I agree completely. But what is the solution?
The essential driving force is that there are more persons wanting to pursueÂ research as a career than there are funding opportunities available. Those persons are in competition for limited funds since not everyone can be funded. The proverbial rat race occurs. Inevitably some lose out in this competition and must seek other career options.
The essential problem is that the necessities of maintaining fundingÂ makeÂ our research work a top priority. Whether that trumps family life is up to the individual to decide. Those who find the strain on their other interests (home life or evenÂ other hobbies) not worth the effortÂ sometimes find it necessary toÂ drop out of research.Â
Is this unique to research? No.Â Entrepreneurs starting and maintaining their own businessesÂ even more routinelyÂ make such choices. Like an entrepreneur, we make our own decisions that impact upon our ability to succeed. It is up to us to decide what must be done to continue and to act accordingly. And yes, part of that mayÂ include working harderÂ at the expense of our other activities, including home life. Â Â
Brutal, to be sure but what are the alternatives? Guaranteed funding for life for those lucky few with the right connections to land a plum job? This is the norm in some societies but does it represent the best way forward? It depends on where your opinion lies on the multiple scales of merit, fairness and humane lifestyles for those in the field.
Finally, allow meÂ some observations based on years of experience as a scientist. I know that IÂ might angerÂ some with these comments. But I really hope to provide advice to help most in their agonizing choices.
Always be aware that there is aÂ subpopulationÂ of humanity extremely driven to do science. They do not mind at all working over night and 12-16 hour days, by choice. It is their hobby and their life. They are driven to do so. 20-30 years ago, that description fit most everyone in science. Since then,Â science became a career choice for a larger number of people.Â That includes those seeking a 'more balanced' life as a scientist for which 12-16 hour daysÂ is decidedly not the choice. ButÂ they remain in competition for research funding with those more driven.Â
All is not lost though for those without that insane desire to pursue science at all costs.Â IÂ often seeÂ very successful scientists workingÂ eight hour days. First of all, you must be capable--there are many whoÂ work 16 hours/day andÂ accomplish nothing. They don't last long in the field and nor should they (which is why I am against long-term funding for the lucky few hand-picked in a random fashion). Secondly, pick aÂ research fieldÂ that is amenable to conducting 9-5 experiments in which you can produce enough data to be successful.Â Thirdly, don't pick a type of study in which more hours equates to more data. If you are limited by the amount of time it takes, say, a mutant mouse to grow, there isÂ an equal constraint upon your competition--they can't outwork you. It's now up to you to outsmart them. Fourth, science is not all competition. Collaboration makes for the best science. Make sure your research is of value to others who will work with you to further all of your efforts. But also try to make sure that this collaborative relationship is balanced--a collaboration in which you do all of the work is ultimately not rewarding for you.
I hope this helps out some of you.Â Balancing research with home life is not trivial.Â We all do research because we love it, But some love it more than others. The key is to recognize this reality and fit your research to your other needs.Â Â Â