A rationale for existence


I’ve started this blog because I have so much free time on my hands.

Over the last couple years, a few blogs of scientists have become a part of my routine, even though I lurk on all of them. Reading blogs has been a way for me to learn from others.

Nevertheless, there is a huge disconnect between these scientists and my daily experience. Some of my biggest challenges and triumphs are endemic to my work at a teaching institution. We have a lot in common, but my experience is different in some fundamental ways. There are so many of us at teaching schools that do (or aspire to do) big-league research, even if it’s on a smaller scale. The strategies we use to build and maintain a research agenda are often different than our colleagues at research institution. I think we all prioritize our students and student training, but it’s really different when your students are all or mostly undergrads, and you teach a lot, and your school cares way more about your teaching than your research.

Many of my junior colleagues – whose work I greatly admire – are now taking jobs very similar to the one that I’m in. I am often asked about how I go about my job, get funded, manage my teaching load, maintain a research program. How I do what I do. This leads me to suspect that this blog will be useful.

I’ve read enough blogs to be able to identify, at least in my view, what makes a good one. That list includes:

  • a clear focus with a useful perspective that comes from experience
  • frequent entries, at least a couple times a week if not more often
  • a community of people who contribute their views
  • a greater number of lurkers who never contribute but regularly visit
  • high quality writing

If you’ve discovered this early on, input is particularly welcome. My plan is to do this for a little while before I attempt to let people know it exists. I’ve decided against anonymity. This is not common, but I’m tenured and don’t have dirty secrets to hide, and this will keep me from worrying about the attempt to hide details. (When I’m annoyed by something at my institution, which is more often then I could ever mention, I’d be glad if my administration read about it and know that it is from me). I will be able to showcase my research and field more openly, not to mention be openly proud of my students and institution. By being known, I just need to worry about being polite, which is a good habit to be in.

6 thoughts on “A rationale for existence

  1. It’s great that you’re doing this, I agree that you’re filling a blogging “niche” that really needs filling. I bet you’ll be able to build a readership pretty quickly. Certainly, I’ll be interested to read about your experiences and see how they compare with mine. I got my bachelor’s at a liberal arts college. And even though I’m now at a research university I don’t have a massive grant or a huge lab, and a large part of my research program is still based on undergrad honors students and summer assistants. Happy to give you a shout-out on Dynamic Ecology when you’re ready to “go public”.

  2. Jeremy, thanks! I greatly appreciate the thoughts and help. I’ll be working to build up some more content and when I think it’s ready I’ll let you know. (Or you could do so whenever you think is best.)

  3. I just discovered your blog and look forward to reading it. I am research-hungry myself, but my husband wavers between research and teaching. He loves teaching, and I think he’d be happier at a teaching institution. I’ll be interested to read about how you balance your different responsibilities and how that’s viewed by your institution.

  4. Thanks, Margaret. If there are topics you’d like me to cover more, please keep sharing. Balance is, indeed, the word. I love both research and teaching, and I’m glad I don’t have to choose. I think research brings more joy, perhaps because the bigger successes are more obvious. I think I’ve only learned about teaching successes several years after I’ve taught a course, when students seek me out to say nice things.

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