I’m retiring (from #sideprojects (for a while (probably)))

4 minute read


Despite the excessive parenthesis, this post is meant to be a definitive statement that I can refer back to whenever something interesting (non-research) comes up in the next year or so.

With the long preparation and eventual publication of Ten Simple Rules for a Bioinformatics Journal Club,  ABACBS due for an AGM soon where a new student representative will be elected, and an ever decreasing amount of time left of PhD scholarship, it's an apt time for me to retire from the fun and rewarding world of #sideprojects.

Last year was a particularly busy year for #sideprojects, continuing some degree of involvement in various groups (such as BGSA, ABACBS, Parkville Bioinformatics Journal Club, and of course COMBINE), co-chairing the EMBL Australia PhD Symposium (EAPS15), and teaching a number of Software Carpentry and  Data Carpentry workshops.

Many have asked how I can keep up all my research and still do a plethora of these community-centric things.

The simple answer of course is that I don't.

I've felt, and in discussions with others have formed the opinion, that there always is a balance; at the end of a research degree, there is the conventional wisdom that you need some degree of extra-curricular activities to avoid being a one dimensional at the completion of your degree. Having those 'other' things on your resume are valued, but without any novel research to complement it, you can risk being one dimensional the other way.

So to reduce this risk, it is time for a Sweeping Public Statement: I'm out.

I'm retired from #sideprojects. I keep telling people this, in the hopes that the repetition and public accountability will make it true.

Another piece conventional wisdom is that learning to say "No" to opportunities is also an important skill for a researcher and so far this year I've been keeping track of the great opportunities that I just don't have time for. By noting them down, I've found it's a great way to imagine what time I could have lost to them!

So from now until the end of my PhD, I'll do less not PhD, and more PhD. That there will be the occasional relapse, I do not doubt*, but the intention is very much to say "No", especially to myself.

With regards to COMBINE (the student sub-committee of ABACBS, and the ISCB Regional Student Group for Australia) this is actually a very easy decision, because of the safe hands it is in. The great work of the current president (@hdashnow) and the rest of the committee of COMBINE (past and present: Westa Domanava, Scott Ritchie, Thomas Coudrat, Jane Hawkey, Zoe Dyson, Tim Rice, Kian Ho, Ben Goudey, Karin Klotzbuecher and many more) over the last few years means that COMBINE looks set to make great strides in its goals of world domination a national network of students and ECRS, and I feel I can stop active involvement with full confidence that things will continue.

It's also true that what started out as attempts to build up a network of peers developed quickly into simply friends, and I'm sure those friendships will continue. I really enjoy all these activities, and post-PhD look forward to a nice balance of both research, teaching and community involvement then, but for now, it's time to go to the mattresses on research.

No more #sideproject ideas or trips to teach SWC/DC**.

People in bioinformatics and computational biology often know me for my other activities rather than my research. It's time to change that.

* Because, of course, who are we kidding? Plus I'm sure a few more of these will get written in idle moments. 

** I enjoy teaching SWC and DC, and in terms of time commitment, can be relatively minor when familiar with the materials. I don't intend to teach anymore this year, though if a combination of travel to a conference and an adjacent workshop came up I might consider it, and there a few workshops in planning that I'll help get off the ground for COMBINE.***

*** Yes this is a weasel-ing out of the entire point of this post, but, see *.