administration is not for everyone, and institutions obviously differ with respect to how much real influence it is possible to obtain as a junior person, but I wanted to share why I think it has been worth the time and effort and what I have learned.

There are definitely days when I ask myself the above question repeatedly. But although taking on administrative tasks has taken quite a lot of time away from scientic production, and the fact that some of the tasks are indeed mind-numbing, I also think it has a lot of (somewhat overlooked) positive aspects.

Now, an administrative position will probably contain different tasks depending on the kind of institution, and I can only speak to why I chose it in this particular setting.

When I was offered this position initially, I didn't know much about what it would entail, but I saw it as a tactic career move if I wanted to stay here beyond my postdoc (and I'm quite sure it would have been). The honest answer is also that I was flattered to be suggested for such a position after being here for less than a year, and that also played into my decision.

However, when I got started and as I developed with the role, it got more and more interesting. Sure, there is a lot of boring paperwork and dysfunctional administrative software crap, but it also turned out to be a real opportunity to make a difference and influence the development of both the department and the institution.

Now, this is not a university, so we are not talking about little ol' me having an influence of tens of thousands of students, but on having a say in matters that affects a mid-size public research institution. A department (not the literal translation of our subdivision) does also not consist of faculty members with wildly differing research interest, but is better described as a collaborative group of researchers working in the same subject area.

I think it has been a great learning experience to get "behind the scenes" and see how such an institution works. How we argue for our state funding, how we distribute the funds internally and to have a say on which direction the institution is moving in.

At the department level this involves taking active part in shaping the future strategy for our group, arguing for hirings/other investments and delivering our input to the institutional strategy.

For me this position has been about so much more than just the paperwork and I honestly think it has been worth the time and commitment. I think it has been personally rewarding to see some of the results, and I also think this experience will be helpful in the future because very few, if any, scientists can escape administration and leadership in one incarnation or another.

*In all fairness it should be said that these positions are not exclusively for women. Currently I think there is one male assistant department head, but the typical configuration is the senior male department head matched with the junior-ish female assistant department head.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I knew it wasn't just me

As seen at Styley Geek's

Monday, February 25, 2008

The quest for papers - by the numbers

So i finally, finally submitted one of the papers I have talking about since forever. It has been in my sidebar for so long, that I think it has changed both its title and its content several times, since I put it there, and I have been so frustrated by the slow progress, I haven't even bothered to update the ticker.

As an experiment I have been counting all the hours spent working on the most recent reincarnation of this paper and reached 160 hours when I hit the "submit" button last night. Quite enlightening I'd say, because I've never had any real idea of how long the individual steps of writing a paper are supposed to take, and as I said in the post below, I suck at estimating time.

The 160 hours are however just the tip of the iceberg, covering a major revision of a diss chapter from splitting the original manuscript in two, some major reorganisation and rewriting and creating about 2/3s of the figures from scratch (some seriously detailed graphics work involved in what I do) and adding some new analysis.

The real journey from idea to submission looks more like this:

2001: Idea developing as part of dissertation proposal

2003: Start playing around with software supposed to help analyse data (spent about 6 full months on this and it never worked) and gave first talk based on this idea (a reincarnation of one of the figures is still in the present manuscript)

2005: First draft of paper written and revised into dissertation shape, gave first international conference presentation on this topic (didn't go well, because there were still some serious flaws in the way I interpreted the data and I didn't quite know why), defended dissertation

2006: Another conference presentation on the same data (still some issues with interpretation)

Early spring 2007: Began revising the dissertation chapter manuscript into something publishable. Got stuck at issues with interpretation and realized the manuscript had to be split into two, but didn't know exactly how to split them (spent about a month on this).

Late spring 2007: Wrote an abstract for a conference I'd been invited to speak at and realized that the abstract content was the aim of the second paper (insert lightbulb here).

Late fall 2007 - 2008: Revising the manuscript I left behind in spring 2007 to its present form.

