How to Induce Stress on an Academic

A title and responsibilities.


February 10, 2015

In December 2014, I and a select pool of 50 colleagues from the entire University of the Philippines System were awarded a title of Scientist. This is a special distinction given to faculty members whose scientific output and standing (based on highly quantitative metrics like the number of articles published in ISI journals, books/chapters published in reputable University presses, citations, peer-reviewers, membership in a scientific body etc.) are considered exemplary. I was the only Political Science awardee in a pool dominated by economists, agriculturists, and marine biologists whose publication practices (cross-authorships, multiple specialized journal outlets, multi-year projects) are more mature for this kind of number-reckoning performance screening. This being my second time receiving the award (which carries a generous stipend), I was happy. But happy only for a moment, before anxiety set in about the dreaded two year-window (my first year, 2014, was done) after which sometime in 2017, I will again be judged for what I have achieved.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. All my days are driven by the singular push to do research and publish, which in my case is like a vicious circle. To write new material, I have to do research. To do research and writing I have to have some free time from teaching. That protected time called research load credit  on a semestral-basis (up to 6 units or two courses), can be gotten if you have a University-approved research project whose funds, if externally-derived, are coursed through the University Foundation. For a Political Scientist like myself whose interest is on grounded research on military and security, the first imperative is to get myself a funded research project, which unfortunately, given the market for this topic, tend to be short-term duration (one year maximum). Just making sure I  get that protected time means I must be constantly churning out two project proposals every year, to replace those that are about to finish. The project duration (start and end dates) must align with the University semestral calendar, otherwise I still have to justify why I need time off from teaching. As I write this piece, I am still conceptualising a proposal for a project which, if I have to get a load credit reduction of 3 units by August 2015, is actually late!

Meanwhile, my publication timeline is looking equally stressful. Given also the 1-2 year period it takes to get a journal article or book from the time of submission, any new material I get out of a project will have at least a 3-year gestation from conceptualization, proposal preparation and approval, implementation, write up and publication. This means that for my remaining two-year window left (2015 and 2016) for the Scientist renewal, I should have already something in the pipeline being reviewed or about to come out of the press. My absolute last chance to submit to journals is June 2015, after that only luck will hold me through to get something out of the press by 31 December 2016.

I am holding up, but with great consequences to the quality of my relationships and personal well-being. Rosalie, the recluse, no longer has fun weekends or hangs out; she writes. I don’t have a holiday; I write three days and do sightseeing for two days. I carry my tattered notebook with handwritten notes across airports and hotels finishing write-ups. I present papers in conferences to compel me to write and when I am in a conference, I write in between for other stuff. I have not read in our parish mass for some time, nor volunteered for committee work in my University (except when they ask me to present or do a lecture). Deaths, birthdays, retirements, milestones for my colleagues I have missed; my interaction with them reduced to still work-related responses to the yahoo group but no time to build personal connections.

My perennial line to my husband is “do you think I work too hard?” My husband, whose support makes this and everything else possible, of course will not say anything adverse. I just wish things could be done differently: that I can aspire to be a Scientist and at the same time retain my sanity.


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