Outreach thoughts part 2

Jan 24 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

A final bit on doing outreach. It’s important. It will save science from the hordes, on the left and the right, who hone their hatred on the whetstones of alternative medicine or Christian righteousness. But, it’s not what we get paid for. It’s not what guarantees our future employment. This is part of what started @JenniferRaff 's discussion. She had a pile of academic work, but felt something needed to be addressed, and did so, despite the pile of academic work.

Yes, that should change. Not the anthro part, but the counting part. And working on the change is also important. That is one thing senior people can do: is make sure that junior people get a fair hearing for tenure. Either that or blow up the tenure system altogether.

There was a blogpost critique of an advice piece to the Executive Platinum Super-Dooper- Overachieving Executive Executive [can't find where I read it, apologies for lack of citation]. How one guy was taking one day off a week. To play with his kids, to take them places, to learn new things and renew himself. Great, says the blogpost, if you have wonderful people working for you, who can up your efficiency so that you can work a 80% week. No body is telling those worker-bees, yes, why don’t you take every Friday off. In fact, when those worker bees have sick children, or parents to take to the doctor, or their own health issues, they get docked if they overshoot their allotted vacation/sick leave/time off.

Yes we should all be doing outreach. I admire Raff that she gets so much done. We should all be changing the system to make outreach count. We should all be doing our political duty to make sure that NSF gets a high level of funding and that people who are elected care about science. If we don’t do these things there will be no science.

The reality of it is that I don’t know many lazy scientists. I don’t know many folks who sit around watching 5 or 6 hours of TV every night, or play Wolfenstein till 2 in the morning. Sometimes, when we look at others we see the duck gliding on the surface of the otherwise still pond, or the Mama Pig lying peacefully on her side, snoozing in the sunlight. We miss the furious sub-surface paddling, or the energy and metabolism it takes to produce milk for 20 piglets.

One response so far

  • qaz says:

    I think outreach does count at many universities these days. In fact, in a meeting I had with the Dean yesterday (asking for something big), one of the questions was "How are you going to do outreach with this?" (after we had explained all the important-for-science-side). Outreach is definitely included in tenure decisions. (In a sense, one could argue that it was my outreach that carried me over the line at tenure, because when committees were arguing over giving me tenure because my grant-getting had been weak, powers-that-be who had seen my outreach were very much on my side and carried me over the line.)

    I think the world is very different today than it was when Carl Sagan held back from the National Academy because of his outreach (a rumor that I don't know if it is true, but definitely have heard from several sources). In my experience, people who have reasonably strong scientific progress and outreach are more respected for their outreach, not less. At my U, outreach is like teaching. It's not enough to get you tenured, but it definitely helps.

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