If I had known from the beginning that this process would take 7 years I'm not sure I would have started. It's no wonder my publication rate is slow to nonexistent, and then I haven't even gotten the verdict from the journal yet. I've sent it to one of the better journals in the field. Not a top of the line one, because it's not that kind of research, but probably the best for this kind of papers. So while I'm waiting, I'm going to start writing the second paper.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Know your enemy (some thoughts on perfectionism)

I used to think perfectionism was about being overly committed to detail, being afraid of making mistakes, studying obsessively and holding on to drafts much longer than necessary. This is probably all true and most of these are certainly true for me and my workstyle. I am attentive to detail and work at getting things right, but these traits are actually valued in research, so it always strikes me as somewhat counterproductive when people suggests "letting go of my perfectionism" as a way of attaining a better balance between my expectations of what I should do and what I actually get done.

When I started out on this self-analysing path some weeks ago, I began my thinking that I needed to let go of some of my ambition and to stop being so uptight about about doing everything correctly. But except letting things slide a bit at home (you wouldn't want to come and see the kitchen floor), I couldn't cut that many corners after all. I couldn't make the final draft of the paper I'm working on more messy, because if I tried, my co-authors would point out the mess anyway and insist that we fix it before submitting. The truth is that scientific work is meticulous by nature, and that final manuscripts need to be spotless. If you have an eye for detail, like I do, you will probably find many of the issues that need to be adressed by yourself, and if not, the reviewers will find them for you. Either way they still need to be fixed. I learned to write messy first drafts years ago. During my Master's I spent hours and hours on meticulously crafting and polishing sentences, but I got over that particular part of myself a long time ago. I don't suffer horribly from writer's block. Yes, I do get stuck and I procrastinate, but I have a whole bunch of little tricks up my sleeve that I can actually apply quite succesfully and get myself started again. So what I'm really suffering from is lack of time and completely unrealistic expectations of what one person should be able to do, and closely related to that, what other people get done. I also have a poor sense of my own boundaries and tend to do what others expect me to do (or what I think they expect me to do).

I tend to wildly exceed other people's expectations. I don't say this to brag, and I actually wish this wasn't so. I have spent years of my life resenting my Master's thesis advisor and the grad school for pushing me to pursue a a very difficult research topic at an unusually independent level and polish it to, if not pefection, at least a very good standard. I still think there should it would have been helpful and recommendable if my advisor had let me know that this was a bit much for Master's, but really, when looking back, this project was crazy. I obviously had no sense what a Master's was supposed to contain or how comprehensive it was supposed to be, but seriously, nobody else did that much work, but I somehow never realized that it was crazy over the top, and seriously feared failing right until the end.

I think I might be doing the same now. I have three big projects (one of them is my own), all requiring field work, processing of data, meetings, colaboration, networking and conference presentations. I have admin work, I try to publish papers, I teach (admittedly not much, but I do it on my own time because it's for a second employer and take vacation days or overtime off to do so), I organize all our group's contact to students and I need to start learning a lot of new stuff in order to invent a new research programme and teach a couple of new courses. It may not sound like an unusual work load, but I do have more field work, admin and teaching than most other people in the department and no one else has as much extra in combination. I am spreading myself very, very thin and more so than anyone else in our research group and yet I think I do nothing or barely keep up to the lowest standard. Technically this is probably considered the Imposter Syndrome, but it's not like I think I shouldn't be here or don't deserve my merits, it is just that I think, I should always do more.

I think I could do more if I could judge more realistically what a given project should entail. When doing the final edits to a manuscript last night and seeing that it barely scrapes in under the maximum number of words limit for the journal, I realised that this could have been two articles. I put in some extra data, because I had this grand idea of how this paper could tie it all together, and I think it might do so (let's see what the reviewers think). But if I could learn to acknowledge the smaller pieces of ideas, maybe I would first of all, be more productive in a measurable way, and second, see the intermediate milestones more clearly.

I also think it would be a great help if I got a more realistic perspective on what I am supposed to do. Beginning to talk about this topic with different people have actually opened up for some unexpected responses. A colleague I respect a lot told me, she thought I was hugely productive, while she always felt like she did nothing (which is obviously not true as I think she is hugely productive and I do nothing). Another colleague shared his frustrations about never having time to write and went on to tell a story about another colleague he just met, who had made the same complaint. So obviously people think about this, are frustrated by their own limitations and I'm not the only one who thinks everyone else are more productive than I am. So why am I doing this to myself.

