Small rant on academia, work-life balance, question-oriented vs data-oriented, and support networks

I have lost the count on how many times I have wished I had taken way more statistics courses during the undergrad and MSc. This is but one example of what I am going to talk about today.

I look back at the different projects I have been involved throughout the years in and I see so many things I would do differently. Down to the level of ways of thinking and relating concepts, as in, I am pretty sure I would come up with more appropriate approaches and solutions if I had had the proper background knowledge at the time of the project.

This level of conscious incompetence is very exasperating, moreso because of all my currently ongoing projects which are directly impacted by this on a daily basis. And I try and learn as much as I can and apply the correct tools and methods accordingly but sometimes there is also human factor and time constraints and things totally out of my reach such as lack of funding or support—and suddenly we are just enduring and not doing science anymore. Not enjoying it.

Couple this to a lack of ability to carry out question-driven and question-oriented research, for which my work has been criticised several times (most recently by another young postdoc in a congress who mistook me for an undergrad upon seeing my work) and sometimes I wonder if I should be doing science at all. But then I remember that succumbing to this would be the same as proving right to a certain toxic type of researchers that I have found in Academia more often than not.

One way or another I have always been involved in descriptive work during my short career and not the other way around. And it is true. I do not make questions; as in, I can never come up with one. They never occur to me. I have been trying to compensate for this and read more literature (btw reading is a whole other can of worms waiting to be open someday) that makes me more curious/find topics that interest me. But again, lots of logistics and human factor here too.

And if the question boils down to human factor, then I also need to talk about the wonderful people I have met in the past few years. Many of them are in a similar career stage than mine and we can relate to each other very well. They all come from different backgrounds and are skilled in different fields, and then I realised it. I could do better and make better science if coupled to that of other peers. Not only at the level of collaborating, but of designing projects, applying for funding, and all other things that have been classically a one-person thing. I wish this network of people can endure with time.

I need to finish my previous project. I need to focus on the new ones. I need to set priorities. I need to read more. I need to learn statistics. I need to find more proper support!

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