Monday, 20 May 2013

Probability of saying 'yes' to academic responsibilities

I've just read a great post by +Adriana Salerno: Learning to say no.

In that post Adriana discusses how in mathematics (and I'm sure a bunch of other/most fields) one needs a long period of uninterrupted time to work on Research she links to this Big Bang Theory clip:



She also however talks about how as an early career researcher it's important to take opportunities for responsibilities as and when they come. This is something that rings very true to me. Growing up I played a lot of rugby and basically had a "Say yes to coach" attitude ("Vince, you're slow, run sprints" - "Yes coach", "Vince, you're going to sit on the bench this week" - "Yes coach" etc... - Although I actually said "Oui Monsieur" as all my rugby was played in France, but I digress...).

I've kind of taken that attitude in to the early days of my career (I'm still a 'young pup' academia wise) but I also am very grateful of every opportunity that gets sent my way (I'm very lucky to be sitting on various committees, the editorial boards for a couple of journals and am in the middle of preparing not 1 but 2 brand new courses which is a great opportunity as opposed to being given others people's courses!).

Having said that, as Adriana points out in her blog it's important to find a balance so that I can also do some research.

The point of this post is not to say that I've figured out how to do that but to post this xkcd style graph that I made using this package on github: XKCDify.

If this was done by Randall Munroe the Alt Text would be far better...


I'm about at the point where the solid line meets the dashed line (ie the "unkown" for me). I suspect that I'm still being quite optimistic as to how low the probability of saying yes will go for me as I still generally do as I'm told and appreciate the opportunities greatly :)

In Adriana's post she talks about a "research day", I might try to be strict on that...

PS Here's another similar kind of graph that +Paul Harper (my head of research group) put together when he was actually looking back a bit on his 10 years in Academia.

(If anyone's interested here's the repo with the code I used to get that plot, I actually used +Sage Mathematical Software System 's find_fit command to fit a quintic to the few points I wanted to have on there... There might be a better way to do that though...)