As I said in the beginning I think this has much to do with my poor sense of my own boundaries. I agree to do things or to do them in an incovenient way, partly because I am ambitious and overcommitted and don't see my limitations, but also because I adhere to some cultural ideas that say I should work hard at accommodating others. I don't know how often I have heard myself say things like "well, I don't even have kids, so this shouldn't be hard" or "I don't have kids, so of course I will pick up that extra work over summer/ winter break/ Easter/ other inconvenient time", like it is somehow illegal to get tired or have wants and needs, if you don't have kids. All due respect to parents, but I use this as a way of undermining and underrating my own accomplishments as if not being a parent on top of everything else means that I'm just a lazy sucker who should do at least twice as much as anyone else. I use the same insane logic when dealing with my family, where career-oriented life styles are not appreciated. Rather than requesting them to accept my choices I hem and haw and bend my plans to fit around theirs, and actually enforce the idea of being the misfit who should accommodate others. I think rather than stop worrying about being nit-picky about the organizational details of a manuscript or the clarity of a detailed figure, this is where I really need to give myself a little kick in the butt and start changing something.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reinventing my research

With my new job follows a new field area. It is expected that I will be carrying out research in new university region, and that I will get acquainted with the immediate surroundings at a sufficient level to guide field trips and suggest thesis topics for students. I have been visiting this area for professional reasons for a number of years now, so I am not a complete loss when it comes to getting around and the overall perspective of what can be done, but I have yet to aquire any detailed knowledge about the local rocks. To make matters more complicated (because why only have one problem when you can have two for free), I am not only changing location, but also research angle with this move.

I am working at the boundary between two sub-disciplines, and although the one topic does not preclude the other, there is still, let’s say a cultural, difference between the two fields. Once you are brought up in one of them, people rarely switch to the other, and methodology and terminology associated with each field are rarely used in the other. For those of you who know something about geology, let me reveal that I am talking about sedimentology (in a pre-Quaternary sense) and Quaternary geology (broadly speaking). I started out in one of these subfields for my Masters, switched to the other for my PhD and have spent my postdoc years to refine the type of research that contributes to both fields. My upcoming faculty position will be in the same sub discipline as I did my Masters in. Although I am (working on) publishing in this field and have stayed up to date on the literature, gone to the conferences and kept some contacts, I haven't done active research directly in this field since my Masters. For the geo-crowd, this means I have been doing sedimentology and stratigraphy in Quaternary settings, but haven't worked on anything compacted for the past 8 years.

I always (more or less secretly) harboured a wish of going back to my original sub-discipline some day, so I was tremendously flattered when I was suggested for the faculty position. I considered the offer a golden opportunity to make a leap that might otherwise have been difficult, as most of my connections are within the field I have done my PhD in. The hiring committee was clear on the fact that they were interested in the interdisciplinarity I could bring to the position, but they wanted someone whose core research would be in the topic I did my Masters in. For me this means that after years of using field studies of Quaternary deposits to say something about sedimentological and stratigraphical principles, I will now try to use what I have learned from the Quaternary and apply it to much older rocks and basins. This might sound easy enough, but in reality it is no small task. I am still convinced, there is a good connection to be made, and that I have the necessary experience from both sides of the fence to make it, but now the problem is to figure out how.

After many years of being involved in projects driven by others and being part of a big network of collaborators and friends, I am now starting all over again. My network in my new (old) sub discipline is tiny and though I know the principles, the terminology and the methods I don't know the local geological history of my new field area. I am reading up on the geological record from scratch and I am trying to make educated guesses of which units or areas might be more (or less) suitable for the type of research I want to do. I have sold myself on potential rather than evidence that I can actually pull this off, and sometimes it's hard to silence the voice telling me that I will not be able to do it. As the start date is coming closer, I feel like I cannot keep giving the same vague answers to what I am going to do. It is a bit like I have been telling everybody about this fantastic trick I am going to do, but I haven't figured out what the trick is yet. That is not true, I know, but looking at the pile of literature about stuff I know nothing about, makes it seem like it is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Time to make a plan

