The Sassy Scientist – The Art Of War

The Sassy Scientist – The Art Of War

It has been a while since Sun has published something. With working conditions improved, moral standards raised, publishing does and don’ts altered, the methods of funding acquisition have changed greatly during his quietude too. All puffed up again to get back in the game, Sun seeks to throw his hat in the ring:

How can you make your research sexy more appealing?

Dear Sun,

Oh my … How could you be so insensitive? For your sake, I have replaced your geriatric and abject choice of adjective with a more appropriate one. You should know by now that uttering such a question is incredibly misogynistic, and no… the fact that your last publication is dated a couple of millennia ago is not a valid response. Beware. I am now too; a short trip to a hearing care professional subsequent to a nice zoom meeting with some members of this blog, a somewhat longer trip to the opticians in hopes to improve my sight after some TB of compulsory reading material thereafter, and two weeks of sitting on an inflatable donut (I don’t think I have to elaborate on that…). A worthwhile experience indeed.

OK, back to the question. As you’re probably well aware, any and all situation in academia can be described as a war. A war against yourself when you’re not feeling completely up to the tasks in your to-do-list, a war against reviewers and your co-authors when you’re writing a manuscript, and of course a war against your supervisor when you’ve been told to get some more details about that one parameter you already know is not going to matter at all but you simply did not make a plot of it yet and the numbers in the table are not sufficient to ….. Never mind that… The most appropriate situation you’ll get into when in academia, i.e., that is closest to a war, is when you try to acquire some funding; you, your co-authors/workers, supervisors, the reviewers and committee, the institution and last, but definitely not least, the other people submitting a proposal to the same program you are. You’re at war with all of them. And no …, not everyone is able, willing or ambitious enough to come up with a community effort proposal. There’s just a few things (about five) you need to remember.


℘ To know your enemy, you must become your enemy; reread the criteria over and over again. Who is it for: a bunch of expert reviewers, or a board of ‘scientists’ for whom you have to remove all jargon. This also impacts your writing strategy; I like five, different yet specific, nitty-gritty details as much as the next person floundering through your text. What is that one, unequivocal gem of an aspect paramount to your argument? Better focus.


℘ You have to believe in yourself; every so often there’s merit in being ambitious and (slightly) arrogant. If you don’t think you can do the research as you propose it, why would the committee think otherwise? Do take this advice in moderation, as even I cannot learn five new skillsets in two years (*cough *cough).


℘ Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer; collaborate as much as you can, especially with people who will end up as your opponents in future grant endeavours. It’s better to work on some parts of a project rather than to end up a full-time teacher. And who wants to be that person?


℘ Opportunities multiply as they are seized; don’t forget to tag in some of the hot topics in Earth sciences. Never mind your research is about lower mantle convection, surely it has an impact on climate change research or it poses new insights on the dynamics of mega-thrust earthquakes.


℘ Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable (not one of yours I guess); completely fill in the time table in the proposal even though everyone knows that two months into the project you’ll get sidetracked and shift focus on the details of your first work package for the next two years. Displaying your thoughts on the time consumption of specific research avenues actually displays your ambitions to put in oodles of effort.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written in peace.

Avatar photo
I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>