March 14, 2008

Warning to Ph.D.'s going to Germany

Do you plan to present a paper at a conference in Germany? Or even worse, are you applying for a job there? Then you'd be better be careful what you call yourself. A Washington Post Article that came out today states, "Americans with PhDs beware: Telling people in Germany that you're a doctor could land you in jail." Apparently no one outside of the European Union can call herself "Dr.," even if she has worked at the Max Planck Institute for 10 years and has a Ph.D. from an elite university in the States. So, caveat scholasticus (ok, I don't speak Latin, but that's my best guess at "Scholar, beware"). Or perhaps I should say, Herr oder Frau Doktor, seien Sie vorsichtig (ok, I don't speak German, either.) But consider yourself warned.

March 11, 2008

Using EverNote for academic research

I have been rediscovering EverNote today. One of the members of the Friends group in the Academic Writing Club, which I participate in as well as run, brought up EverNote today and wondered who had introduced her to it. Well, it was me! I had tried an early beta version once and it had crashed my computer, so I had been wary to try it again. But she said she used it daily, so I re-downloaded it, and I'm excited about it all over again.

It's a deceptively simple program. I say deceptive because it appears at first glance that it's like a running note pad or journal, where you can write notes, copy and paste, or drag and drop anything that you find online or that you're working on in your computer, and store it chronologically. And that would be reason enough to use it, as far as I'm concerned. But it's a whole lot more. You can assign keywords and categories to each note, use the various templates that are loaded on to create to-do lists, or meeting notes, for example; or download lots of other templates available online such as a template for writing your notes on an article you just read. So you can capture all of your thoughts, all the articles, web sites, notes or even drawings and doodles (if you have a tablet) that you don't want to lose, and you have a way of finding them later.

If you think you might like to try it for your academic research, be sure and check out this post by GTD Wannabe. Also follow the links to the templates that s/he has created, including the aforementioned reading template. GTDW has created a pretty involved system of cross-referencing your readings, things you need to read, and locations where you can find your readings.

EverNote is a free download with all features enabled. After 60 days, if you want to access advanced features, such as image and text recognition, you have to pay ($49.95) although I think a lot of people would be happy with it without those features.

March 6, 2008

Searching for meaning in academia

One of the more psychologically-minded and empathic professors who blog about teaching, Louis Schmier writes a blog called "Random Thoughts." His most recent post touches on an issue that I often hear professors talk about: how to find meaning and purpose in academia as you struggle your way up the academic ladder. In an atmosphere where over-working and not having a life can seem to be prized, and where in the years before tenure you feel the need to hide your real self and cater to bureaucratic demands, it's hard to stay in touch with the idealistic visions or intense intellectual passions that got you into academia in the first place. I'm encouraged that he describes having been to a conference (The Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching) where people were able to discuss their feelings about the loss of connection to a "meaningful purpose."

Don't wait until you get tenure to think about these issues. You don't want to arrive at your destination and find out that the struggle to get there wore you out and left you without motivation or interest in your field. Here is a recent post from one of the professors I work with that illustrates what can happen to your life during the tenure-track years if you are not careful:

I actually stopped socializing ... I think it happened in my second year on the tenure track. My work schedule made me avoid people and then I got so used to being alone I stopped seeking people out. Before that, I was fairly social... I think it is really important to maintain contact with friends and socialize. I don't know how to achieve that balance. I think my life is kind of a cautionary tale because I stopped socializing and now I'm not sure I even know how to do it anymore. Not interacting with people outside of work besides my immediate family is a habit for me and I am concerned that I may never get back into a social groove now. I lost some social skills and interacting with people feels exhausting to me and too much work. I can't get to any deeper level with people because I only see them every six months. I don't think this is a good solution at all.

Read Schmier's recent blog post for a more thorough description of the thoughts and feelings of the professors he talked to who "want something more."