So far, this working from home stunt is the most wonderful idea I have gotten in a long time. I actually did go into work for a few hours yesterday afternoon to discuss a manuscript with my co-author, but it felt so different because I came to do someting specific and not just because I had to be there (I really do have a problem with being told what to do). I will also come in for some meetings next week, but rather than come in the morning and stay the full day, I will come for the scheduled meetings and leave afterwards. I have been thinking about the duration of this "sabattical" and unless I get really bored at home I will probably be away from the office quite a lot for all the four weeks leading up to Easter break. Given that I want to come in for all the meetings I think my original idea of two weeks is too short to really get something done at home, and I might try to squeeze in a family visit in connection to Easter break near the end of the four weeks. This might not make me the worlds most popular person at work, but what can I do. I am four months away from starting a faculty position, and I really, really need to create the best possible circumstances for myself to get some serious writing done before my life is taken over by teaching.

So what should I be doing for the next four weeks?

Writing projects:

Finish the last layout details and minor edits to illustrations on manuscript that should have been submitted long ago and submit it (this should be doable in about a day)

Write a first draft of new manuscript and make first versions of some of the figures (this should be in a state where my coauthor can take over the manuscript around March 1st, but some of the figures should be in a state where we can meet and discuss them already next week)

Final revisions to text and illustrations on another manuscript which should have been submitted long ago (this should not take more than a week, maybe less, but since the manuscript doesn't have a particular deadline and is already late I don't want to make this a priority until I have a decent grip on the other two)

Research maintenance work:

Scan all illustrations from field notebooks from last summer and finish field reports (this is unbelievably boring, but totally mindless work, and some colleagues need the data in the field reports in order to prepare joint conference presentations, so it cannot wait much longer)

Go into work for a few hours and finish the sample list from last summer, call someone at the lab at organize where to deliver the samples for analysis (if I don't do this very soon, the samples won't be processed before I leave the institution and I might end up having to pay for the lab services because the lab hours are budgeted internally)

Creative research projects

Read and search for literature related to my field in new location and narrow down some research ideas I can start looking into (this is kind of vague and open, but I think I need to leave it like that. I don't need a formal research proposal, but I need to have an idea about what kind of research I can start up in the new place, in order to decide, whether I should plan some initial field work this summer)

Develop new work-related blog (I put this here because I think this might go hand in hand with thinking about a new line of research, but also to make it clear to myself that I consider it a professional project and not only a personal hobby)

Personal projects and necessary life maintenance

Clean the house (seriously, this goes high up on the list)

Pay bills and go through finances (this is also something I have let slip lately and which I really need to catch up on soon)

Sort big pile of personal paperwork from bank, insurance, salary slips, car purchase and much, much more

Start investigating prices, companies, time lines for move (this doesn't have to happen right now, but since everything will be shipped long-distance it can't wait forever either)

Blog about all the topics I have been wanting to talk about in a long time, but didn't have the energy to actually write.

Buy some clothes, an external harddisk and a few other items I have had on my wish list for a while, but haven't prioritised the time to actually find and buy

Get to the gym and back into a habit of regular exercise

Other research stuff

This is the big black box or the time sink that is a result of being involved in several large research projects. This is meetings, admin, visits related to outreach projects, planning, logistics, organising and I don't know what. This is the demands on my time I hope to keep at a minimum for the next few weeks, but which cannot be eliminated completely, because when the project ball is rolling, it's rolling whether I want it or not. Planned activities for the next few weeks include so far:

Meeting to discuss an archiving system for all the digital data related to the project and how to connect analogue data to this database.

Visit to science exhibition to figure out how we are going to set up a similar exhibition next year on another topic.

Meeting to discuss formalities and preparations for students who will be joining us in the field next summer

Institution wide photo session

Department meeting

Meeting to learn to work with new data in GIS

This is just for the next two weeks. More meetings will probably pop up soon.

