Like all good academics, I bristle at the not-infrequent suggestion, from innocent but insufficiently browbeaten friends and family, that I “take summer off”. In point of fact I am simply not paid for the months between the spring and fall semesters when I’m not teaching, which is the case for many university faculty in the U.S. But then also, free from the constraints of teaching, the summer months are the one long window each year when I can concentrate on everything else I need to do to advance an academic research career: writing up and publishing results, applying for new grant funding, advancing projects to the point that other members of the lab can pick them up when the fall semester starts and I disappear under a new wave of student emails and grading.
Forget New Year’s resolutions. For those of us on the academic schedule, the time to make ambitious and possibly Quixotic plans is now, when the summer months stretch ahead in their full, pure possibility. Of course the list of summer plans has to shrink once it’s subject to actual time constraints. But it’s nice to inventory what could be done, to name the possibilities and maybe learn from the ones that never materialize.
In the name of personal accountability, then, here’s what I have lined up for summer 2023:
- Publishing: (1) Submit for publication a Big New Paper on which I’m the lead author; (2) finalize and submit a student thesis project on which I’m senior author; and (3) make contributions to advance another Big New Paper on which I’m a middle-of-the-list author. Maybe, in between, finish a good solid draft of (4) an opinionated review/polemic I’ve had percolating for a bit and (5) nudge another student toward submission of their thesis project.
- Grant writing: (1) Help finalize a collaborative proposal that’s been in the pipeline since (oops) last fall and (2) substantially draft a brand new proposal for an opportunity that comes due next fall. Also (3) guide the postdoc in the lab towards submission for at least one good fellowship opportunity.
- Project management and mentoring: (1) Get two incoming grad students settled and sorted out before classes start; (2) see the postdoc towards publication of a year’s worth of population genomics and also that fellowship application.
- Academic community: (1) Join a symposium on LGBTQ folks in STEM in Washington, DC; (2) attend Evolution 2023 in person in Albuquerque; and (3) try to actually post more on this very blog (I have a distressing number of half-written posts in the drafts folder).
And, because it’s not all about academic productivity, after all:
- Personal stuff: (1) Run a marathon (this will happen two days after commencement but it’s in the summer window so it counts); (2) see a new National Park (Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands, booked for uh immediately after the marathon); (3) survive a family reunion in rural Central Pennsylvania; and (4) tour the Olympic Peninsula, maybe even before fire season gets serious.
Let’s see how many of these actually happen. Simply by posting this, I’m also committing to formal follow-up sometime in August, before the fall semester crashes ashore. And that’s at least something towards one of these list items!