Don's Diary

March 29, 1996

SUNDAY. 10am. Meet Julie in the gym. Commiserate about the frustrations of life as contract researchers. Julie's contract ends in five months, mine in two months. Row, cycle and jog while thinking through possible changes to the methodology of proposal (a revamped version of proposal three). Walk in the park. The boys ride their bikes. Put final touches to proposal six (proposal two, modified). Bed at 1am.

MONDAY. Listen to ansaphone messages. Check pigeonhole. The verdict on proposal five is due at "the end of this month". Does the 24th qualify? Fellow researcher asks about proposals one to four. I explain that it was a two-stage application process, that the proposals were submitted in outline, and that none of them was shortlisted for further development. We speculate about why the proposals were turned down (no feedback is given on outline proposals). It would have been worse if the proposals had been turned down at the second stage, after yet more work and a further wait. Photocopy 15 copies of proposal six and send it off. Incorporate my colleagues' feedback into paper four. Check pigeonhole. Phone my department's research administrator. Where can we store 4,000 questionnaires and 16 lever-arch files of clinical data after the project ends? She will get back to me. Collect second son from nursery and first son from after-school club. McDonalds for supper.

TUESDAY. Check pigeonhole. Susie, a second-year undergraduate and our temp for the day, arrives to collate the appendix to our final report. Search through the filing cabinet, computer files and various piles of paper, looking for the letter that accompanied a questionnaire we sent out two and half years ago. Lunch with a friend who has just applied to train as a clinical psychologist and is looking forward to leaving the vagaries of contract research behind. Check pigeonhole again. Finish the introduction of paper five. Check the jobs page in the Guardian on the train home. A nice job in Glasgow. Why are all the right jobs in the wrong places? 7 pm. Unwind while reading the boys bedtime stories. Supper with Steve. Switch back into research mode when Becky arrives at 8.15. Becky, my midwife when I was pregnant, and I are planning a follow-up study of the women she has cared for over the past five years. Many of them have moved. Will we have to complete separate ethics committee forms for each area to which they have moved? Decide to write to the local research ethical committee to ask. Cannot sleep as my mind tussles with possibilities for the follow-up study.

WEDNESDAY. A blinking ansaphone. Is it news about proposal five? Only someone wanting to know whether our results are available yet. I explain that, yes, we have our results, yes, we can and have reported them at conferences, but no, sorry, I cannot tell him what we found until our main paper is published in a few months' time. Plan the discussion section of our final report with my colleague Jenny. As Susie takes staples out of 200 questionnaires, Jenny and I realise that we were the last generation of students to have holiday-only employment and no overdrafts. Buy a sandwich and Guardian. No jobs. 2pm. Jim, our project director, arrives with cakes to celebrate last week's news that paper number two has been accepted.

THURSDAY. An unpaid extra day in the office, like most weeks, spent working on proposals. Write to the four hospitals and four ethical committees who gave approval to the research in proposal one to inform them that we have failed to gain funding. Plough on with proposal seven. Check pigeonhole three times today. 6pm. Read through my talk while cooking supper for the boys. 6.30pm. Meet Jenny and Jim at Lewisham Hospital where we will be presenting our findings to local GPs. Buffet supper. The talk goes well, with lots of discussion. 10pm. Go for a drink with my own GP. Strange to be talking with her about research rather than ear infections and verrucas.

FRIDAY. My day off. I tell Calum we are going for a trip on the train to see the boats on the river Thames. And while we are there we just have to pop into Mummy's work to check the pigeonhole and ansaphone. Surely the 28th must be the end of the month? No news on the proposal, but there is a letter saying that my conference paper has been accepted. For a while I stop worrying about what I will do if none of the proposals is funded and start worrying about what to do if more than one is funded! 3.30pm. Pick up Joel and Joel's friend from school. Stare at an advert in The THES for a lectureship at a nearby university. Tenure is tantalising. I recall friends' accounts of heavy teaching commitments and mountains of administration, with little time for research. I quite like teaching, but love research, so turn the page, resolute in my pursuit of a research career, for the present at least.

SATURDAY. 8.30am. Joel's swimming lesson. 11am. Take Joel and Calum to the dentist. No fillings. Visit video shop, borrow video and buy popcorn. 5pm. Steve arrives home from supermarket and finds me asleep on the sofa, an arm around each son, as the video comes to an end.

Research fellow with the antenatal care project, division of primary health care, Guy's and St Thomas's United Medical and Dental School. She is waiting to hear the results of her final proposal.

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