A look back at a rather rocky 7th year of operations – 2022 was the year that seemed to race by in a matter of hours, but which also felt as though it aged me five years.
The year began with me still dealing with the fallout from having my research funding and salary cut at the end of 2021, something which cast a lengthening pall over my thoughts and perspective for the entire twelve months. Early postings celebrated the critical importance of the first PhD student to join a junior research group (“Masters and Apprentices”), and my own painful recognition that I am no longer an early-career researcher, and destined never to have the kind of powerhouse research career that I once envisaged for myself (“Never to Play the Dane”).
My department very helpfully put together a financial rescue plan, so I wasn’t out on the streets once the final dregs of money ran out, but it meant that I spent most of 2022 doing three jobs in parallel – running my research group and carrying out all my usual teaching activities, coordinating a new Germany-wide research network on the “Physics of Parasitism”, and starting to be trained up to take over as undergraduate studies coordinator for the faculty of biology. It’s been exhausting, and frankly, I don’t think I can go on at this pace any longer.
Then, at the end of February, the world changed once again, this time with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With hindsight, I think the feelings of anger and importance and frustration that the invasion caused, coupled to my own unresolved feelings of inadequacy and failure from the funding cut, put me into a depression of some kind. There was an inability to take pleasure in things that I usually enjoy, a constant feeling of fatigue, and a pervasive gloom about my own prospects and the state of the world around me. I was profoundly low.
For a short while, I channelled these feelings into a trilogy of postings that took the war as a departure point (“Stop the Aggression. Stop the War”, “Hills of Beans”, “Power and Impunity”), but then I simply stopped writing. The coronavirus pandemic had represented a challenge to find topics that seemed relevant, but the war defeated me. The ideas were still coming, but for the first time in my life, I found myself unable to write. It resulted in the longest gap in posting that TIR has ever had – instead of publishing once per calendar week, I went 9 weeks with only a single article published, and the frequency of posting still remains half of what it was in 2021 and earlier.
Summer brought a slight lift in mood, and June and July produced a series of postings dealing with peer review (“A (peer) review of the market”) and the scientific publication process (“Who’s the toughest?”, “And the Oscar goes to…”). Unfortunately, with things just beginning to pick up I then finally contracted COVID19 in July, an experience unpleasant and nasty enough to make me very grateful for having dodged it as long as I did (“My COVID19 diary”).
From September the mental fog finally lifted and I felt more my usual self, albeit still incredibly short on time and increasingly having to divert hours away from writing in order to try and keep up with work commitments. I think from around this time onwards I felt myself increasingly stepping back from academia, and that growing sense of mental distance produced a series of postings looking at aspects of the system as a whole – the unacknowledged value of science lecturers and the people who contribute a lot of unseen value (“Science’s shamans”, “Funding scientific ecosystem services”), the need to find one’s own niche (“Front and Centre”), how progression in academia inevitably changes the kind of work you do (“Is it really what you wanted?”), and the stranglehold on the system maintained by its senior figures (“The Iron Law of Scientific Oligarchies”, “Stockholm Syndrome”).
It’s not all been doom and gloom though! There have been silly postings marking Valentine’s Day (“The 9 types of science lover”), and Hallowe’en (“The 9 types of horror lab”), as well as the annual celebration of facial hair to mark Movember (“Great scientists, great moustaches”). There were inspiring interviews with autism advocate Dr. Mariana De Niz and the Algerian Women in Science group, as well as HowTo guides on reviewing papers and validating antibodies.
Looking ahead, I’m excited about what 2023 will bring, both for me and TIR. Expect more postings of a personal nature as I continue to work through a lot of the emotional issues surrounding my imminent departure from academia; I can however already sense that I feel more in control of my self and my time than I did in 2022, so let’s hope that this translates into a less bleak and more empowering and hopefully inspiring output. There will continue to be the usual mix of commentary/opinion pieces together with HowTo guides and interviews. I am also planning on introducing audio content, so you will soon be able to listen to postings instead of being restricted to reading them – watch this space!
Lastly, a massive thanks to all of you who have continued to visit the blog, read the postings, and promote them on both Twitter and increasingly also Mastodon. This is a part-time, one-person operation so I am indebted to all of you who help spread the word about TIR’s content, and who interact with it and variously find it interesting, helpful, and of value. It means the world to me that so many people find this content worthy of engagement. Thanks again, and I promise to do my best to keep you on board.
So, here’s to 2023! You keep reading, I’ll keep reflecting.
Brooke Morriswood, January 2023.