A friend and I were chatting yesterday about his current lack of sleep. He complained about going to bed only to wake up, unable to continue slumbering from 2am in the morning. Diagnosis? Stress from multiple deadlines and postgraduate research. Most people think success in postgraduate research is about intelligence. Well, you need a certain level of that to win a place in a postgraduate program but really, I think success in research at all levels is about perseverance. Which is not to say that all those who decide to discontinue lack perseverance but that research demands focus and one result of being able to focus is being able to make decisions about whether one should persist or not in any task.
I am, thankfully, past my postgraduate studies day but research is still very much a part of my life. However, it is trying to reconcile the urge to research, play around with ideas and write with the need to teach, develop curriculum, interact with students and writing lectures etc. The two have overlaps but require different head-spaces. One is largely contemplative, introspective, living-inside-your-head work; the other is performative, extroverted, living-your-thoughts work. They both inform each other but they are distinct areas of academia.
If I had my wish I would that academics were given the option of teaching in one semester and research in the other every year, with the caveat of being accountable for both periods. Accountable, I know, is the trigger word for fill-in-the-blank parts of university forms that read along the lines of: state the objectives for your period of research (for example, number of publications, seminars, workshops, etc). I am happy most times to account for my work but I do think demanding such concrete evidence is counter-productive of the actual work if not the need for universities to be seen accounting for public money.
In any case, the matter that prompted this mood? I am once again locked in paralysis awaiting word on the success of yet another funding application. It is not a good feeling to dwell on. The back of my mind is heavy with the fear of yet another “thank you, but no thank you”. So, if there was one more quality essential to survival in academia I would name, it is resilience.