I will consider anything that gets crossed off this list during the next four weeks a success whether personal or professional. I really need to make all of this a priority for a while.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I have given myself a break

As of today I am working from home for the next two - three weeks (right now I have a hard time imagining coming back at all, but I hope that feeling will pass). Thanks to my 9 to 5 work environment and endless counting of hours, I have four weeks worth of overtime to do with what I want. Rather than blowing it all on some exotic holiday or an extended family visit I have decided to give myself a mini-"sabattical" at home. I will be working because I have many, many things to do, but I will be doing so at my own pace, and since this is the first day I have given myself permission to do nothing for a little while.

I am excited and motivated and feel like I want to do twice the amount of work I do on a regular day. I really don't know why it is so liberating not to have to come into work each day. People there are nice. I have a nice office with a view and there is really nothing wrong with anything. But I love that I can sleep as long as I want, and work on the hours that fit me rather than 9 to 5. I love that I can start up quietly, blog and do hobby-things in the morning and work into the evening. I love that I don't need to spend time packing lunch and that personal errands, shopping and cooking don't need to be crammed into a small time window between 6 and 7 pm, when I'm already hungry.

I have tried to explain to my colleagues why I think working from home for an extended period of time is great, but judging from their expressions, when I talk about it, I don't think they get it. Most people either use the overtime for flexibility throughout the year, for vacations or simply let it disappear when the clock is zeroed once a year. Generally people without families(or with grown kids) don't take off the overtime, but use it to point out how much work they do all the time. I don't want to defend myself for taking off the time, I have rightfully earned, just because I don't have a family. I also don't want to defend myself for using that time for work, because developing a research proposal for my new job and writing papers is not only something I do for my work place, but basically something I do for me.

I am also looking forward to have more time and freedom for blogging and I think I will spend some time developing this work-blog this I have been talking about.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just another day at the office

I often wonder what I spend my time on since I get so little done compared to how many hours I spend at work each week.

Today went like this

9.10 am: arrive late because I am unable to learn that it takes more than ten minutes to drive to work

9.10-10.00: read e-mails from the past week, freak out over the number of e-alerts announcing a gazillion new articles I will never find the time to read, download a few anyway just for the pain of it

10.00-10.30: Find colleague's syllabus from two years ago for course I will be teaching next fall and study the reading list looking for hints of how to go about developing a new research programme on this topic. Download two random papers on the topic, which came up in a Google search, put the whole thing in bag and decide to work on it some other time)

10.30-11.30: Move new data obtained during meeting last week from usb stick to work PC and try to open the files. They don't work. Probably because they are in Russian or because something is wrong with the software or with my head. Everybody who knows anything about this software are on winterbreak, and my head is what it is. Move folders around and check if they still don't work. Make sure I have back up and put the project on hold for another day.

Lunch: Discuss meeting with public outreach group for tomorrow. Make list of how to proceed with digitalising/organisation of data. Send copy of list to co-worker. Print copy of manuscript in progress.

1.30 - 2:00 pm: Sort out bills and tickets and receipts from last week's travel. Fight with new awful software for travel expenses and watch in disbelief as it continues to delete all my previous entries when I push return. After consultation with the head of the accounts department, I finally figure out the kinks of the program and manage to send off my request for reimbursement off into the black box that is my institutions intranet. Make list for the administration of hours spent travelling .

2.00-3.00: Procrastinate aimlessly on the net while trying to avoid ever answering three complicated emails

3.00 - 4.00: Clean out some old folders and toss about ten old versions of the same manuscript in preparation. Update CV with most recent conference presentations. Archive business cards from last weeks meetings.

4.00-5.00: Write emails (no more obvious procrastination activities available)

A follow up to the equal opportunities

This started out as a response to the comments on the previous post, but it got so long that I'd rather make a full post of it.

I talked about how I have often felt like the "token woman" in my overwhelmingly male work environment and the contradictory consequences of the involuntary exposure, and I talked about how women are often dependent on male mentors in order to be considered serious colleagues. I do still think there is something to this idea, but as Wayfarer Scientista pointed out in the comments male scientists are also dependent on good mentors to advance in science.

