Scientists are human beings too

I wish – I really, really wish – some of the arrogant fu©king a$$hats in the quantum information and foundations community could spend a couple of days in my shoes.  I have spent four years working very hard on the The Quantum Times, having done a lot of favors for a lot of people in that time (I wonder if they even realize how much time goes into it).  All I ever asked for in return was to be treated with respect.  A little time spent helping me get a paper published or – gasp – even collaborating didn’t seem like too much to ask.

Now, I have a life too – incredibly energetic kids, including one with Asperger’s, bills to pay (or try to pay), a long commute (to go with a longer story), not to mention diagnosed ADD and OCD (there, I said it) – so I know the demands life places on people.  I haven’t taken a vacation to a place without relatives (parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) since 1998.

But, instead, I could paper my walls with e-mails from people in the QI community saying something to the effect of “sorry, I don’t have any time.  But could you do X for me?”  As a result some journals can’t even find reviewers for my papers (apparently the reviewers don’t even respond to the journal when they’re dealing with papers by me).  And now, despite having spent a fu©king fortune to get to QIP 2010, I have been denied the opportunity to even present a (mainstream, non-controversial, and, in the form currently in possession of the Program Committee chair, error-free) poster there.

I have even seen my ideas ever-so-subtlely incorporated into other people’s papers with no reference at all to my work or, sometimes, to actual conversations I’ve had with these people about the topic at hand (which usually warrants an acknowledgement at the very least).  The evidence for priority is on the arXiv but it does little good if the community decides to simply ignore it.  How would they like it if I simply ignored their requests for my assistance when they need it with The Quantum Times?  It’s oh-so-wonderful to know I put forth a genuine effort for people who accord me virtually no respect and are not particularly interested in interacting with me unless they need something.  And don’t even get me started on the tone of reviewer comments.  Criticism is one thing, but why is it so rarely supportive or constructive in tone?  Even for complete cr@p there’s no need to be condescending and nasty.  I have a hard-earned PhD from a respected institution.  I’m not an idiot (and I’d be willing to bet most of these people couldn’t hold a candle to me in the classroom).

But I’m human and four years of being treated like this has proven to be psychologically wearing.  They should try rejection and invisibility and see how they hold up.  I’m sure more than one would crack under the psychological pressure.

But I’ve run out of things to say and I’m sure no one has even read this far so I’ll just stop typing now.


13 Responses to “Scientists are human beings too”

  1. Schrodingers_dog Says:

    “I have even seen my ideas ever-so-subtlely incorporated into other people’s papers with no reference at all to my work”

    Could you give us some names or published articles that have done this?

  2. quantummoxie Says:

    I’ll send you a private e-mail with a couple of references. I’d rather not call them out publicly just yet since I have to work with these people on a somewhat regular basis and I’m not ready to burn any bridges yet.

  3. quantummoxie Says:

    OK, know what? There is one I can publicly bitch about. I’ve spent four years screaming about there being a link between entanglement and the second law of thermodynamics and have been generally ignored (it is well documented on this site). Among the many journals to have rejected it, one included Proc. Roy. Soc. A. Interestingly enough, the member of the editorial board charged with handling my paper for said journal was the second author of this paper which, after mine had been rejected, was subsequently published in Nature. While the approach is completely different from mine, they present the core idea that these two phenomena are related, as being original to them when there is ample evidence it is not (not only do I have several papers on the arXiv about it, I’ve presented this idea to several APS audiences over the years). The timing is mighty suspicious. I wouldn’t be as angry if the second author hadn’t been tasked with handling my paper during one review session.

  4. Impossible not to sympathize.

    You’ve mentioned in the past that you’d like to work with Brukner. He has, of course, been involved at various times with Vedral, who has a not inconsiderable interest in connections between entanglement and thermodynamics.

    Just scratching my head. Feel free to ignore.

  5. quantummoxie Says:

    Yeah, Caslav looked over an early draft of my Cerf-Adami paper and saw one of my presentations on it at an APS meeting back in ’07. There’s a whole Facebook group dedicated to Vedral’s general awesomeness. Unfortunately, I have the whole Charlie Brown aura about me so getting anyone to pay attention to me (except when they need something) is difficult.

    Let me put it this way. I actually offered two of Barry Sanders’ former post-docs tenure-track positions and was turned down so they could remain in limited-term positions in the middle of a recession. We flew one guy in from LA which cost a bloody fortune (my Dean was not pleased he turned us down).

  6. Maybe you should grow a beard and practice colorfulness. Wear kilts, which you appear to have some warrant for doing. Learn to play the pipes (if you don’t know how already). Feature tunes like those the kid at Cornell whomped up with hamsters and Markov strings (insist it’s pure quantum randomness). The Quantum Piper. Expand your capacity (everyone has it) for faux bonhomie.

    Vlatko’s just a drama queen. I’m certain you have it in you too.

  7. My wife won’t let me grow a beard. I’ve always wanted one, though. My dad’s got a nice one (that’s white now). I shall be adding a kilt to my ensemble fairly soon since there is an official one that goes with my PhD robes (but I waited for my suit to finally wear out).

    And I am highly eccentric already (these guys know me at meetings by the hat I tend to wear – an Indiana Jones kind of number). If I were any more eccentric they’d be sending me to shrinks.

  8. Okay. Back to the drawing board.

    FWIW I’ve suspected a certain underacknowledgement factor in the avian magnetoreception field. A certain individual fairly recently co-authored a paper dealing with that topic. No mention was made of a fine paper from a year previous by an obscure young Greek academic (given a thumbs up by Matthew Donald on his quant-ph readings webpage — qualified somewhat by the author’s failure to embrace many-worlds, but that’s M. Donald for you).

    Somehow I feel Thatcher-Reaganism’s to blame, but on reflection that was probably just a symptom, not a cause. Maybe it’s all about Original Sin. Anselm’s acolyte Augustine had some things to say about that. Not that I buy any of that stuff.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas.

  9. Oops, wrong saint. I was thinking of Ambrose.

    Augustine has a neat story about the first time the two encountered one another. It was in the library at Milan. Augustine was amazed that Ambrose was reading IN SILENCE.

  10. Wow, that sucks. I’m not surprised, though. We have this idea that, as scientists, we’re above pettiness but we’re not.

  11. I would forget about trying to impress the QIP community. With very few exceptions, they are nasty, narcissistic people. I’m sure you can find friendlier communities than that. I’m not saying that you should stop doing physics. Just do it for fun without caring about their approval. if you need feedback, find a friend or two that will give it to you (Not me tough. i’m too busy. Just kidding)

  12. I really don’t care about impressing anyone. I just want to be acknowledged for the work I have done. The thing that pisses me off is that I’ve been working in the QIP community for several years and do favors for these people but I get squat in return.

    I certainly won’t give up on physics considering I’m a tenured department chair. But the problem is that my interests and expertise lie in quantum physics for the most part. I suppose I could go back to cosmology, but it’s just not where my interests lie at the moment.

  13. […] Quantum Pariah or something like that.  If you’ve read the blog recently, you may have read this post about my problems with QIP 2010.  Well, after appealing to the Chair of the Program Committee as well as the Chair of the […]

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