As a few of you may already know from the Science meets Society “interview” with me (from SMS’s published German version that is), Sascha Vongehr has finally left the postdoctoral limbo and entered the assistant professor position limbo at one of the best universities that the new international leader in science and technology has to offer, being also basically the leader here in my field of nanotechnology: Nanjing University (precisely same workplace as described before). Tenure track is what I am told this effectively is, and such it is for any Chinese, because socialism cares about people having stable jobs, however, as a foreigner I have of course a more fragile position (does not matter how much the university likes me if the visa officer has reason to kick me out).
Officially, I am now an assistant research fellow, at least I think it is, or perhaps not, that depends on how you translate the official term 副研究员, but it is on the same level as assistant professor in the university hierarchy - just more research instead of teaching classes. I do not really care about any of this title stuff and what it may mean; what counts is that the deal could hardly be any sweeter in terms of both, academic freedom and the reasons for why I got this position, which as far as I am concerned could not prove my scientific reputation any better. First about the reasons:
I did and do not teach, so it is not a “look we have a foreigner and teach courses in English” kind of ‘white-meat’-deal (which are sadly plenty in China). I never apply for grants, so it is none of this “the guy brings us heaps of money” crap that nowadays corrupts academia. I do not even help with the English language; in fact, I refuse all requests of improving English anywhere if I am not directly involved in the research, my usual reply often being something like “Sorry, me German, English so so badly, why not ask the guys from Pakistan next door, they are native English speakers”. Hey – stop laughing, that isn’t telling no untruths now or is it? I am truly puzzled how my answer evokes a disgusted angry look sometimes.
The reason for getting the position cannot possibly be my publication record, which is usually the most important criterion, since due to my whistle blowing activities and critical writings (and by now also due to having this Science2.0 column by the way), all of my better papers are rejected by even just medium impact factor journals (see more on my being more and more censored here).
The reason for me getting this position is pure science. Those that collaborated with me over the last four years do not want to see me go, not one step, as they know hands on what I have to offer. I know an amazingly large heap of science by now after doing little more but studying for more than 20 years and I can think scientifically like few others, period. I helped to get over twenty articles published, my name appearing often third like that of somebody who happened to hang around at the pizza parties, but those responsible know that many of the projects would not have succeeded without me sitting down and ripping them apart, which is actually what I usually do.
I am seldom involved in the initial stages of projects, which are mostly toiled at while I am pondering quantum totality or consciousness. These days, my contribution usually starts at the paper-draft stage, when most results are already in and an explanation has perhaps already been attempted. That is where I come in, a secret weapon, and a devastatingly destructive one mostly, which at times turns a jumble of contradictory observations into a semi-coherent image plus a list of what still needs to be done.
And this brings us to why the new position is such a sweet deal in terms of academic freedom: Since it worked well for four years, my role is to precisely keep doing what I was doing! And that is marvelous, because what I was mainly doing is unpalatable quantum relativity consciousness stuff and much worse philosophy still, hardly ever to do with nanotechnology, and if related, mostly critical and thus unpublishable in today's peer-review mess. Eat my shorts all you ivory tower careerists busy writing grant applications in between preparing for conferences and giving lectures to students who couldn’t care less, forever fearing to say some wrong words to the wrong guy and lose citations.
People have warned me that with my attitude, I will be exterminated from academia and science already ten years ago. But roaches are hard to kill. Sure, they will exterminate me eventually; the more insightful I become, the more people will try to axe me, but for now, ...