2016 has been quite a ride so far. Half the year is gone now and I just got the fourth journal article accepted today (for the records, it’s June, 22nd, 2016). Given my track record so far in the last years, that’s an increase one cannot even calculate. Last year, around the same time, I was seriously considering alternatives to academia, as it was completely unclear, wether I would be able to meet the fundamental conditions of my tenure agreement. Neither the necessary amount of high-profile publications nor the mandatory research stay abroad were to be seen on the horizon. Surely, I had been working on getting out the results of the projects I completed over the last years and also had screened the my research community for groups potentially hosting me as a guest research — but neither of activities had come to fruition by then and I was fully occupied with finalizing the administrative details of the EU-funded project IANES, which I was responsible for at that time.
Fast forward one year, I’m currently sitting in the Netherlands, spending 10 months at Radboud university and HAN university of applied sciences as a guest researcher. This stay is funded by an Erwin-Schrödinger-Fellowship of the Austrian Science Funds, which provides my with complete freedom to pursue my research and fully focus on the topics I wanted to work on for years, but never found the time. And what’s more, 2016 has seen my publication efforts finally lead to tangible results — the four articles, which are already published, and quite a few more that are in their final stages of revision.
This rise in tangible output might seem strange — at least it is to me, when trying to looking at it from the outside. But ever since I finished the work on IANES in October, I managed to never get out of the habit of writing and — later on — revising. This finally led to submitting several articles in fall, of which three have appeared by now, together with the fourth one that already had been under revision earlier in 2015. Two more articles are currently in their final round of revision, and since I started my fellowship, I have submitted two more articles that already move beyond what I have been working on over the last years. This level of productivity retrospectively is sometimes perplexing, and I often wonder how long I will be able to keep up this pace. But one need to take the opportunity when it’s there — so I try to just let it happen.
There are already new opportunities showing up on the horizon — opportunities that might take me somewhere else content-wise and open new fields of research and artifact design. There is a perspective for me to remain in academia, being one of the few privileged, who can make a living from solely doing what they are interested in and love, and try to at least contribute a little to pushing the borders of what we know and what we can do. While this sounds really pathetic and maybe a bit far-fetched, it still has been what kept me going all these years. I was really lucky to meet people ever since I graduated, who let me pursue what I found interesting and necessary at the given time. There were a number of mind-boggling coincidences that shaped my way and kept me going into directions I never had imagined. And there is my family, who accepts and supports me in what I’m doing to an extent that must not be taken for granted (especially now, when I’m away most of the time).
Overall, after all this doubts and near-burnout-situations over the last years, I finally get the impression that what I’m doing might not only make sense to me but also to others, and that there indeed is a slight chance that my work will make a difference someday. If I’ve learned something over the last years, it might have been the realization that elaborate plans are only good to reassure others, but hardly ever have to do anything with how things actually work out. By now, I merely try to recognize opportunities, when they emerge — which is actually the hardest part — and then do nearly everything to realize them. This is what keeps me quite busy by now … and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time.