Academic first aid


This week one of Australia’s largest competitive research funding bodies, and a few smaller ones, released funding outcomes for 2019. A handful of colleagues were fortunate to receive a smile from the funding gods/goddesses; but many more did not, and are now struggling to cope with (yet another) rejection, trying to piece together the options for their research program, career and in some cases, salary into 2019 and beyond.

Most of us have been in this situation and it’s worth trying to remember all the good advice:

  • this rejection does not define you
  • nor does it mean you are not doing good work
  • the system is simply highly competitive and many good projects are rejected
  • don’t take it personally
  • it’s not just you
  • find support
  • be persistent/resilient/try try again
  • research success comes in many forms; etc.

I have previously posted some survival tips for coping with academic rejection. I can’t hope, either in that post or this one, to resolve the fraughtly stretched funding system issues, or end the feelings of crushing defeat that accompany funding (and other) knock-backs. But I share here a few reflections that I hope might offer even some small solace, academic first aid and virtual camaraderie to researchers experiencing these challenges.  .

Reflections/resources for disappointed researchers

  1. These six scientists all contributed to great advances that significantly improved the world. All six were initially dismissed as crazy, and only proven right much later.
  2. While it sounds old news, and may be the last thing you feel like doing, laughter really is a potent medicine. Here are a few sites that have served me well as a ‘humour intervention’ (or at least, a welcome distraction) in unhappy times:
  1. Conventional wisdom suggests that if we work hard, we’ll be successful, and therefore happier. This book draws on positive psychology to challenge this assumption and suggests that happiness fuels success (and creativity, motivation, resilience, productivity etc), not the other way around. It includes simple suggestions such as setting a date for an enjoyable event; or investing in our social support network.
  1. …and finally my favourite: On the day she won the Nobel Prize, one of the world’s top scientists, Carol Greider, was told by her colleagues that following an internal review, a grant application she had been working on had been ‘triaged’, that is, considered not worthy of further discussion. Her message? Even on days of monumental scientific recognition you can be questioned by your colleagues about whether you really know what you’re doing. See Carol’s account of this here. 

Act Now

Do you have another reflection or humour intervention that has helped you in rocky research times? I’d love to hear/share it – please let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.

Finally, thank you to everyone who’s read, commented on, or otherwise engaged with Happy Academic this year. It has been an enormous pleasure and privilege to hear from/speak with so many readers during a wonderful second year, in which Happy Academic was recognised as one of the top 10 academic blogs in the world! This will be the last post of 2019 as I take a couple of months’ break and look forward to re-engaging in 2019. Season’s greetings and best wishes to you all.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s