Daniel’s dictionary of Academic Life

Action: Something done by someone that leads to something else. Can lead to positive or negative outcome. For no negative outcome, see Inaction.

Breaking things in the lab once: Consequence of actually doing something in the lab.   Often happens in the process of acquiring competence. See also: Competence, Never breaking anything.

Breaking the same thing in the lab twice: Consequence of cockiness, stubbornness or incompetence.

Never breaking anything: Consequence of doing nothing. See Breaking Things Once, Competence or Not my Job.

Brownian research: the act of doing many things without ever going anywhere and completing anything. Results in being tired without having moved.  See also Bad Student but also sometimes applies to Research Scientist.

Business hours: the very short period between approximately  8:00AM and 5:00PM where we are bound by contract to do our work, whether we love it or hate it. See also Not Family Time, Coffee, Job and Not My Job.

Calendar: where the timing of important events should be kept.  Also see: “Not on the 6th page of a PDF sent in an Email Entitled “Newsletter #234″ to a Mailing List including Everyone at Work”, or more generally see “Not in a Bloody Email”.

Coffee: Secret ingredient for Business Hours.

Competence: a quality that gets acquired after having made many mistakes. See also Action, Breaking Things Once, or Things.

Data: Something counted in files, numbers, pages or kilograms (pounds in the US).  May or may not contain information. See Information.

Deadlines: things that make a whoosssshhhh sound as they fly by. See also Douglas Adams.

Debugging: In the first computers, bugs used to get stuck in relays and prevented them from operating properly.  Debugging meant removing bugs from the computer to make it work.

Discussion: human interaction that often leads to plans, accomplishments, project ideas and overall pleasure when doing it with nice people.

Email: A short or lengthy sequence of words sent over the Internet that gives many people comfort in thinking their job is done after they clicked «Send». Also an object that appears to give the sender the power to dictate an immediate response or immediate action from the receiver. Also an antonym for Discussion, Legs, Feet, Phone Call, Billboard, Announcement, Watercooler. Very often synonym for Inaction.

TO: The field to use in an email to indicate to whom we are writing. Typically, the greeting will include their names. They are expected to reply or do something following the email.

CC: The field to use in an email when we want the recipient to be aware of the communication with the person in the TO: field.  The greetings never include their names.  They are not expected to do anything following the email or reply to said email.

Excel Sheet: A file with squares in it.  Many squares depend on other squares, but they may also not be used by any other squares or any other Excel Sheet, or even any other person for that matter. It may sometimes be useful when filled with appropriate data that is processed by someone to extract information.  More often, leads to a PDF that gets emailed to people (See Email).  The owner of the Excel Sheet is rarely the one who has to provide the data to fill in the squares. The owner of the file may consider information gathering to be part of their Job or may also consider information gathering to be part of Not My Job, even if gathering said information is already elsewhere in another Excel Sheet (for an in-depth discussion, see Excel Sheet).  The owner of the file is never the one who has to analyze the data to extract information. The owner of the file is certainly never the one who needs the Excel Sheet in the first place. Is sometimes used to convey an opinion, such as: “He excels at sheet”, or “You don’t know Sheet?”.  See Data, Information, Not My Job, Email, Mailing List and Excel Sheet.

Family Time: period of the day to interact with loved ones, laugh, cook, eat, take a bubble bath, get or give a foot massage, play soccer or clean the house.  Should be maximized within contractual obligations.  See also Not business hours.

Funny: See clown or Joe Pesci.

Inaction: What needs to be done to avoid any negative outcome.

Incompetence: quality that those who have it don’t seem to appreciate they have it.  Also see Breaking Things Twice or Brownian Research.

Information: What gets extracted from data after a certain amount of work. Counted in actual bits.

Leading: Helping people or a team understand what they have to do to achieve a goal. Requires preparation.  See Bossing.

Bossing: Telling people to do stuff.  May or may not help in achieving a goal. Does not require preparation. See Leading.

Legs and feet: limbs that become atrophied when people start using email, Slack or messenger. When still operational and combined with Mouth, they are often better than a phone call and always better than an email.  See Email, Phone call or Discussion.

Mailing List: A list of people to annoy with an email.

Meeting: a privileged moment, limited in time, when 2 or more people can exchange information to inform/modify/modulate/change/plan/cancel/prioritize their actions for a particular goal they agree on.  Requires preparation to maximize Family Time, not Business Hours. Also see Not a Meeting.

Not a Meeting: Any moment, unbound by time, when people can shoot the shit without having to worry about consequences or about coming up with a plan of action. Can be fun outside business hours.

Job: Something people do even if it is not pleasing or takes time. Should be done during Business Hours.

Not My Job: Something people decide not to do. Can be justified or not, without regards to contractual obligations. Very often involves things that are lengthy, tedious and not pleasing. Also see Email.

Phone call: A privilege means of communication when a quick answer to a clear question is needed. See Not a Phone Call.

Not a Phone call: The unprepared rambling that follows the ringing of a phone when people think they can expect things from you immediately if they ask you repeatedly. Is sometimes used by the caller to clarify their own thoughts as they ramble on and on to the callee.

Recursive: See recursive.

Respect of others and their time: The reason you go to a meeting prepared and clarify your thoughts before a phone call.

Bad student: someone who does everything without ever completing anything. See Brownian Research.

Good student: someone who completes something. May become Very Good Student after acquiring Competence.

Very good student: someone who completes something and validates it. May become Excellent Student after acquiring Competence.

Excellent student: someone who plans, completes, and validates something. May become Outstanding Student after acquiring Competence.

Outstanding student: someone who plans, completes, and validates something, and then writes the paper that summarizes the process and the results. Is a synonym for Independent Researcher.

Summary: A short version of something. Must be shorter than the original version.

Team: The grouping of resources when people understand that you may go faster alone, but you always go farther as a team. Requires a Leader, but sometimes must make do with a Boss.

Things: Used to accomplish tasks.  Sometimes get broken. Many things are required to acquire Competence.

Time: precious resource that demands to be treated with respect in order to maximize the use of Business Hours and also maximize Family Time.      

 

Daniel Côté's laboratory at Neurophotonics Center, Centre de Recherche de l'Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Québec