That was the year that was

And so we come to late December and that point where the changing of the calendar causes us to stop, ponder and pontificate about the events of the previous 365 days. For me this is a potentially dangerous moment, where the descent into introspection, especially in public, could result in melancholy and feelings of under-achievement. I am not someone who flees from danger, however, preferring instead to engage with it head on, giving the source of the danger a damn good thrashing if necessary.

The professional doings of 2013, then from the Langley-Evans perspective…
How do we measure success from an academic point of view (this will not necessarily be the official view of the University where other ‘metrics’ may also be applied)? Well for me the big three have to be 1) Did I publish some papers?; 2) Did I obtain any grant money? and 3) Did I do anything that helped enhance the careers of other people? On point 2) I have to confess that the answer is a miserable ‘no’, but this I will not dwell upon as this pushes me tottering to the Precipice of Self-doubt, on the Cliffs of Self-destruction that lie on the upper slopes of Mount Crap. Point 1), is a resounding ‘yes’. Lots of papers were published with the Langley-Evans moniker upon their title page and to be honest, some of them were actually very good. Point 3) went well too, we had new people join the group, and hopefully that is a first step on a grand and positive change of career for Sarah E, Bashair and Lujain (our new PhD students). Sam Ware completed her long voyage to her PhD. In addition to all of this I spent a lot of time mentoring colleagues, helping some make decisions about applications for promotion, about applications for jobs elsewhere and about their longer-term development as academics. I really enjoyed that and rate those activities as the most satisfying and potentially useful things I did this year.
Alongside all of that I did a few other things. I taught a full academic year which included the first runs of the new MSc Nutritional Sciences. I took part in I’m a Scientist (did I mention that I won?). There were some useful exchanges with collaborators in various parts of the world, especially Milan. I became editor in chief of a journal for the first time and embarked on a programme of change there that I would love to duplicate in other parts of my professional life. I finally understood the point of social media (the point is that there is no point). There was a lot more circulation through parts of the University that I don’t normally interact with. I made lots and lots of plans for what I will do with my sabbatical in 2014. And a little thing called REF got completed.
Now that the year is coming to an end I look back on it with a degree of fondness, a little amazement that it was as productive as it was, and also a healthy measure of relief. Things were a bit hairy in the summer as I seriously contemplated jacking it all in and taking my services elsewhere. Some colleagues have done just that. In the end the opportunity I was chasing took itself away and so I didn’t have to make a decision, but nonetheless I had gone through the options, weighed up the risks and benefits, a process of self-analysis that made me go more than just a bit crazy for a while. And coming out of the other side I feel stronger and more positive, champing at the bit to tackle the things that annoy me about my job and make them better. Most importantly of all I remembered that work is a means to an end. Real life things are far more important. 
2014 will be brilliant (maybe).

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