I have absolutely no reason to participate in academics. I am not faculty. My job doesn’t require it. In fact, my job is full-time with no academic pursuits whatsoever. Anything I choose to do with regard to publishing, grant writing, mentoring, etc., I do in addition to my regular duties. I don’t have to produce my salary (at least, not with grants), and I don’t have the kind of freedom that being a “real” PI with grant money has. Even if I’m flush with external dollars and paying my own way, I still need permission to attend conferences and whatnot.
No one really reads the papers I write. At least, I don’t think. A paper I published in 2010 on simulation now has a total of three citations, and one of them is me. Another published in 2012 has 5, and I think 3 of them are me. Other simulation work gets cited. Mine is just, well, unimportant. Apparently. It’s not particularly insightful or generalizable. It’s just work. Here’s a thing I did. Essentially case studies. Case studies aren’t evidence.
I can make a difference just doing my work in my hospital. Why am I taking up space in journals? Why am I writing grants and competing with real academics for finite funding resources?
Vanity. I want to be important. I want to be special. I want my friends on twitter to think I’m one of them: an academic producing valuable insights into the world and pushing back the frontiers of ignorance. But I’m not. I’m just a quality improvement engineer who models health care and tries to make his hospital go a little better. I can do that without wasting everybody’s time writing unread reports in minor periodicals. Without siphoning off much-needed grant money from people for whom it represents their livelihood.
I have vague ambitions that I will one day have a real academic post, or that my position here will turn into one. To do that, I’ll need to demonstrate academic credibility. But I don’t actually need any of that. I’m effective and comfortable where I am. I’ve written before that if I have this job for the remainder of my career, I’ll be happy with it.
I just don’t want to leave this world with no written record of my existence in it. I want to have a bibliography that says I was here. I did something useful, for a while. I wasn’t just a drunk who wasted space and time and talent and potential. I was here. That’s my vanity. I want people to know I was here.