My 2018

I’ve been lived in 2019 for almost 24 hours, but so procrastinated to sum my past year up and prepare myself for a new year.  So here I just briefly list what’s significant for me in 2018.

(after spending 5 minutes to clear the screen of my laptop)

  1. Keep mental health in the increasingly stressful academia. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about the lab I am working in, we enjoy the relaxed and freedom in our lab. But this intellectual environment cannot stop the chronic stress of academia penetrate into your life. The stress comes when it seems that all your peers published great papers but you don’t; when the future employers seem to only care about the impact factor of the journals you published and the number of your papers but you seem to unqualified, both in terms of quality and quantity. There are many statistics showing that there are more qualified people but few positions for them, young people on the social media also showed anxiety about their future. I can hardly be an exception. Nevertheless, I am still mentally healthy (also physically healthy, not gaining weight).
  2. Survived in a foreign culture. Culture matters. I can feel that some compatriots are really suffered emotionally because we are relatively isolated. As a Chinese adult, or East Asian more broadly, it is extremely difficult to have a comfortable friendship. By comfortable, I mean you don’t need to play really hard to maintain the relationship. The difficulty lies not in the characters of people, there are very nice people around. But it lies in the way to interact with people in a different culture. This problem becomes worse for a guy not so social and talkative as me. Even in China, I only have a few friends who were accumulated in years. So here it is even more difficult for me to get new friends, still, I am able to keep fit and optimism. That’s an achievement! I should thank my girlfriend, who makes me feel home, even when she is in Amsterdam.
  3. Feel much better for new projects. I come to the current lab from a different background (Thanks to my supervisor’s open mind). So in the beginning, I felt that everything is new to me. After about one year’s learning, I finally start to “do” something, instead of just learning. I felt that the new things I’ve learned in the past year are as many as half of what I’ve learned during my Ph.D.  I also found that learning new methods, paradigms are so interesting: it seems that you have new lens through which you see new things of the world.
  4. The unfinished projects during my Ph.D … are still not finished in the last year. My experiments during my Ph.D are still not published, though the data and results have been there for more than two years. That’s one aspect that I really don’t like academia: you have to wait years to make your research public. I always wonder: does the slow process of the “publication” mean that the experiments I’ve finished are actually not so important? Otherwise, why other groups haven’t done similar experiments and publish their results? Of course, it will be worse if the other groups indeed published similar results, but this makes me really doubt the value of what I have done. If it is only for making the publication list of my CV longer, then why should I do those meaningless kinds of stuff?
  5.  I am proud that I am still promoting open science. It becomes quite clear to me that many published papers are meanless and will never advance human knowledge (actually they can be worse because they are misleading and confusing, keep consuming more time, money and efforts of young graduates). So getting more people to know about the open science may actually be more valuable than publish some craps. In 2018, I published three papers related to this, the 1st introduced Bayes factor to Chinese colleagues, the 2nd reports the how psychological students and researchers misunderstand p-value and confidence intervals, the most widely used statistical index; the 3rd commented on the importance of open science to the legal system. Also, together with other colleagues and friends in China, we finished two more Chinese papers on open science, one introduced the reporting standard of meta-analysis, the other introduced how to calculate and report confidence intervals of effect size. These two papers mean something to me because they indicate more junior colleagues are jumping in the open science movement, I won’t feel alone.

Maybe, one most important changes for me in 2018 is about the future direction of my research and where we will live in the future (with my girlfriend).

In the past year, I always ask myself: what is my research question? what is my unique method. Now, it seems clearer to me that I like Bayesian statistics and cognitive models, that’s the methods that I should polish in the future. As for the research question, I have the feeling that I want to study the non-WEIRD population, especially those in a disadvantaged situation, study their mental health, brain, and how to improve their well-being. Maybe, I should work with sociologist some day.

One important decision my girlfriend and I have made is that she will go back to China after graduate from her master program in the mid of 2019, and I will stay abroad for two or three more years and then go back too. It’s an important decision, but also a natural decision. My girlfriend is the only child of her family, she feels the imperative to go back and look after her parents. For me, going back would provide me with a good chance to study the non-WEIRD population, because many Chinese people still in poverty and they need to be known. However, I should learn more before I become independent.

Farewell, 2018.

Hello, 2019, go!

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