When I was a young sprout ast prof, my best friends were the lady profs in chemistry. Its worth noting, for a long time, these were serial friends, as the chem dept only had one ladyprof at a time. Also at the time the physics dept (of 30-odd members) had no female faculty. The Dean took them to task, and their reply was "well, we keep trying, but there aren't any good females in the areas we need to hire". I didn't particularly like this dean, but damned if he didn't come through in this case, to wit: "well, even in this day and age of financial austerity, I will release two faculty positions, but they have to be women. no women, no hire". And damned if they didn't find two excellent female physicists, who, many years later, have out-performed their male counterparts.
At the time, one of my best friends (and Babz, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you still have my heart), formulated a concept called "Pure Boys". The tag line was "they sleep in the forest with their manly spears". The concept is a bit worn these days (20-25-ish years later), but, in essence, content is more important than presentation, math is more important than qualitative science, that facts are more important than emotions, and the word "feel" does not belong in a laboratory. Pure boys were those who tattooed these on their manly biceps and took them to extremes.
One of the emergent concepts/ life style choices of the pure boys was "I do not go to scientific meetings because they are ego-fests and human peacocks strutting their research feathers. If people want to know what I am doing they can read my papers". I admit that I argued this one at length. I lost, mostly because pure boys never lose. But I thought of the pure boys when I read In Baby Attach Mode's latest post, When do fresh eyes expire?:
But to come back to the question in the title of this post: when do these fresh eyes expire, how do you notice they have expired and how do you keep them fresh? I guess it's difficult to realize that you've been somewhere so long that you don't realize you do the same trick every time. So how do you prevent this? How can you stay creative if you don't move to a new place every so many years?
And qaz has a great comment:
One can also stay fresh and creative by bringing new people to you. Say by mentoring new graduate students or postdocs. This is the advantage of teaching undergrads, and in developing new classes.
Going to meetings is one incredible way to stay fresh. The older I get (at the same rate as you, my little wiglets, one day per day), the less I like going to meetings. I am lazy, I like my life right now, and travel seems unpleasant. But, I do go, and sometimes something shakes up my head on the inside and one 20 minute interaction redeems the time and effort.
My goal when I go to meetings, now is to go to at least three talks that I would not necessarily chose. I used to do posters as a fly-by, finding the ones I like, etc. At the last SfN, I picked two related aisles and read every poster. Asked a question of every person. It was a small investment. It didn't change my science, but it made me think.
So, go over to IBAM and add your $.02 on staying fresh. I do not want to become an emotional raison or mummified guinea pig fetus. Neither do you.