Saturday, 24 March 2007


Back at work today. First on my desk ready for typesetting is a book edited by Dr Pee.

Dr Pee is a slimy git and I have thought a lot about the best way to take revenge. I have cruised around, late at night, on revenge sites, trying to create a perfect strategy. I considered a dead fish through the post, but this would be hard on the fish. I'd have to interact with it as well, so Dig would ask, 'Why do you smell of haddock?' and then I'd have to fess up that I was posting it to Dr Pee. Dig would go bonkers and that would be that. And then what do I do with the haddock? Put in the bin? Trisha, the neighbour's cat, would think it'd died and gone to heaven come bin day. More thinking needed. And a tin of sardines didn't seem to have quite the same impact.

Then I thought Dr Pee might be a bit of a puritan, and probably properly married, so I thought about a packet of fishnet tights with a lewd message stapled to the top, delivered to his home address. But that would be revenge on his wife, and I don't want to take revenge on her. She already has to live with the slimy git and I reckon that's torture enough for anyone.

Of course any revenge strategy has to be remote. Everything's done by email or post or phone, so I never see Dr Pee. Only once. Within five minutes he could see I wasn't necessary to his peer review process and he ignored me. This is a trait I've noticed in academics. They mostly fall into two categories. Not all, of course. I believe there are some genuine, inspiring thinkers and doers who work hard at exploring their discipline and at communicating with colleagues and students. They probably never get past lecturer grade. Because to rise up the academic hierarchy, I think you have to be one of two sorts. Dr Pee is the former.

Dr Pee is an empire-builder. These people gather round them a set of sycophantic cronies and build up a complex interwoven area of study which, if they're lucky, develops into a sort of sub-discipline in its own right.

For example, Top dog 1 creates a niche area of research, and invents a few new terms along the way. Crony Dog starts to build his career about this new area, probably doing supportive research or a few menial back-office jobs to ingratiate themselves, and in this way they'll lead up to a co-publication. Crony Dog 2 sees a few advantages in this, as do Crony Dogs 3 and 4. Suddenly there's a movement, or a group, and they start to weild a bit of pressure on publishers, who, sniffing something new in the academic world, start to give in to a few demands. Top Dog is gaining a wider reputation, and more and more Crony Dogs are building their careers out of it all. Everyone jealously guards their patch. Stray onto it and it's the 'Is he one of us?' test. If you're prepared to do service, grovel appropriately, and look after Top Dog, you're in.

The second type of academic sometimes grows out of this group, or you can find them independently operating. They are vicious. They augment their own arguments by undermining the arguments of their opponents, sometimes using personal attack, snide insult and outright abuse to get there. For them, life's a battle, and they probably consider themselves to be gladiators and think the rest of us should be polishing their armour or fetching more lions. If challenged, they'll puff out and start off with huffy stuff like 'In all my 25 years of academic publishing, I have never been asked to...' what they claim they have never been asked to do is probably check their own artwork or obey the requirements for publication.

So I'm sitting here, grumbling to myself about academics and wondering how to exact revenge on Dr Pee, and not on Dr Pee's wife. Poor cow. Any revenge strategies gratefully received.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Rotten cabbage instead of the fish?

Just think of the money he will pay you. And at least you don't have to see him. Odious creatures are always better being remote.