The Sassy Scientist – Choose Your Mantle Game

The Sassy Scientist – Choose Your Mantle Game

Lockdown rumination resulted in new research ideas for Amélie. Her quests at the intersection of multiple subfields left her wondering:

How to write an interdisciplinary proposal?

Dear Amélie,

I salute your efforts at bringing together multiple disciplines to tackle some of humanity’s most urgent questions regarding planetary interiors. I am myself an interdisciplinary scientist and a polymath so I know first hand how difficult it is to build bridges across subfields.

First things first, you and your collaborators need to Zoom down and straighten your definitions and conventions. This will be fun if you have engineers in your team. Be prepared to spend at least a week in this process and to manage lots of parallel chats. After you are all on the same page you naturally move forward into articulating and framing the science question underlying the proposal.

I suggest you show complete impartiality and diplomacy when handling your peers. Expect the rock rheology people to demand the implementation of esoteric, computationally-expensive flow laws of more phases than you want to think about. Naturally, the numerical geodynamicists will push back and point out how olivine is a good first-order approximation to … everything! Of course then you’ll have to give the floor to the one geochemist with their ‘hand up’ for the last 10 minutes of the Zoom meeting. ‘Yes, water is important’, you’ll say. ‘Yes, more isotope analysis on subduction zone volcano samples is imperative’, you’ll reassure. Then everyone will ask the seismologist on the call if they know how to improve imaging resolution in the area of study. Get ready for a pause and some rolled eyes. They’ve probably heard their whole career about ‘the need of improved seismic imaging’. This is the moment in the call when the most junior member (most likely a dude) will just interrupt to ask: ‘Have you tried using machine learning for signal processing?’. Take 10. Everyone needs a break. Now.

Well done for having survived the first meeting of an interdisciplinary team. Embark for a long journey of geopolitical navigation between numerical modellers, geochemists, and seismologists with different jargon and writing styles. I promise you that eventually the many hours of unpaid labour spent writing and re-writing grants, managing everyone’s expectations, channelling everyone’s efforts into a coherent team product will pay off…

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: How about post-perovskite?
PSS: Never trust me.

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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.

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