CV of failures by Desiderio Cano Porras


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In November 2010, Dr Melanie Stefan, now a lecturer at the Edinburgh Medical School, published in Nature an article about a curriculum vitae (CV) of failures [1]. Following a failed fellowship application, Dr Stefan wrote this column inviting researchers to keep an alternative and visible CV with the records of rejected applications and refused proposals, with the aim to help other scientists dealing with failures and setbacks that may eventually lead to depression. Her article ends up saying about the CV of failures: “…it will remind you of the missing truths, some of the essential parts of what it means to be a scientist – and it might inspire a colleague to shake off a rejection and start again”.

I got aware of the idea of writing a CV of failures in April 2016, through a tweet by Dr Johannes Haushofer, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He courageously published a very particular and inspirational resume of failures [2] on his webpage. It was interesting to see that others have had an idea of this kind, even including a section of “rejections & failures” in their actual CV (for an example, see Dr Bradley Voytek’s CV [3]). In Dr Haushofer’s document, we may see a collection of paper rejections, non-granted scholarships, refused grants proposals and denied academic positions. In the opening statement, Dr Haushofer argues that his motivation was the apparent feeling of discomfort and depression from young researchers when facing personal and professional setbacks. He suggests that reasons for such setbacks are diverse: “the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days”. The point aimed to stand by his explanations refers to the dejection and lonely experience under failures and the wrong conclusion that attributes all failures to personal mistakes. Things usually become worse when young scientists compare themselves to colleagues that apparently are enjoying a smooth and successful career.

As early stage researcher and PhD candidate, this CV of failure [2] made a big impression on me. Along with my fellow PhD candidates and colleagues from an International Training Network (Perception and Action in Complex Environments, or PACE) funded by the Horizons 2020 programme of the European Union, it is not short the time we spend wondering about the future of our careers and sharing experiences from our past failures and achievements as well. Things need to be said. We are young researchers and we have questions, doubts and fears. Sometimes we may seem to have found the path we should follow, but most of the times we keep our uncertainties. In my opinion, a healthy balance between professional and personal life is essential to maintain an efficient and productive work along with a better quality of life. Failures and difficulties are always going to appear on the way but the type of reaction we have will make the difference. The attitude that arises under pressure or in difficult moments marks how resilient a person is and says a lot on the ability to overcome failures. It is in these moments that our personal, family and social lives serve as support for our work, because they keep us strong.  Perhaps, it may work the other way around as well.

We should keep trying, always. And persist. When you persist, you are looking forwards to accomplishing something. It is your intuition that is pushing you forwards. There is something sure, however, in that moment: you want to be there. Granted or not, look for a new cycle again. The story is just starting over again. Because of that, it is so meaningful to enjoy what you are doing, in every single moment of your life, regardless of the new proposal, submission or application, regardless whether you get it or not.

 

 

References

[1] Stefan M. A CV of failures. Nature 468, 467 (2010). Link: http://go.nature.com/1Gczci4

[2] http://www.princeton.edu/haushofer/Johannes_Haushofer_CV_of_Failures.pdf Short-link: http://bit.ly/1Ufbg90

[3] http://darb.ketyov.com/professional

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