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The Quest for Academic Productivity
January 4, 2011 - 10:00pm

I am at the end of a long and tough professional and academic journey. While preparing to embark on a new horizon, I had the benefit of thinking a great deal about the priorities of my medium-term schedule. One of the first tasks on the list is writing a book on the subject of my PhD in history, about the inter-ethnic relations in Romania after the fall of communism. On the same list, I have other ideas of articles and essays that have haunted my mind over the last 12 months or so. More or less, my near future will again be directly preoccupied by the acrobatics of words.

I work according to a very detailed plan describing exactly what I have to do for the day, the week or the month. I usually follow this program, with 80% of the essential chores delivered in due time. Planning-wise and with good time management, I have all the best cards required to reach a high level of academic productivity, which I hope will open the big gates for me and will help me to reach visible recognition. Otherwise, as I observed lately, it would be extremely difficult to resist. As in any other professional domain, publishing requires continuously high performance and outstanding results.

But my intellectual life – the only one I can wholly testify for – has its limits, and ups and downs. Not because I have doubts regarding the merits of this path, but because very often I need to take a break from the continuous rhythm of work, to evaluate and reevaluate my thoughts and the words I am using.

I enjoy both reading and sharing my thoughts through writing, but I always need a balance. Intensive lectures make me long for a couple of hours for ordering my ideas on my e-piece of paper. Writing too much increases my frustration of not being able to cover the bibliography of interest for my topics. Sometimes I need to take of break from both, allowing my mind to wander freely and observing the realities around.

A couple of years ago, when I had for the first time in my hands an issue of Foreign Affairs, I was mesmerized by the pages with announcements of new books on a wide variety of subjects. But the impressive volume of new entries from one month to another made me think: Who is reading all these books? What is the “acceptable” ratio of published works – per year, for instance – in order to keep you at a certain level of academic survival? How to balance the time spent in the library for documentation with the writing and editing activities? I haven’t found the answers yet, but every time I think about those questions, I regretfully realize how limited we are in terms of time and resources.

Publish or perish? The temptation is very big. Indisputably, a high level of academic productivity is somewhat of a guarantee of gaining an authoritative voice in your domain. As for me, I would always prefer foremost to make an interview or to contribute to a lively discussion. At the end of the day, perhaps journalistic techniques may contribute to opening to academia new windows and perspectives on the world.

Berlin, Germany

Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a PhD candidate in history at the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, with a background in Political Science. She has been a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.



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