The End of Another Notebook


I'm assuming most people like to gauge their productivity at work in some way or another- maybe certain people like to look at manuscripts published, grants submitted, money awarded, or maybe people just like to acknowledge the passing of time (aka I've been here 2 years, so I must have done something useful?).

I measure my productivity in notebooks.

I am a bit of a lab notebook freak. I keep a beautiful notebook- well laid out, informative, attractive, thorough, and easy-to-follow. My notebooks offer hypotheses, detailed experimental procedures, results, and conclusions for each experiment. Let me be immodest for a moment and tell you that I often receive compliments on my notebooks.

My notebooks are 152 pages each. They house approximately one experiment per page. This morning, I came to the end of my third notebook. So that's a good 450 experiments. For those of you who aren't doing work in biology- that's a shitton of experiments because we're talking about multi-day operations here.

Notebook 1 = 16 months
Notebook 2 = 6 months
Notebook 3 = 6 months

So, I've got all of these notebooks, stuffed to the motherfucking nuts, and I've got *zero* submitted manuscripts. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

What motherfucking good is it to be this productive when you don't produce coherent, reproducible stories?!!? And so, with the end of my third notebook comes serious depression, and maybe a bit of a kick in the ass.

WHY do I have three notebooks worth of data and no submitted manuscripts?

1. We've got a lot of funding here, and I make a point to work on high-risk projects. I figure that if I can't do it here, then I can't do it anywhere. And, as it turns out, I often can't do it. Often, the shit just doesn't work. And of course I persevere tooth and nail because that's the way I am, which just draws out the long and painful path to failure.

2. The shit I work on is not particularly reproducible. I get big error bars and redo certain experiments many times in order to feel confident about the data I'm presenting.

3. Sometimes, I am so focused on the short-term goals of the project, that I forget about long-term goals and do experiments that are unnecessary and/or inefficient and/or unable to answer the questions I am asking.

4. Sometimes, I bite off more than I can chew. I am not a molecular biologist, and neither is anyone else in my lab, so I really didn't have any business getting involved with Western blots, PCR, etc this past year. Should it really take 6 months to figure out why your Western blot isn't working? No, it should not. Fuck.

And so, that is how I manage to be productive without being productive. I promised myself that I would submit 3 manuscripts by June of this year. Fail.

Fail, fail, fail.

Lately, I just feel like a big failure.

I need to pull my head out of my ass and figure out a way to turn at least some of this data into a couple of stories.

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