Thursday, July 06, 2006

A moral victory

For fear of jinxing myself, I haven't been updating here with my academic progress. But oh!, there is (some) progress. Ever since I wrote about my lack of motivation, I have been - how do I say it? - motivated. Very strange, but very welcome.

Of course, working will lead to nothing but problems in the long run, and those surfaced recently.

In the course of doing some work in response to the reviews of my paper, I sent what should have been an innocuous email to Dr. Nice and Dr. Brilliant. I wrote that, when one of the assumptions we make was relaxed a bit, our results still held up very well, except in situation X. I continued on to say (my mistake! my mistake!) that this was very similar to the original results from situation X which we described in the paper.

This unleashed a flurry of communications, not all of which I was privy to, I'm sure, about how to present the results from situation X. Our results were neither surprising, nor terrible. When certain conditions are changed a bit, the results turn quite promising. However, situation X is a bitch, and there are few methods in our field which deal with situation X well. Suggestions were made about how to mitigate the less-promising results. These suggestions included re-running all of the work in the paper, using more favorable conditions. This prompted suggestions from me, which included everyone reading the entire freaking paper before we send it out next time, then signing in blood that no one would be allowed to suggest changes that the reviewers didn't even ask for. Oops, no, that's what I wanted to suggest.

Instead, I had a lovely conversation with Dr. Nice, during which I presented my view that we really shouldn't change the conditions, because that seemed of dubious ethical merit (for various reasons). I avoided using the word "ethics" but he got my point. I suggested finding some way to present the situation X results so that they wouldn't be mistaken for more general results. He suggested that Dr. Brilliant felt quite strongly about not presenting the results as they were currently shown. I suggested, jokingly, that next time I would perhaps not write so many updates to everyone, since had I not written the email, we wouldn't be having this conversation. He only laughed a bit. I left, thinking three things: I was glad that Dr. Nice would be talking to Dr. Brilliant instead of me, I wasn't sure what I would do if pushed to change the work, and finally, perhaps this was the encounter that we all needed for someone, anyone!, to realize that having three advisors for one student is simply not all it's cracked up to be.

Last night, I got an email from Dr. Nice. He had convinced Dr. Brilliant to go along with presenting the current results, but we would move the situation X results to a separate table. I get to keep my probably overly rigorous ethics intact, I don't have to redo lots of work and I am reassured that both Dr. Nice and Dr. Brilliant will do the right thing.

It's a good day.

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