Jul 052016
full time part time road sign

Have you ever sat in work, looked out the window and thought “I wish I didn’t have basic human desires, like eating, mating and bitching about Ken in accounts, so I could just do my jobs 24 hours a day”? we’ve all been there. If the answer is no that’s mental, read on…

The typical scientific working week comprises at least 5 days (or 40 hours) worth of work. Although, many academics and scientists work as if their success depends on not seeing or interacting with another human being – unless it’s through email. That work can consist of hands-on research, writing for angry reviewers or the physical pantomime of productivity whilst not actually getting anything done. For those that aren’t strict with their time, the pressures of an academic appointment can start eating its way into weekends, holidays and time sat watching Netflix, drinking wine, multi-screen Facebook stalking and taking pictures of your dog or cat in adorable positions.

For the past 2 years, I have been a part-time scientist and this is why you should consider it too:

  • People get jealous of your “every weekend is a long weekend” lifestyle.
  • I have been using Fridays to do the things I really enjoy, which includes being in my underwear for large parts of the day, pretending I’m a pirate and also editing for the best podcast on earth (yet to be recognised as such) Publish, Perish or Podcast.
  • I am learning new things (video editing, a new language and how to convince my partner I did NOT eat most of the chocolate), although not directly related to my day job, they’ve all been used in my job at some point…

The strange thing is, despite my extra underwear time I feel just as good at my job, more creative while I’m in work and Mondays now feel like a Tuesday, Tuesdays feel like a Wednesday, Wednesdays feel like a Wednesday and Thursday feels like a Wednesday. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are rolled into an orgy of cafes, beer and writing shit for the internet and invited contributions to things (yes, despite this blog people still invite me to write stuff – I don’t understand either).

When I first asked to go part-time in my previous job my boss looked worried. Supportive, but worried. That is, until I said that the day would be used to follow my science communication desires. So, if you are going to ask your boss if you can go part-time, make up something that sounds productive. That way they feel good about the decision even if you are planning to stay at home and see how many clothes pegs you can cram onto your genitalia before passing out.

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  5 Responses to “Part-time Scientist”

  1. Does that include long toilet breaks during the week

    • stapleton.aj

      That’s fine. if you spend 20% of your work time on the toilet – you are playing the system correctly!

  2. Hey Staples, how did you go part-time? I have been constantly wondering if this is a possibility in science or if I have to give it up to have some modicum of self development in areas not: placate the boss, get annoyed at equipment, sit in a chair stressing about how much I have to do before tuesday, and generally despair (so, you know, do a PhD).

    BTW, I ran the chemical murder mystery in 2013 and 2014 and you were definitely in it. 😀

    • stapleton.aj

      I went part-time by asking in the right way and, for my current job, negotiating it as part of the contract. I have been lucky that I have had very accommodating supervisors that have allowed me to explore other options outside of traditional academia. Asking for time off because you want to sit at home just wont work. Tell them you want to create or explore another opportunity.

      My part-time status will impact my academic career – no doubt. I will produce less papers and do less science. Even though I can write in grant application that I am part time, all that really matters (for the time being) is paper count and how much money you bring in. If you want to be a “successful” academic you have to give science your everything. If your goal is to be a scientist and do research, there is the opportunity to strike a work/life balance suited to your preferred lifestyle – you just have to ask the right person in the right way.

      Also, I am 5 years out from my PhD (my second post-doc) and have worked part-time for 2 of them. I’m not sure that I could have maintained the momentum for my PhD at a 0.8 fraction. But that is just me. It sounds like the balance for you isn’t right at the moment. Is there anyone you can talk to to try and push it closer to what you’d like?

      • I’m not so fussed about my phd being full time, more thinking to the future of what I want from my work. I think doing this part time would just mean it takes a non correlated further amount of time to finish it. But it’s good to know there are some bosses that might understand if I bring it up.

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