Friday, June 30, 2017

Mission Accomplished, Sort of?

Today is the last day of my sabbatical.  It was an amazing year full of much travel, great food, and, yes, super-productive research.  It was also an incredibly frustrating year, with me falling far short of what I had hoped to achieve.

Last summer, I did what most academics do before their sabbatical: set forth a set of wildly unrealistic goals (blue means things I have achieved mostly or entirely; red means things I have failed mostly or entirely; pink means stuff I made some progress on):
  1. The focus of the year is making progress on the Dave and Phil and Steve project: understanding the varying roles played by legislatures in their countries' civil-military relations....
    1. I will be spending October and part of January in Japan asking politicians, officials, and military officers about their roles and perceptions.... 
    2. I will be going to South Korea and Brazil for shorter trips to do the same thing.  I hope to squeeze in a trip to Argentina and Chile. 
  2. A secondary focus is on completing a bunch of smaller projects that have been mostly sitting on a shelf:
    1. What do Canadian IR academics think of gaps between the academic and policy worlds?
    2. I have long had an idea about bureaucratic politics from my year in the Pentagon that I just never got around to articulating.
    3. Finish an R&R or two.
  3. Apply for a Partnership grant that would link Canadian academics, defence scientists in government, Canadian military institutions, and private actors
  4. Read.  During my first sabbatical, I tended to grab anything I found interesting in two areas: civil war stuff (Kalyvas, Weinstein, etc.) and the mess in Iraq
The good news is that we made a heap of progress on the big project.  The trips to Japan were very productive, and I learned a great deal in Brazil.  My colleagues continued on their parts of the project.  Of course, we kept getting asked when this book would be done, and, well, the academic publication process is not speedy so even if we had all the research done, it would still be a couple of years.  And we don't have the research done.  The impeachment disease meant I could not go to South Korea.  Instead, I went back to Japan and got what I needed to complete that case study. It really was too much to expect for me to do the other South American cases.  Each case study needs time to prepare the ground--finding research assistants/translators, reading the relevant literature, doing the travel and then writing up the results (I still need to write up the Brazil stuff).  I did write a paper on the Japan case and present it in Hong Kong, and will spend the summer revising it.

I did make some progress on a series of articles, just not the ones I specified in my post last year.  The academic gap paper will have to wait for the next round of data collection.  The long gestating bureaucratic politics paper will be written this fall/winter.  So, not much progress on that.  On the other hand, I did revise a few pieces.  One co-authored project on electoral institutions and ethnic conflict was revised and rejected (rejection is inherent in the enterprise, a sabbatical theme), and is now being revised again (one co-author on this project is no longer with us, which also impeded progress).  My piece on the apparent demise of Grand Theory (it hasn't demised, it has regressed to its mean) has been in the R&R spin cycle all year long, so much work on it and not much progress.  But hopefully the latest revisions will seal the deal.

I did spend a great deal of time and effort on the SSHRC partnership grant.  These things are highly competitive, so it was always a gamble.  I just got back the reviews, and, well, I am not pleased.  We will revise again.  The big challenge in this kind of partnership grant is that we (my co-PIs, the Carleton staffers, and I) have to nag lots of people to do a heap of online forms and uploading.  So, that is the real bummer--that we have to nag yet again.  Not good.  However, the effort to apply for money to build a network has, well, built a network.  We made significant progress that will benefit the Canadian defence scholarship community whether SSHRC eventually funds us or not.  Still, a huge disappointment.

Reading?  Ah, damn.  Not much progress there at all.  I was hoping to catch up on the journals and on a bunch of interesting books.  I will try harder this summer to make progress there, and a broken computer may help in that (if I can't write, I can read more?).  For this particular goal, I blame partly my lack of discipline, but I also blame Trump.  It used to be that I could ignore what POTUS was doing for days/weeks at a time.  These days, I wake up, have to spend some time figuring out the tweet of the night/morning and whatever other shitshows have been spawned.  By the time I get that figured out, there is another one and then another one, and then it is time to make dinner.  It is not just me as academic journals reported a decline in submissions this spring, as those of us whose job it is to understand politics (international, comparative or American) are very busy trying to stay on top of things.  With so much uncertainty and flux from day to day, it takes far more time than it previously did just to stay in place--to know what is going on.  We need to know for our classes, for our public outreach, and for our research.  I can't lay all the blame at Trump's feet--again, part of it is my lack of discipline.  But this has been a bad year to have a sabbatical since I did end up using much of my thinking/reading/writing time just trying to figure out the day's events.

Overall, it was a very good year.  I had tremendous opportunities, I met amazing people in different parts of the world (I didn't even mention going to Mumbai for a few talks for a few days!) and I learned a great deal not just about my research agenda but other stuff
  • Japanese history, 
  • the dynamics of teen sumo wrestling, 
  • that there is a lot of crying in Kabuki
  • the differences in coverage of the British and Japanese occupations of Hong Kong
  • the radical juxtaposition of wealth and poverty in Mumbai and Rio
  • the stunning tendency of the Japanese to give everything style, 
  • that I still love California (and Disneyland),  
  • I love a good bath
  • much about sake
  • and much more.
 I am very, very lucky.  I should complain less, as I love my job and I loved my sabbatical even if I didn't get as much done as I would like.  I think I will be refreshed when I go back to the classroom in the fall, and, yes, I will pretend that my sabbatical extends until the end of August.
For now, she says it better than I do:

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