Mushy brain asks:
I am a social science PhD who has been out for 10 years now. I was on the tenure track and am now off it and location-locked in a big city, and unlikely to go back on the tenure track. I’m currently on the first year of a 3 year contract in a soft-money research-only position. This job is a mix of research and administration, without a lot of room for publications for me on the current project for the next year as we’re in the start up phase. I currently have no papers under review and nothing in my pipeline other than this project that has just begun, which is an unusual situation for me.
I’m trying to think about some slightly bigger thoughts than just my current job on the current project. My boss is supportive of my thinking long-term and thinking about what will come next after this grant. Also, in a few weeks there may start to be time to work on more variety of things while the data roll in (over 14 months).
But all the ideas I think of sound hard and, while some seem very cool and interesting, they mostly require other people’s help. I don’t know if I should pursue them. Also I have other ideas that seem more doable but less interesting.
I suspect I would be kind of a sucky co-author this year, and motivation is very hard. I currently don’t have any co-authors on anything I’m working on. The question is whether I should start something and if so, what. I sort of want to, but I’m not sure I’m able to be a great co-author right now.
Am trying to overcome the thing where my brain feels super mushy all the time. Mush mush mush. I wonder if there is a medication for mushy brains.
I dunno. Do you have wise thoughts? I would like to keep publishing more papers, but I don’t know how long it’ll be until I feel more capable of focusing on things.
Whether or not you should start new projects is a question only you can answer. Logically it makes little sense for many academics to work as hard as we do. Once tenure has been gotten or the tenure-track has been side-stepped, what are the rewards, other than fame, knowing the answers to interesting questions, and an internal sense of well-being? These are things only you can decide whether or not to care about.
We would encourage you to think about what your end goals are. Are there interesting questions that you want to know the answers to? Will more publications help you get your next grant or your next job? Are there specific people you miss working with? Does your cv feel neglected? What is it that is driving this sense of unease? Once you figure that out you’ll be better able to do a cost-benefit analysis and maybe find some motivation.
As to mushy brain, one of us finds that vit D helps her (her husband needs B-complex). A friend needs the appropriate levels of thyroid medication. Sleep is also incredibly important. Caffeine, chocolate, etc. If this isn’t a new thing, then perhaps you could get screened for adult ADHD. Outside of physiological reasons that a doctor can test with some bloodwork, questionnaires, or maybe a sleep study, we don’t really know. I mean, some people use prescription drugs for conditions like ADHD off-label, but we can’t recommend that in good conscience unless and until those drugs are on-label or your doctor recommends them.
Perhaps our grumpy readership has better suggestions? Help?