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Call for Research-Life Stories

January 22, 2013

A research career is different from most other jobs in its characteristic and challenges: Long period of education and training which is packed with uncertainty (Am I good enough? Will all this effort be rewarded by a suitable position in a suitable location to live in?), the tension between collaboration and competition, preserving creativity and relevance along the decades. To all of these and more, we should add that our community is so dispersed. Our collaborators, our audience, our points of reference, are not only the colleagues next door but probably more so our colleagues across the globe. Conferences help us strengthen the sense of community and so do research blogs. An excellent example is Luca’s sequence of Turing Centennial Posts.

In this spirit, Windows on Theory is initiating a new project: a sequence of posts that will host research-life stories by TOC-researchers from different stages of their career and different locations. The hope is that this will help us appreciate our differences and similarities and will be inspiring, especially for the newer members of the community.

For the sake of good form, the first guest of this project will be, hmmm, me … I will also solicit stories directly from people I know. But I’d like to give an outlet to the less-connected members of our community, who may sometime feel unheard. Therefore, today’s post is simply an invitation to all theoreticians that are interested to tell their stories. If you may be interested, simply email me and we can further discuss. In the meanwhile, here is a bit more about our intention and inspiration (though it is yet to see what comes out of it):

The instruction to the participants is going to be extremely simple:

Please share with us events you remember from your research life.

You can share a single story, many stories or even your general thoughts. Among the topics I expect will come up are the challenges I mentioned above. Stories may cover anything from childhood events that played a role in the choice of academia and even in the choice of TOC and all the way to retirement stories (to the extent researchers really retire). Key “scenes” to consider may be, opening scene, high point, low point, turning point.

Comments:

  • Some reactions I already got is “there is nothing interesting for me to tell.” I categorically disagree: we all have many interesting stories (which will become more interesting in the context of other’s stories). Think about meeting your adviser, your first research project/paper/talk, and so on. A short anecdote may sometime be inspiring.
  • You have complete control over your level of exposure.
  • Anonymous contributions are possible.

 

Inspirations:

The focus on stories (rather than, say, interviews) is influenced by my personal love to Playback Theater. The single-question instruction follows the research of Miriam Ben-Peretz  (which I was made aware of through my brother, Roni Reingold). The research (in Hebrew) surveyed retired teachers in Israel. Some of the question raised were taken from The Life Story Interview of Dan P. McAdams and (that were pointed to me by Uri Alon). In particular, McAdams and Logan studied life stories of academics.

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