I discussed this with a male and a female colleague the other day. We talked about how most senior scientists in our field are men and therefore most potential mentors would be men. Even if there is something seemingly offensive about female scientists being put forward by male mentors to their male networks, it is hard to see the alternatives at the moment when so few of the senior scientists are women. But we also talked about how we all had experienced subtle (or not so subtle) patronizing comments to or about female colleagues in various work settings and how sometimes even the most diversity-minded people at our workplace do this (sub)consciously*.

I wasn't satisfied with the post below when I wrote it, but it was late and I was leaving and wanted to finish it. In hindsight I realize that one thing I wasn't satisfied with was that it somehow sent the signal that I don't appreciate what my mentors have done for me because of their gender. That is not true. It is not about trashing all men or saying that senior scientist men cannot have female protegees, but about the way we talk and act that make women feel unwelcome or less worthy in many professional settings.

Even here, where we have all the right legislation in place, where affirmative action has gone to extremes and women don't have time to be on all the committees they need to be on to fill their quotas, the understanding of what really matters is sorely lacking.

*A few examples:

When I came to the first meeting as the only woman in the leader group at current institution, and at some point during the meeting asked a relevant question, whereupon the person responsible for diversity patted me on the back and said how brave it was of me to say something. (Geez, thanks, what else would I be doing there)

When a younger female scientist who has done extremely well recently and won a prestigious grant was introduced at a recent meeting as young and up-and-coming, while her male peers of the same generation were simply introduced by name and credentials. (she was however the only female speaker at a two day meeting supposed to show off the best of the instution's work)

When assistant department head** positions were introduced in order to encourage women to move into department head positions. (I am one of the fools who jumped on that wagon because it seemed/probably is career enhancing, but in hindsight it is also really offensive to assume that women need a special training ground, while men can jump directly into the "real" department head positions. WTF!)

** this is not a university and department head positions are not only given to people in the top rank

Sunday, February 10, 2008

So much for equal opportunities

My work place recently celebrated something big. People of power from a whole range of institutions were invited for the event, the place was made to look it's best and the daily routines were interrupted by fancy meals, important speaches and people dressed to impress. A lot of work and thought have gone into planning this thing. A dedicated committee has been working on it for at least a year, and I don't even know how many people were involved in the practicalities of the actual event.

All went smoothly. No scandals, the invited guests seemed happy and all of us employees somehow felt a little more important from being surrounded by all the flowers, free stuff and important people. Part of the program was a seminar series with invited people from just about everywhere and some representatives for our workplace. Out of maybe 25 speakers one was a woman. I don't know if the women did not get asked or if they declined the offer, but off the top of my head I can think of at least a handfull of women who were around for the seminar and whom it would have been appropriate to ask.

The final big-deal-event was a party with many invited guests from all sorts of leadership positions within academia, industry and government. I'm not sure exactly how many invited guest were there, but somewhere between 30 and 50 is probably correct. Out of those 5 were women.

I live in one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to gender and diversity issues. Politicians speak at lenght about how to accommodate women in particular, and families in general, and most girls and some women believe they have equal opportunities. Sometimes I almost believe that too. On paper we have equal opportunities and we have one of the most accommodating maternity/paternity leave legislations in the world. Some people would argue that women even have better opportunities, because of affirmative action initiatives (I don't agree, but that's another can of worms). But equal opportunities only go so far.

For my PhD I did all my field work with an all-male group. For most of the time I felt like an outsider in this group, but at least we behaved like a group when we went to meetings. We were part of a bigger research network, and in total we were only five women in the network (of a group of 50 or so people). Three of us were PhD students, and as ridiculous as it sounds, our groups scored some sort of extra credits among the others for having the "token" females onboard. My group were endlessly proud when I wrote an above average dissertation and got a job before I finished, but I was never really accepted into their clique. It wasn't exactly a delightful experience for me, and I have been more than happy to put it behind me, but even in such a toxic environment I wouldn't have had the connections I have today if it wasn't for some of the people I worked with.

