Thursday, July 9, 2009

Manager Mode

I just submitted a proposal to NASA, as did one of the research scientists that I support. They will be reviewed by the same subpanel of the same program, and will be ranked relative to each other when the final funding decisions are made by the NASA HQ discipline scientist. It’s kind of weird directly competing with another proposal not only from the same department but also from the same group.

This brings me to the concept of “manager mode.” Three years ago, when I was research faculty instead of instructional faculty, I had time to write my own code, do my own simulations, analyze my own data, compare my own model results with the data, and write my own papers. I cannot do this now. The teaching and service loads of an instructional faculty (now tenured, as of 2 months ago!) greatly limit the time I have to do any of those things. Plus, I am expected to maintain a research group. I think I have done pretty well creating one. Three years ago it was me and 2 grad students. Now it is me, 2 assistant research scientists, 4 grad students, and 1-3 undergrad students (2 this summer). Funding all of these people is a major priority in my life and so writing proposals is a constant activity. Proposals usually have hard deadlines, so these often take precedence over everything else for a week or two when such a deadline comes up. Meeting with all of these people is a major time commitment as well. The undergrads need a few minutes (perhaps an hour) every day, the grad students and research scientists a few hours once or twice a week. Between proposals and managing the people in my group, most of my time allocation for research activities is spent. Another chunk of time is spent in peer review. Whereas I used to say yes to every request, I often say no to paper reviews not, not doing more than one every month or two. Proposal reviews I do every time, though, and this takes some effort to do it right. Another chunk of my research time allocation is spent at conferences, which takes away a whole week every now and then.

All of this leaves very little time for me to do my own research. That’s especially true during the school year, when the constant deadline of the next lecture or homework set posting is usually just a day away (and the various departmental committees are active). During the summer months, I now look forward to getting something done. Last summer I wrote 2 first-author papers. The summer before...2 papers. This summer...nothing so far. It’s July 9th; I have less than 2 months to get stuff done. Luckily, this week and next are now fairly open, and I hope to spend a lot of time making plots and writing text.

Do I like “manager mode”? Yes. I like teaching, and that is essentially what I am doing with both my students and my research scientists. My publication rate is actually higher now than before, counting all of the coauthorships on manuscripts. But, that said, yesterday afternoon was very satisfying: I spent it writing code, running the model, and making plots. those results with data. Life is good.

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