Thursday, January 06, 2011

Academic New Year Resolutions: On Being Less Nice

Back in January 2009, I published some Academic New Year Resolutions.  The one that generated the most comments was the following:
Be less nice: I need to be much less nice. I notice that other academics focus on their own careers, they ignore emails, or they default to "no" every time. They look after number 1. In recent years, I have spent far, far too much time trying to be kind, collegiate and helpful.
A couple of years on and I think I may have failed. My productivity is still not as high as it should be and I still find myself saying Yes to too many things.  So I am wondering whether it is time once again to make the all important academic's New Year's Resolution to be a bit less nice in 2011.

On the other hand, there are some really nice people who are also really productive.  Think of Michael Bird, for example.  You couldn't find a nicer chap if you tried.  Not could you find a more prolific writer.  And, come to think of it, Graham Stanton was a role model for how to be a kind, approachable academic and he wrote lots of good stuff too (see On Scholarly Conduct).  So it looks like there is no connection between meanness and productivity.

Perhaps the answer is just to become a proper workaholic. That might do the trick. So, resolution for 2011: work harder, sleep less, spend less time with other people, write more.

4 comments:

Rich Griese said...

Give em bloody el! (hell)

Cheers! RichGriese.NET

Ian Packer said...

Stanley Hauerwas has a good work ethic (according to his memoir) - you should chat!

Mark Goodacre said...

Ha ha; thanks, Rich. It's not going to happen, though! Good idea, Ian.

Tim said...

Thanks for this reminder that congeniality and rigorous scholarship are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

My dissertation director once gave me the same advice that you offered in your article to which you linked - when writing critically of someone's work, phrase things in such a way that I would feel comfortable saying these things aloud when that person is in my presence.