My CV of failures

So far, this has been a mentally tough year for me. I wrote a long post detailing all the difficulties, but then decided to erase it. The main reason why I’ve had a tough time, is that there have been too many opportunities, too many interesting directions to pursue, and I’ve ended up being snowed-under with work. And with me, too much work means that not much work gets done. But to complain about my own inability to satisfactorily organize my life, when I have the most freedom and security a person can have, would be juvenile and ungrateful. I am writing this post from a seaside café in Helsinki, while my daughter is playing with her father nearby. It breaks my heart to sit here in comfort and safety and think about my researcher colleagues in Turkey, not to mention academics from Syria and other conflict-ridden areas of the world.

I’m drafting a conference paper about the fear of being scooped due to sharing research outputs and have therefore been thinking a lot about the social side of open science. For me, adopting open by default attitude towards my work has been a no-brainer. I haven’t been communicating about it a lot lately, but it’s more due to humble progress than anything else. I personally feel zero fear, when it comes to opening my work. I’m not saying this to brag or blame, as I am very cognisant of the unique and privileged situation I’m in.

First of all I don’t consider the likelihood of being scooped very high: choice of research subject and the way I’ve formulated the research questions are the sum of years worth of personal experience and networking. In social science a research project can be as unique as a fingerprint: relationships with interviewees, understanding of the phenomena, familiarity with sources etc. cannot often be replicated (that makes the transparency of the process ever more crucial, but that’s another can of worms, not to be opened in this particular post). Secondly, if someone despite all tried to scoop me, it would be very easy to prove priority, both because of the one-of-a-kindness of the project and the public record on this blog and Zenodo.

Thirdly, and in my mind most importantly, I don’t care if I don’t make it as a professional researcher. If my refusal to pursue certain journals and career paths will result in a failure to get funding or positions, so be it. I’m a Finnish citizen. There’s been a lot of talk about the fall of the welfare state, but at least for now, it’s still very much a reality. I don’t have to worry about health insurance or pension. I’m covered just by existing. My daughter will get exactly the same good-quality education whether I’m unemployed or a professor at the University of Helsinki. There are additional personal reasons for my attitude: I’m not a competitive or career-driven person, and would be happy to be working on almost any kind of job, since I’m able to find intellectual fulfillment also outside of professional life. I consider myself a millionaire in terms of social capital, through networks of friends and family.

Because of this privileged position of mine, I don’t really see an alternative to open by default. Everything else would feel selfish and wasteful.

So, to pick myself up a little, celebrate all the good things I have, and to pay homage to struggling academics all over the world, I decided to write a CV of failures (inspired by Johannes Haushofer). It is a wonderful thing to be allowed to fail. I have probably forgotten many important failures, but I try to keep better record from now on, and make reporting failures more routine.

Heidi Laine

CV of (academy related) failures

Degree programs I didn’t get into

2014 & 2015
Paid position of doctoral student in the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change, University of Helsinki Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences

Research funding I didn’t get

Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Wihuri Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation, Kone Foundation

Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Wihuri Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation, Kone Foundation

Funding calls into which I put a significant effort as a consortia member and didn’t get funding

Horizon 2020 call: SEAC.2.2014 Responsible Research and Innovation in Higher Education Curricula

Tieteen tiedotus ry. funding call with a project proposal on a research pitch training tour & related events around Finland

“Crowdsourcing: engaging communities effectively in food and feed risk assessment” : OC/EFSA/AMU/2015/03


Considered applying for the European University Institute (EUI) PhD program, but finally decided against it partly due to laziness, partly because they require certificates that cost money. I could have afforded them, but I resent the general idea that I have to pay in order to apply for a position.

I didn’t apply for funding from the Emil Aaltonen and Wihuri Foundations this year. Just didn’t have the time and energy. And frankly it didn’t feel worth my while, since I suspect that once you have funding for dissertation from one Finnish foundation, the others won’t fund you.

I don’t have that many failures to report because of my junior status as a researcher, but also due to a maybe tad too slack attitude. I will do my best to keep on failing in order to make this CV more impressive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s