I Quit

Factors

These are in approximate order of increasing importance.

Mindset

There are a few reasons I do error detection work (that is, I try to discover methods of finding inconsistent or impossible scientific papers, and occasionally have them removed from publication). The main one is, because I think it’s important and can’t stand the idea of it not being done.

Age / pedigree / temperament

Age: I have it. Many people I know who are assistant or even associate professors are younger than me. Some of them are tenured. There is an association of what it means to be an ‘up and comer’, moving through the scientific ranks at a speed supposedly commensurate with your skill. I don’t fit this expectation. It isn’t an insurmountable barrier, but it makes it harder.

Circumstance

There have been big grants, big opportunities, big spaces, that have opened up over the last few years. They would have changed this narrative, a lot.

Moving

I’m working out of state, but I refuse to uproot my wife, who has an excellent job where we live and doesn’t want to move for very good reasons, and my cat, who I’m afraid is now chronically ill, for an allegedly-tenured job at a university in a state which mainly grows corn and racism.

Money

Yes, money.

Resistance / lack of options for the work I want to do

Now we’re getting to the big ones.

The Plague

All of the above is survivable, and on a good day might be dismissed as kvetching.

Conclusion:

That’s all.

  • The allegedly left wing excesses and ‘vicious environment of political correctness’ in academia. This is popular to talk about, but to me is coded language for one of three things:

    [a]‘I am incapable of navigating difficult conversations about sensitive topics without annoying people, due to either the imprecision of my language and/or my latent ignorance’,
    [b] ‘I require an opposition to set my ideas against, and vicious PC culture actually perversely supports my perpetual quest for attention’, or
    [c] ‘I am a big fat racist, and I wish it was more convenient to be a racist’.

    I find people who continually prosecute this argument extremely boring. I would also note here that while being very fucking un-PC I have somehow managed to navigate this allegedly sensitive environment through the simple process of people knowing what I’m about.

    Oh, and if you write to me to express how wrong I am about this, I won’t read it and you don’t matter.
  • Personal attacks / ‘chilling’ environments of hyper-critical internet naughtiness in science. This idea was, and has always been, facile crap. The academic slappyfights of the past, in the Time Before HR, far exceed anything that happens on Twitter in their viciousness and persistence. It used to be a lot more common for people to try to destroy each other. The ‘chilling’ environment is a dumb trope that lazy senior academics love because it absolves them the responsibility of understanding and responding to criticism. It does this by painting critics as acting mindlessly or in bad faith. This is both untrue and tiresome.

    As above, don’t write me. I’m not interested in your gatekeeping masquerading as sensitivity. Clutch your pearls elsewhere, but before you go, please know the world that science will eventually have to build — maybe not soon, but hopefully in our lifetimes — will run over your empty values. You are a confused faun on the busy motorway of empirical progress, and you’re going to be badly organised pâté soon enough. Sleep well.

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James Heathers

James Heathers

I write about science. We can probably be friends.