I have moved faster in this career than most women/people. I am often the youngest person present at many meetings/ in many situations and I often have somewhat unusual roles for my age. I know many of the bigwigs in my field because it's a small and tightly knit community and I have good mentors who introduce me to people. I also had an advisor in grad school who made an effort to introduce me to his network. I tend to think that I interact with these people on an equal level, and to some extent I do, but really, most of the time it is the token female thing all over again. I have the positions I have and go to the meeting I do because (male) mentors have pointed me out and made it possible. Not that I'm completely passive and don't seek out opportunities myself (I do), but many of the doors that are open to me are so because someone made an effort to make them open to me. There are women in my field, but they are rarely in positions where they can offer to open these doors for others.

I thought about this at the big event the other day, where practically everyone who were in some position of power were men and many of us who were in no position of power at all were women, and then I thought about the seminar and how part of the reason maybe is that women don't even get asked when it really counts. Maybe one of the reasons there are so few women in upper level positions in my field is that the only way one can reach any level is to be "adopted" by one or more male mentors who will make sure that the token female is promoted and shown off in the world. And even if that happens, and one happens to get "adopted" by good people apparently no one makes it to the very top.

This post is a bit messy, but I've got to leave it as it is because I a plane to catch before sunrise tomorrow morning and I still haven't packed. I'll be back in a week and probably won't have internet access while I'm gone, but if the post really doesn't make sense to anyone else but me I'll clean it up when I get back.

Whoa, we've got some catching up to do

Thanks for all the nice comments on the accretionary wedge post below and to all of you who keep checking in here despite my very irregular posting routine. I keep constructing new posts in my head, but somehow never find the time to actually type them out. This always gets worse if I don't blog for a while because my ideas end up being so many and so messy that I don't know where to start anymore. So rather than starting out with one of the more substantial ideas for a post, I'll do a decluttering post here so I can move onto something better and more coherent afterwards.

So what's on my mind right now:

I am torn between the wish to write more about my field and my research and why it matters to me, and the wish to write about more personal thoughts and the general aspects of being a young, female scientist. After writing the previous post and getting a lot of good response I thought wow, so cool, I really want to discuss this with my readers. At the same time I couldn't make myself sit down at night at home and write out another lengthy post about a geological topic without feeling like it was just another chore on my list.
I think blogging is one of the most amazing innovations that have come with the Internet. I see scientific blogging as a great leap forward for the general public and scientists alike, and the idea of sharing the thought process behind science as well as results and discussions about new science is exhilerating and fun, but nevertheless fun in a work-way understanding of fun. I mostly write this blog on weekends and in the evenings, and blogging and reading blogs is mainly a downtime at home hobby . I think blogging at length about work-topics is a work related project and something I would like to do in a more official space, and maybe also get some sort of credit, or at least acceptance for. I would also like to be able to occasionally post on such a blog from work as well as consider it a part of my professional identity. I think the way forward for me will be to get a second blog under my own name that could be devoted to more work/field specific topics. It is not going to happen today, but maybe soon. I need to think about how I want to use such a space in a way that makes it serious enough to be a work activity, but relaxed enough to become something I actually want to keep up.

I'm still in a bit of a funk at work. I have a post brewing on perfectionism and how I've realised how many areas of my life it affects. I am going through a very self-conscious and introspective phase and some of the insights surprise me a lot. I want to share this on the blog because I know that many people in academia struggles with self-confidence and perfectionist issues and it's often taboo to talk about it in work places because it is associated with weakness. I have often gotten advice along the lines of "try not to take everything so seriously" or "try to be less of a perfectionist", but it's more easily said than done. Personally I never knew how to go about being less of a perfectionist, until I realized that it hasn't so much to do with the way I treat tasks as the way I think about life and myself in general.

Otherwise life is good, or as my Russian colleague used to put it "life is not too bad". January was a bit of a nightmare with several fiancial emergencies after each other (old car broke, buying new car, discovering brakes didn't work on new car, repair brakes and an emergency visit to the dentist to top it off) and repeated annoying dealings with authorities about imported car and a delayed tax refund. Most of this have been sorted out now, and I look forward to finally getting the tax refund from a year ago and to blow whatever is left after car repairs on a new spring wardrobe and maybe a trip to someplace nice and warm.