Wednesday, 29 June 2011

And I quote: "Jeezus Motherfucke" (i.e. Rage Post)

Because I lack the appropriate language for the rage I feel as a cyclist in this city, may I direct you to this somewhat dated post by Comrade Physioprof. In my case, substitute "parking in, double-parking in, standing around in, jogging in, or otherwise obstructing the bike lanes" for the bit about slides, and those who perpetrate such crimes (with appropriately colourful descriptions) for "electrophysiology douchefuckes". Also, add appropriately vibrant metaphors for cyclists who can't, it seems, see the colour red.

That is all.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Mondays, and imagining funding

Monday mornings at the Vaulting workplace generally aren't a lot of fun (as my twitter feed will tell you, given my copious use of the sarcastic #happymonday). All those things I put off dealing with on Friday are waiting to be resolved - and usually much less patiently than they were the week before. Further, it seems that everyone else I work with views Friday afternoon at 4:45 as the perfect time to send out urgent requests for information/changes/crisis resolution. I'm sure as hell not in my office at 4:45 on Friday, so this leaves me with a build-up of urgent demands in my inbox on Monday morning.

tldr; Mondays suck.

Every once in a while, however, the weekend will serve its purpose, and I'll arrive at work on Monday morning with a fresh perspective and renewed incentive to get shit done. This morning was one of those mornings, kind of - though the get-shit-done motivation was more of a get-this-out-of-my-hair motivation. This morning's drama, which has been hovering over me since a grant closed last week, was salary relocation.

Scientist Boss has a lot of grants. My entire job is managing his grants, and only his grants. To compare, my admin colleagues all manage grants for at least 5 scientists, and usually more, versus my 1. The sheer quantity of SB's grants makes for a lot of work, but it means the one thing we don't worry about is money.

It does make for a royal pain in the ass when it comes to salaries and stipends, though. For every grant that provides enough money for a postdoc salary or a grad student stipend, there are a whole host of issues. Grants, even multi-year grants, end. The grant that just closed was only a grant-year end, so there's another year coming. That money was supposed to show up on the first of the month. Like all grants, however, it hasn't shown up yet. So I'm left with several salaries to relocate until said money appears - which could be this week, or August.

As I mentioned, this morning was a get-shit-done kind of Monday, so I've resolved the issue for now. But every time something like this happens (which lately has been at least once a week), I'm reminded of the distance between funding in the sciences and funding in the humanities.

To keep things simple, let's just look at PhD students. In my science dept, every student (there are a dozen in my lab alone, to give you an idea of the number) gets a full funding package - tuition and an RA position that pays more than I was ever paid prior to getting this position. In the art history dept that I'll be entering this fall, one student a year gets a full funding package - and it's for about $10,000 less than the sci students get. The rest of us are given one of a very few TA gigs or an unpaid RA position that covers tuition.

I know there are many reasons why there's so much funding kicking around the sciences, and why sci grad students are paid so much more than their counterparts in the humanities. But I do wonder what we could do in the humanities if we had access to even a fraction of what sci folks get. Imagine having regular, realistic access to grants that provide $10,000/yr for travel, and allow for you to have two well-paid PhD students as research assistants. What could you accomplish? What research could we get done in a year? How much more would we have to show?

SB's salary comes from grants, so I suppose it makes sense - but his teaching load is less than 1-1. What could we do with that extra time?

On the other hand, as humanities folks, we don't have to worry about getting enough grants to support our salary and the stipends of all our students. And one year of weak research/publications/grant applications isn't an unmitigated disaster. But it's an interesting thing to consider.