It’s not personal… it’s just a job

So, I’m buried under grants right now- but I’ll write a quick post just to keep you updated on some loose ends. Let’s start with the paper rejection that was so hotly discussed. I sent a politely worded appeal to the editor, and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. After 18 days of waiting, I sent a second polite inquiry to the administrative person who assured me that a decision would be forthcoming shortly. 5 days later (now 88 days after the initial submission) I received a short reply that the editors were going to stick with their original decision to reject the manuscript. The rationale was that the original reviewers just weren’t that enthusiastic about the work and because someone (editors, reviewers?) felt that connection between the phenotype of my mutant and the function for which the genes are responsible was ‘not compelling’. I’m ready to move on. I am doing some light editing and waiting on one experiment which people have asked me about now and then- and then it will go out again. I’m remembering that this is a just a job, and IS NOT personal.

Now for the grant rejection. I have had difficulty getting in touch with the person in charge of the review panel- it’s summer so that’s expected. Today we had a rather lengthy conversation on the telephone- all perfectly friendly. The thing is, I don’t think I got much insight on what needs to be fixed in the grant other than that the reviewers thought it was too ambitious to be completed in 4 years time. I don’t agree, but then I don’t make the funding decisions- so I am going to do what they suggest and take out the last aim. There will be a criticism for doing this, and I know exactly what I am going to hear already- because I heard a little of it last year- I’m just going to have to try to head that off in the ‘response to previous review’.

The summary statement for the discussion of this grant was on the extremely light side- but there were comments in there about grammatical issues, and that I should have future proposals adequately proof read. I would love to fix whatever it is they are referring to- but I can’t find it….nor could my two proof readers who read the grant prior to submission. Did I mention that this is a resubmission of an earlier proposal where no one commented on the grammar the first time?? It is difficult to know what to fix, without any specifics on what to fix. It is just so unsatisfying to have a review like this! It is not personal, it is just a job.

I had to talk to administrative people about keeping my lab afloat- I had already laid the groundwork for this months ago- but it wasn’t a conversation I really wanted to have to initiate for real. I will lose my postdoc in the fall, and I had to tell my excellent student worker that she can work for credit in the fall but I can’t pay her. It breaks my heart to see people who work for me, are productive, and are really excited about the projects leave my group under these circumstances.

It’s not personal though- it is just a job.

8 thoughts on “It’s not personal… it’s just a job

  1. Did you check the abstract for the mystery errors? Sometimes they hide there. And inattentive reviewers give the abstract lots of weight.

    I admire your view that it’s just a job.

  2. gingerale-

    I thought of that too, and although I read the entire body from start to finish I still have to look at the abstract. That wasn’t what the program person said though- it was indicated that there was some discrepancy in the number of replicates or something- but I don’t even thing she really knows what they were talking about, and although it was so blasted important- important enough to appear in the panel summary- NO ONE wrote it down.

    Finally- I’m still trying to convince myself it’s just a job at times. And it does hurt when these things happen. However, I refuse to let this take away my enjoyment of science and for other things in my life. You can bet your bottom dollar that when I go home tonight, late as it may be- I will still roll down all the windows, open the sunroof and sing loudly. And tomorrow morning the sun will come up, and I’ll get to hug my kids. I have a great family and an extremely good life compared to the vast majority of people in the world.

    I can’t get more than temporarily worked up about a little setback on the job.

  3. I know what you mean about the paper–at some point you just want to do whatever it’ll take to get the paper published and done with. And those grant commentss must be frustrating. I think this proves that feedback can definitely have net negative usefulness.

    I’m so sorry you’re going to lose people from your lab because of all this. But like Gingerale, I do admire your perspective. That one is hard for me. My brain knows it’s not personal, but the rest of me still feels like I’ve been punched in the gut….

  4. Mad Hatter-

    Don’t get the mistaken impression that I don’t get upset about it- I do. I would be lying to say that it didn’t hurt.

    But in the last year and at other times in my life, worse things- real life type things that can’t be fixed- have happened. I know that no rejection in any part of my job could ever even be remotely in the same category of loss or sadness as the death of a friend or the illness of a child or a parent. I know that as much as I love science, the joy that I get from doing this does not compare with the unbelievable richness and good fortune of my life.

  5. Ugh, I have been through the same thing with a few papers. It is frustrating… I do admire your attitude.

    That is the one thing that has me most nervous about starting my own lab, being responsible for keeping other people employed. I am starting to write grants now, I am fearful it will be quite some time before I get one funded.

  6. pinus- Go forward with every good hope that you will be successful, then do everything in your power to make it so. Good luck!

    Candid Engineer- Thank you. I’m not complaining- I just want you to know the cold hard facts. None of this diminishes my enjoyment for doing science. I somehow have to be able to separate that from everything else.

  7. Sounds like my motto, “Accept and Move On.” Works most of the time. Hope things are getting easier.

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