Your bestmonktress was reading Michael Tomasson’s recent post setting the stage for the next pubscience (Are you listening to that shit? Because if you aren’t, you should be). And one part, which I sure was meant innocuously, set me the fuck off. So let’s embrace this opportunity for an attention whoring blog post, shall we?
“While I agree with some criticisms of Dr. Kern’s piece, e.g. science should not be closed to people with families that need to work 9-to-5, I sincerely believe that intense, clock-ignoring passion is a critical ingredient for good science. Can we revisit the passion and hard work debate?”
I immediately bristle at the notion of “passion” being brought up as a critical skillset to be emphasized, because it somehow implies there’s some cache of scientists who Don’t Give a Shit. Especially as Kern’s piece is the definition of a ‘kids these days just don’t have gumption’ argument. There are many things critical to science that are scarce: funding, funding, effective diversity initiatives, funding, affordable childcare, funding…but ‘intense, clock-ignoring passion’, imo, is something we have an overabundance of and I don’t know why the fuck we continue to discuss it.
It’s probably because when ‘passion’ is brought up*, it implies some extra song and dance that graduate students and postdocs are supposed to do. Glistening eyes while we turn 3/4s into a soft light source while espousing our True Love of discovery and objective answers. Showing up, doing your work, and cashing your check almost seems crass within our True Science Warriors
cult calling. While families are morally acceptable obligations preventing you from taking that 24hr time course in perfect 1hr increments, you should want to be there. When you get pink eye, you should internally mourn the time lost that you could have spent analyzing your hawt data. When science cuts you off at the knees, you must wipe your tears and go ‘hey, now I get to engineer new, better knees!’
Oh, I’ve been in school for 10 years, making half of what I would have made with a B.S., dealing with clinical depression, ballooning debt, and science repeatedly kicking me in the nads…but am I passionate enough? Righttt...
Fuck that noise.
Coming in, doing my work, and cashing my check is an expression of passion. While there are some lazy ass motherfuckers out there, imo, they are vastly outnumbered by those who have effectively taken a blowtorch to their lives to be here and answer some question they find fascinating enough to do it all for. Rates of graduate student depression are ridiculous, their debt is soaring, discrimination is alive and well (and denied by their colleagues), and there aren’t even enough TT jobs to take a pittance of the number of PhDs produced. Oh, and when we pursue an ‘alt-career’, we’re stigmatized and made to feel like shit. And that’s just grad school! There are hundreds of thousands of n00bs who come in and do an exemplary job anyway, only for grand poohbahs to wring their hands about science going ‘too soft’.
I will work reasonable hours, not because I have a family, but because I want to sleep and watch the latest Game of Thrones episode before everyone spoils it. I will not pull multiple all-nighters in the lab unless the finger of Science Jesus has touched my experimental setup. I give precisely 0 fucks about my data analysis when I’m watching my nieces be the adorable little drunkfaces that they are. Also applicable when I’ve made fresh quiche, or when a new Marvel movie comes out. I am also an ass-busting, methodical scientist whose response to ‘how passionate are you?’ will be
*I’m NOT saying this is what Tomasson meant. Which may make you ask “Then Hermie, why are you quoting him if you’re going to screed on something completely unreleated?” To which I say, did you not read the part about attention whoring?