Not Science

I’m currently working on revisions to a paper, in response to reviewers’ feedback that is — shockingly — mostly sensible. Some of that feedback subtly hints at the fundamental truth of the paper, which is that it is dismal fucking rubbish that should never be published, although the reviewers are so reluctant to just come out and say so that there is a danger it will eventually slip through, given appropriate revisions by me. I would really prefer not to, but there doesn’t seem much choice. The mill of science — or, frankly, “science” — must grind on.

This is not my work, though it overlaps. Everyone else involved, at least in a doing stuff rather than holding grants kind of way, has gone off to pastures new, slope-shouldered and defeated, muttering “Fuck this, I can’t take the bullshit anymore, I’m leaving science.” There is literally no-one left but me who can do what’s required. And — not unrelatedly — no-one who understands what the problems are, or why they even are problems.

Publishing this would be beneficial to the people at the dusty end of the byline, for whom all publications are valuable, irrespective of being total bollocks. The front-line authors will get the blame for the shoddy content, but they don’t care, for reasons already noted. Then there’s me. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Stuck in the middle without you.

To make this piece of junk publishable requires either a fuckload of work, or some level of dishonesty. Obviously, I have been aiming for the former, but the nature of this whole research monstrosity is that nothing ever fucking works, so it’s slow going. And the resubmission deadline is next week.

Making it publishable would also require an acceptance on the part of TPTB that some parts of the work are of extremely dubious value and need to be explicitly acknowledged as such, if not killed outright. This is a tough sell.

And meanwhile, of course, my own ostensible work is languishing unattended, growing even less relevant and worthwhile than it was to begin with, which was not very. But at least I vaguely know what I’m doing with it. Knew. Sort of.

The frustrating thing — one of the frustrating things, for there are many — one of the more-or-less infinite number of frustrating things — is that none of this is much of a surprise. Most of it just revisits the reasons I gave for resigning, in my sadly abortive attempt over a year ago. If I had stuck to my guns then, I wouldn’t be in this position now. Perhaps I would be in a much worse one — such counterfactuals are pretty unilluminating. But that lingering sense of “I told you so” really doesn’t help.