Rob Knop Is Leaving Academia…

…good for him. What struck me was this part of his goodbye post:

For the last two years, as anybody who’s been reading my blog since its inception will now, I’ve been feeling increasingly miserable and increasingly desperate because of the funding and (thus) tenure situation. My research productivity has plummeted in the last two years because of the feeling of futility it all had– it’s difficult to get things done when I have the near-sure knowledge that my University is just waiting to kick me out for not being good enough. The serious depression that set in because of the constant message of “you don’t measure up” and “you aren’t going to get the resources you need to do what you were hired to do” that I got not only from Vanderbilt, but from the repeated failures to get funding or telescope time, set up a positive feedback loop where things got worse. It was too difficult to really get anything done because everything seemed so hopeless and overwhelming, and as a result I didn’t get the papers done that might have been a tipping point in the future grant. I know a lot of people think the “utter pressure, sink or swim in the whirlpool” method is a great way to motivate pre-tenure people to extreme productivity, but in my case the primary result was an extreme crushing of my soul, the suppression of my ability to really function well as a scientist, and ultimately my decision that there are other exciting things in the world that I could be doing, and that what I liked about teaching and science wasn’t enough to keep me from finding something else challenging to occupy my time with.

I’m loathe to talk about certain areas of my life–it’s not what I do here. But this section, particularly the italicized bits, really resonated with me. Sadly, at many universities, science faculty are seen as nothing more than potential profit centers, leading to a ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ type of situation. It stinks. And I’m glad a good guy like Rob doesn’t have to put up with that crap anymore.

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