An Academic Christmas Carol: Part 5

Posted December 27, 2014 by Emily Dolson in Humor, Work/Life Balance / 0 Comments

Missed the beginning? Parts 1, 23, and 4.

Part 5

The scene before Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Present shifted. Now, they were in an ornately decorated room with lively music playing and a large Christmas dinner laid out on the table. The house belonged to Fred Hollowell, and was filled with his collaborators, friends, and all of their families. As Scrooge looked on, he was struck by vibrancy of the conversations and the diversity of people having them. The scientists in the room were not immediately identifiable by their appearance; men and women of a wide variety of ethnicities were represented, and conversation among groups seemed to zig-zag back and forth between seemingly unrelated topics, many of which seemed to have nothing to do with science at all.

Scrooge wandered over to a set of chairs where Fred was entertaining some of his guests. “He said that Christmas was a humbug. He believed it, too!” Fred was reporting, to copious laughter from those assembled around him. “He’s really a comical old fellow, and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offenses carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him.”

Fred’s wife, Janet, added, “Well, I’m sure he has many publications, Fred. At least you always tell me so.”

“But his wealth of discoveries is of no use to him,” countered Fred. “He doesn’t do any good for the world with them – no one outside academia will ever find them buried behind all of those paywalls. He doesn’t take personal happiness from them – as soon as he’s achieved the minimum publishable unit he sends the paper out and moves on to the next incremental improvement. And I sincerely doubt he would ever consider benefiting the broader scientific community with them by collaborating with people like us!” Everyone laughed again at this last suggestion.

“Well, I have no pity for him,” said Janet resolutely.

“Oh, but I have! Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always. Here, he takes it into his
head to dislike us, and he won’t come and celebrate with us. What’s the consequence? He loses some pleasant moments and stimulating scientific conversation. I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not. He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure, and it would be ungrateful not to drink his health. Here’s to Dr. Scrooge!”

Despite his mild disgruntlement at this conversation, Scrooge couldn’t help but smiling to himself. Everyone just seemed so happy! And the ideas being discussed around the room were so intriguing! The care that these scientists took to be inviting and accessible to all types of people had resulted in an excellent community, and Scrooge felt a pang of remorse for never having been a part of it. He turned to look back at the Spirit of Christmas Present, only to find that he had vanished, and the warm lights of the party were slowly faded away, to be replaced by the dim light of Scrooge’s bedroom.

To be continued…

Emily Dolson

I’m a doctoral student in the Ofria Lab at Michigan State University, the BEACON Center for Evolution in Action, and the departments of Computer Science and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, & Behavior. My interests include studying eco-evolutionary dynamics via digital evolution and using evolutionary computation techniques to interpret time series data. I also have a cross-cutting interest in diversity in both biological and computational systems. In my spare time, I enjoy playing board games and the tin whistle.

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