I love science. As an institution, a method for understanding our universe, and a body of knowledge encompassing all that we have been able to discern, theorise, and empirically prove about how everything works and fits together. Collectively it is one of the greatest and most enduring things that our species has created. As such, being able to identify myself as a scientist and point to ways in which I have personally contributed to this understanding is a point of pride to me, and something with a great deal of personal meaning. It is significant to me to be able to think about the work I do and feel that I am playing a part, however small, in making the world a slightly better place than it was the day before.
Being a scientist can involve a great deal of frustration and anxiety, too. It’s not an easy career to take on, and even once you feel you’ve gotten a foot in the door and are beginning to establish yourself as a solid and capable researcher, you can find yourself blindsided by assessment standards, financial concerns, and political machinations that you knew nothing about and were not prepared for. In any employment sector we are all more or less human, and the same failings and uncomfortable realities surface in academia as surely as anywhere else. No matter how much you might love the work itself, no matter how passionate and driven and capable you are at doing good science, there are plenty of issues, mundane or otherwise, that can get in the way of the science itself.
And sometimes, despite all our extensive education, balanced thinking, careful reasoning, structured logic and a broad, systematic view of how all things fit together, we scientists still get really pissed off.
Personally, I’ve been dealing with some major career stress and uncertainty lately that has torpedoed my hopes of establishing a career in the sciences that would allow me to balance scientific ambition with personal stability and security. If I really want to do science, it may take more from me and my family than I am capable of giving. If I want employment that makes use of my skills and experience but actually gives me something back in the form of stability and career assurance, it may mean giving up science altogether. It’s a shit choice to have to make, given all that science means to me as I’ve outlined above, but as it turns out there are a few warm and scaley things in my life that mean even more to me. So, from the personal side, this image represents some good old-fashioned vent art.
More broadly, the wider applicability of the image is to resonate with all of you, fellow scientists or science enthusiasts or whatever else you may be. For all of us who have felt this fed up at some point in our lives. This is us standing up and staring in the face of everyone who’s ever told you that you aren’t good enough, that you haven’t developed quickly enough, that you aren’t driven enough and don’t have the right personality type for this work, that your career has been discarded for you by someone you’ve never met while you were busy doing the job they hired you for, that your paper isn’t insightful enough to get published, that your grant proposal isn’t impactful enough to get funded, that you’re a nothing more than a disposable tool as far as your administrators are concerned, that science is just another business venture and doesn’t really matter beyond the money it brings in anyway, that discovery and leaving a habitable world for our grandchildren matter less than short term profit, that global climate change is a hoax and scientists don’t really know what they’re talking about, that human society is better off fractured into nationalistic pockets of uneducated racist self-interest than working together for a greater common good, and anybody else who’s just flat-out pissed you off by being a damned idiot when they really ought to be capable of knowing better…
...and delivering directly to their face a loud, clear, heartfelt, shiny and double-barreled ‘FUCK YOU.’