Be a Happyman


Have you ever heard about the Happymen group?

Two a priori taughts must gone after reading this name “Happymen”: i) it is a french movement and ii) this group aims at proposing actions and keys to reduce or suppress inequality between women and men, in both professional and personal environment. So “Be a HappyMan” means as well “Be a HappyWoman”.

You should have a look to the link (only in french, sorry), since the QUICS project is a Marie ITN that takes some special attention to fair research and hiring processes. Some nice tips about work and man/woman equality can be found there. For non-french reader, I will try to summarise the main objectives of this group I recentely discovered.

The main goal of this group is to ensure equality between women and men, while sharing tasks and responsibility at and outside work. As the starting point, this group initally states that better working conditions are mandatory to reach this goal. The “hard working man”, i.e. starting early, finishing late and competing with his colleagues in order to get quickly good promotions within a company, The initial statement of this group is not longer a suitable employee. While killing this politic, men would have more time available to take care of the familly (domestic task, child education) i.e. equally share the responsibilities at home. The name of the movement comes from here. Men will become “Happymen” while sharing more personnal moments at home and seeing their children grow. As a consequence, and for the same amount of work at home, women would have more flexibility and time to work and then, will deserve the same salary, promotion and carreer as the men. In one sentence, equality between women and men will start by less work load for men and obviously finish by an equal treatment of women and men at work.

Even if I’m not that old, I saw for a decade more and more pressure in the academic world to produce, produce, produce … For some stupid reasons, managers require indicators to rank researchers, universities, journals, etc. in order to assess the quality of research that each of you does. And the most enraging: most of the people I met for 10 years agree that this is crazy stupidity, but most of us are still following those rules.

Publish or Perish. Researchers, I paid you and I want to read your papers and to read a lot of them (more and more with years). And you author, how many good paper(s) are you able to get published every year? 1, 2, 5, 10, more? Same question for papers you deserve to be co-author …. Wait a minute before answering: I said a “good”. I mean a paper you are proud of it because it is a new idea you got while solving a real life problem, after reading the bibliography and the where the idea has been tested, validated and its robustness demonstrated with experiments. So, how many? Without MSc students, I’m not sure I can write one per year. It is far more complicated for co-authorship since a single contribution (during a short discussion) for a study might help a lot. PhD candidates are almost never supposed to publish more than a paper per year, but if you want to stay in the academic world, you will have to publish more after your graduation. So, how to do? … Work more, to publish more while keeping a “good” quality? Decrease the quality of your publication to publish more without working more? Settle some deals with colleagues to be co-author on their paper and vice-versa? … Ethical questions and problems are slowly but surely coming. More and more paper are available, with supposedly a decreasing quality and we have less and less time available to read and stay up to date in the state of the art. And how many papers can you read per week (to progress in your topic)?

How can you deal with such rules, requiring more and more of your time, always more than your employment contract stated, often more than can be socially acceptable? What is the maximal number of working hours (per week) you can accept to do on a regular basis? Can you be more productive if you work 60 hours a week? I do not have any answer to this question, even for myself. But I think every one should ask her/himself those questions and try to deal the best you can while keeping a good balance professional/personal lifes.

Even more than publications (and I didn’t discuss about co-authorship regulation), some other topics (different from the ones dealing by the Happymen group) require some attention: about the good (efficient) use of funding, collaborations between universities and companies, creation of companies based on public funded research, selection of attended conferences, etc. The list of issues requiring some deep reflection on ethics is endless.

Therefore, I invite you to think to all of these questions … when they pop up, it is often too late to answer in a consistent way (with your ethics) if you didn’t think in advances.

For more info on the header picture, see @biomatushiq’s blog.

by Mathieu Lepot, TU Delft.

Be a Happyman