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3 min read

The Stress of Research: a Collaborative Pastiche that Resulted from a Twitter Thread that Got a Little Carried Away

(To be sung to the tune of the Paul Simon song The Sound of Silence)

This turned out to be one of my most productive exchanges on Twitter I have ever had. It started as a joke, presumably, when @mcclare95, self-described ‘#1 JStor fan’, tweeted ‘hello jstor my old friend’ on 31 August. This started off a hilarious thread when the official JStor account retweeted this, leading to a collaborative writing exercise that ended up with the following pastiche of the famous Simon and Garfunkel song. One of the participants of this thread compiled it into a blog post. This is the complete version, rendered here first as the thread of tweets, but later compiled and edited to make it look more presentable. My sincere thanks to all those involved who made this such an enjoyable conversation. I really enjoyed making light of the things that torment us in academia so much, like the drudgery and stress of research, the increasing workload and demands on teaching, the admin, et cetera.

The Full Lyrics:

Hello JStor my old friend.
I’ve come to search in you again.
Because a reference softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was reading
And the paper that was gnawing at my brain
Still remains
Within the stress of research.

Through restless links I searched alone
Papers from journals I do not own.
Beneath the halo of my desk lamp
I turn my collar to the research lab.
When my eyes were stabbed by the pain of a sleepless night
As I tried to write
Through the stress of research.

And in the flickering light I saw
Ten thousand deadlines, maybe more
Full profs writing without teaching
Adjuncts teaching without listening
Students writing talks for conferences never shared
And no one dared
Within the stress of research.

Post-doc said ‘Ah, you do not know,
Research like a cancer grows.
Hear my words and I might teach you
Read my diss’ and it might reach you.’
But my sources, like undergrads, they failed.
Adding to the stress of research.

Then the faculty bowed and prayed
To bureaucratic gods they made,
And the REF flashed out its warning:
Low impact scores were alarming.
And the graphs and the words from students were projected on the classroom walls
And lecturing halls;
Folks breaking under stress from research.

Acknowledgements: My sincere thanks to Clare (@mcclare95), the official JStor twitter (@JSTOR), Thony Christie (@rmathematicus) and Eric Keeton (@w0wkeeton) for their contributions to this thread. In particular, I’d like to thank Thony for compiling the first half of this thread in his blog post. Thony has a fascinating blog about mathematics and the history of science, which makes for fascinating reading.