Thursday, December 31, 2015

The 2015 Wrap-Up

It's that time. The very end of a calendar year, when 95% of people you know will look back on the year and set goals for the next. I look forward to reading all of the academic blog posts about 2015 progress.* I've charted my productivity once or twice per month this  year, so I don't intend for this to be a simple re-hash. As many have observed, blogging has the advantage of allowing for true reflection - as you put your thoughts about previous events on screen, we see patterns or points that we don't see in the moments that events occur. So here is my 2015 reflection.

Productivity Highlight
Due to the variability in publication timelines, I had eight articles published this year. Thus, looking at my CV, 2015 has been my most productive year by far.** But behind the positive outcome, there are several years of frustration; as I look back, I feel the echo of these experiences. These papers written and revised between 2011 and 2015, and were accepted between 2013 and 2015. So they reflect three different affiliations and phases of my career (internship, postdoc, and tenure-track positions). I received, and continue to receive, excellent training mentorship in all of the skills relevant to my job. This is evident from the ability I now have to design, conduct, and publish an intervention study in one calendar year. 

But as we know, getting to that point can be difficult. There is a steep learning curve on scientific writing and publishing, and limited opportunities until you get a firm handle on collecting your own data. As a trainee, the transition from one institution to another presents a range of challenges, even for the most motivated researcher. New mentors and labmates (some of whom are now quite junior, which is novel), and new responsibilities. Importantly, many of these responsibilities have nothing to do with getting your own publications out. Although this is your highest and most pressing priority (for securing a permanent job as quickly as possible), this can seem like an afterthought to supervisors. Many of us understand the intense frustration of this situation. You also may be dealing with completely unfamiliar data sets, some of which come with very little institutional memory for procedural details (due to trainee graduation/turnover). The freedom of a tenure-track position offers sweet relief, and the space to reconnect with genuine love for the work itself.

When I look back at 2015, I see the fruits of my internal labor - the culmination of my struggle to accept a lack of independence and make the best of a difficult situation for me. As noted, I received fantastic training, which I can now fully appreciate and put to use. In addition to the papers that came out this year, I also had several papers and book chapters accepted,*** submitted several more, and made my first foray into the world of federal grant pursuit. Of note, work in each of these areas has involved collaboration with former supervisors. It's wonderful to see so much time and effort finally pay off.

Other Highlights
This year included many other positives:
  • I have an amazing group of students who have enjoyed their own achievements this year - acceptance to several medical schools, their own data collection, poster presentations, and internal grant applications, and the development of new and exciting skills. 
  • I did my first two radio interviews about my research: Super Human Radio and RadioMD.
  • I've begun to collaborate with faculty in other departments and at other institutions, and there are many exciting opportunities on the horizon. 
  • I completed the first half of an NIH-sponsored training program in cardiovascular medicine. Though this program, I learned a ton and met an incredible group of young faculty from all over the country. (I also got a two-week, all-expenses-paid Brooklyn experience. And I get another one in June!)
  • I reviewed grants for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Komen cancer affiliate, and I'll do this again in January.
  • I was invited to join a faculty writing accountability group at my institution, and I've enjoyed many benefits of this experience. 
  • Both #AcWriMo and #AcWriAdv reminded me that I love to write, and that writing is better with a community. (And I was featured on one of my favorite blogs, Stylish Academic!)
This is your life moment of the year: It was a great one. Now let's make 2016 great.


*Even though the end of the regular year is only the midpoint of the academic's year, so we have a different type of calendar-year reflection.
**Not that this Google list is correct in terms of dates. Dates here are when the articles were first available online; "published" = out in print version of journal.
***And some rejected, of course. I actually don't know how many of each.

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