Friday, October 24, 2014

The eleven stages of academic grief

Have had a spate of bad luck in the lab with several papers getting rejected. Ugh. Been getting used to the following cascade of emotions:

  1. Shock (30 seconds). E-mail from journal! Oh no, subject line says decision. Could be good decision, right? … Oh, not a good decision…
  2. Disbelief (1 minute). Really? Did I get the wrong email or something? Am I really reading this? Where is that link to resubmit? What do you mean there’s no link to resubmit?
  3. Reading the e-mail (2 minutes). Hmm. [Keyword search] “Should be published in this journal” Yes! “Not a big enough advance in the field” No! “Very exciting” Yes! “Hard to get excited about this paper” No!
  4. Anger with reviewers (5 minutes). What are they talking about? We already did that experiment in supp fig 97! Well, if I knew the answer to that, we would have submitted to a better journal! Oh, correlation isn’t the same as causation? Why didn't I think of that? Thank so much for your super wise words of wisdom dear reviewer. May you rot in hell, where you will have eternity to think about our paper, instead of the apparently 17 minutes you spent on this stupid review.
  5. Reviewers, part 2 (7 minutes). I bet that reviewer is [random perceived academic enemy]. Grudge deepening.
  6. Anger with editors (10 minutes). What are they talking about? Why don’t these people get a spine? Do these people even know anything about this field. Or any field. Or anything at all? They must be failed academics. Or just stupid. Or both.
  7. Self doubt, abilities (6 hours). I am a failed scientist. Soon to be a failed academic. Or just stupid. Or both.
  8. The dark path (1 day). Wait, but my paper is much better than this other stupid paper in a higher profile journal. What gives? [You know not to go down this road. But you will.]
  9. Self doubt, career choice (1.5 days). Why am I working so hard? Why didn’t I just go to industry and never have to worry about papers ever again? Why should I be sweating these stupid reviewer comments? Am I still going to be sweating these reviewer comments for the next 30-40 years? Is this really it?
  10. Resignation and acceptance (2 weeks). We will get this paper out in the end. Time to move on. This study is good, it just needs to find the right home. The darkest hour is just before the dawn. There are many fish in the sea. Every cloud has a silver lining. Who knows. Maybe the reviewers even had a point about that one aspect of our paper. Wait a minute… 
  11. Reviewers, part 3 (2 weeks and 30 seconds): $^!# those reviewers! What do they know anyway? What are they talking about? If I ever see [random perceived academic enemy] again… 
So goes the inner monologue. To the outside world, it looks like this:
  1. Revise
  2. Resubmit
  3. Rejected
  4. Revise
  5. Resubmit
  6. Rejected
  7. Revise
  8. Resubmit
  9. Rejected
Sigh… you’d think it would get easier with time. It does, somewhat. But it also doesn’t.

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