Dear Santa Science

Dear Santa

I know you’re pretty busy around this time of year but there’s a lot of things that we science-y academic types would love to get for Christmas. For many of us it has reached the stage where it is easier to believe in Santa than well-funded basic research. And PhD studentships on a grant? Better off waiting for your colleague the Easter Bunny. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve given up. Far from it so here are some of the things that would make science academics rather happy if they were to appear in their Christmas safety boots on the big day.

  1. Some gift vouchers. We know that hard cash with no strings is impossibly difficult to stuff down our fume cupboard vents, but how about some in-kind support? We could accept gift vouchers for hours of research assistant time, time to use the big shiny facilities at Rutherford Appleton lab or other big instruments, or to book ourselves into a nice relaxing, pampering conference trip.  And if the gift vouchers helped with pedagogical research, even better!
  2. Marking Elves. It’s possible that your elves go into hibernation in January, recovery from the Christmas rush and all, but if any have anything left to give, how about a few elves to help put the ticks on all of the excellent student work we’ve got to get through in January? Just a little bit of support for those of us staring down 3 exam papers (180 students in total), 4 assignments (200 students in total) and a bit more…
  3. Time off. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, we’d quite like some down time over the Christmas period. We’d like you to take away the guilt that we might feel in not checking our email multiple times a day. Failing that, I refer you back to number 1 and include the possibility of gift vouchers for a remote hotel in the wilds of Scotland, a place where the internet has not yet reached, yet with ample supplies of whisky.
  4. Small scale funding. Forget the big projects for a moment and let us talk about how many times we’ve said no to students asking for summer research experience. How many times we’re making the calculation of ‘can we apply for this research bursary or that research bursary and will they fund this project with this student?’. Lets consider that research experience in the summer months is vital to engage our students with the world beyond exams and lectures, and give them an idea of what we do when we’re not lecturing. And let’s see some more schemes to get students into research placements. It costs about £2000 per student for 8 weeks, with £180 per week for the student and the remainder in consumables. No, we’re not mocking with the consumables – we do actually have to by palladium to make some projects work.
  5. Even smaller scale funding. I have 200 student questionnaires on my desk. I have to analyse them by January 11th. I then have 150 different student questionnaires on my desk for analysis by January 18th. If the elves have time between doing the toy thing and helping with marking, it would be grand if they could type data into a spreadsheet for me. I had come up with a way to do this and give students a research type experience. I could split the questionnaires into work packets worth £180 for completion and get lots of students involved. It could be done easily in that time, and checked and verified. Except I don’t have 10 lots of £180 to make it happen so I’m looking forward to some quality time with my laptop over the next few days in the shadow of my Christmas tree.

Hope you have a good rest after zipping around the world with all of those parcels.

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