Doesn't that make you happy to be alive? That makes me feel great about all those essays I marked this week. To cheer me up, I can look forward to a lifetime pay gap of £423,000, if I make it to a managerial position. My university is feeling very pleased with itself because it now has gender equality in the strategic plan. Huzzah! That'll make all the difference then.
One of my reasons for starting this rant is that I just filled in the form to apply for reduction in my expected REF outputs. You may recall me blogging about this before when it appeared that those who took a period of maternity leave would be expected to produce the same number of publications over the 4 year period as those who did not. Luckily the REF people saw sense and decided not to pursue this policy and now people who have been off work get a reduction in the number of papers they were expected to write.
What made me snort (loudly) was there was also a box to fill in asking you to record any other factors which might affect your work (like breastfeeding or maternity). Sleep deprivation? General distractedness caused by raising a small person? Babies don't just go away once they are born. Turns out they grow into toddlers who also need looking after. Apparently this state of affairs continues for some time. Like 18 years or so.
What bothers me about this is that research careers (and in the UK, REF is one of the main ways of measuring research success) are built on hours of dedicated work above and beyond contracted hours. If you have small children (or indeed are caring for other family members) you don't have any extra hours. None. (If you want a further depressing read, here's an article on the impact of child rearing on female academics.)
What I want to know is this: why do academics feel compelled to work so hard? I can understand the lure of data analysis and the pursuit of new knowledge That's exciting work, worth doing and worth spending spare time on it. But applying for more and more funding for projects you don't really want and writing more and more obscure papers? That's make-work. I refuse to spend my very precious working hours on it.