In the past week or so the current coalition government “running” the UK announced that they will be cutting the UK science budget by 45%. This cut is to make sure that the banks which we now own as UK tax payers can give larger bonuses to the people who caused the economic meltdown by selling things that didn’t exist to people who could not afford them. This initial announcement apart from making me very angry, then sad, then a bit more angry then sad then just a spiral down into a massive state of depression did however make me think about my career choice as a scientist, my choice in “party” politics and a lot of other crap. I will therefore share this with you.
In the past 30 odd years - very odd years to be perfectly honest - I have been on this Earth I have done a few jobs. I have helped my dad drive diggers - POWERfabs, got to get a POWER in somewhere, been a printer and a station scientist and a full time academic. Also somewhere in there I was a school student, a university undergraduate and a PhD postgraduate.
If I try to work out when I was probably most happiest in doing a thing everyday I would say working with my dad for pocket and petrol money whilst digging holes with his diggers. A job where you could clearly see the product of your days work in a hole, the lack of a hole or a trench - a long hole. Being a printer I could see a days work in the pile of prints, the fact it was 17:00 and or the thousands of paper-cuts on my hands. At no time did as a printer or plant person or even when I use to help out on a diary farm did I go home at night and not sleep worrying about tomorrow, the work in my head or whether what I was doing was meaningful. In fact the most I would worry about was, would I wake up to go into work as a printer, would it rain tomorrow as a farmer or plant driver or what day my socks had written on them and was it today, tomorrow or Friday.
So I find it odd that the job I ended up doing, the career path I choose is one where I can readily recount the deepest lows of my life as well as the greatest highs. A job where I have suffered more sleepless nights more days than I choose to remember where I achieved nothing tangible and more time regretting my choice of career.
I know why I feel like this as well. It was a sudden realisation that I will never be happy, perhaps a sullen realisation. That if you do a job doing a thing you love you will never be happy. How can you? When you love some one such as your parents, your partner some attractive person off TV - then you worry about them, you are concerned for their well being and who is to say those same emotions do not exist when you are doing you job of choice. So the highs are greater but the lows so much deeper. This is made even worse by the fact that science as career, as a discipline is almost a life choice in todays world rather than just another job. For example how many people would take a job knowing that they would earn less for working longer hours for less recognition in a post that at the best has a three year lifespan or normally a one year one. A job where politics, back fighting, bullshit sabotage, idea stealing, lack of trust and constant fighting for funding is rife?
I know of scientists who are scared to share their ideas until it is in print with other scientists as if they do they may get scoped. They are concerned that when sending their proposals to peer review or in proposal form to research councils for funding they may get declined and then only a few months later see their work with one of the referees names on it getting published or funded.
We are working in a society where never before are those who actually bring little to it reaping the greatest rewards seeing the greatest protection and government support whilst those trying to expand, save and protect our futures are getting forced out of jobs, out of research and being totally exposed and attacked by society itself. If you didn’t understand that I am talking about banking and science.
So was my career choice a total mistake? Should as the chief executive of the STFC said when asked in a staff meeting
"What should all the highly trained scientist do now you are cutting funding, due to a £10M deficit"? "Go into the financial sector" - Keith Mason
Should I had I become a banker, should I now change career and become one. I know that I can go home at 17:00 and forget the days work. I know that I can not be open on a Sunday or during lunch when people actually want to use the bank or even a Saturday afternoon God forbid.
I agree there is a problem with the economy and to offset massive interest repayments we need to reduce our deficit. But if the UK was a company that made stuff which it sold. Then logic would be to continue investment into the things we sell. To see the money already invested in years of funding, education and talent rather than in the sort term enforce exile to many UK scientists.
Thinking back to the election not too long ago I voted LIB DEM, I did so because I believed in their science policy. In particular Evan Harris. Now as luck would have it he did not get elected nor did the government honour any of their pre-election pledges. Something which will be very interesting cometh the vote for proportional or AV representation for next years vote. Saying that the last lot were not better!
So I have decided on this fate I agree cut science funding, I agree remove science courses, I agree just leave media and sociology degrees and then when you are up to your neck in the shit - beautifully edited and produced televised shit, which you are caring and sharing about - do not come looking for the scientist as they will all be bankers or in other countries who’s carbon footprint is 80% smaller than yours, with unlimited power supplies, eating hydroponically grown fruit from city scape plantations. All good.
Actually thinking about it whilst you are at it you may as well get rid of the army, police, fire, nurses actually I have a better idea - scrap the government!