Monday, August 5, 2013

Why we should just say no

Well, it's certainly been a while since I last wrote a post. I have a good reason for it, though. My defense is in less than two weeks and life has been crazy. I'm a bit sorry that I haven't had the time to write lately since it's a good stress outlet, but my mental energies have been absolutely and continuously drained by other tasks.

It's perhaps ironic then that I'm writing this post because it was my lack of time to think about writing that inspired me to, well, write.

From the last few months I've learned the value of saying "no" to requests that people ask of me. It was never really necessary before and I was usually happy to oblige people who needed help with something.

These days, however, I must say "no" if I want to finish the things I need to graduate. And I've come to appreciate that saying "no" to things should apply to more people than just graduate students nearing the end of their work.

I think academics have a hard time with trying to limit the number of projects and tasks they take on. As a result, they and their lab members may become overworked and so attention to detail slips. This often leads to sloppy science, such as not checking hypotheses and assumptions, making conclusions on poorly measured data, etc. At the extreme, it might also be fatal to academic careers.

Unfortunately, I think sloppy science has become very common because, in part, people just take on too many things. I can think of a personal reason for why academics take on too much. I become excited at the start of a new project, but bored near the end, so I tend to start more than I can handle while letting others die off. I shouldn't do this, but I do.

Recognizing that this is an issue is the first step to fixing it. I am glad to see that other academics are slowly fighting back against the status quo and saying "no" to too many tasks. I realize it might be hard at times, but it is very necessary to stay happy and to do good science.