I have been a bit stuck in my head over the past few months. The world's changing so rapidly, it is increasingly hard to come to grips with things big and small. This even though there is a desire to jump to quick conclusions (a typical sign of overconfidence!). As a result of being stuck in my head, I have been absent on here.
I am getting back in a habit of writing, although this simple post took me almost a week to write. I wanted to start off with some updates regarding my professional life that were a part of my summer reflections.
In 2019, I founded Liberate Science (the business) with the support of the (now defunct) Shuttleworth Foundation. I did this to realize and hopefully sustain ResearchEquals (the project). Since September 2022, the business is sustaining the project, after three years of Shuttleworth funding. I however keep laying tracks in front of a moving train – the more money that is spent, the faster those tracks need to be laid. Mostly, running costs are for my dedicated time, essential services (accounting, legal, servers), and to provide some compensation to volunteer efforts.
I have been thinking about what the best way forward is for me personally and for my time spent on the project. The business has not grown to a size it can sustain the costs from the past few years for any more than six months into the future. That there is going to be the need for some change became clear for me, because living on a six month horizon is simply too precarious. My applying as a parliamentary candidate for the Dutch elections was a time-sensitive action that happened during those reflections – but I am glad that did not work out for other reasons.
On a personal level, that income precarity is taking a toll. Being able to pay for my time is hard when most of the income is coming from unpredictable consulting projects. I also end up spending time on other projects as a result. This helps cover the costs, but also means I end up working on other projects anyway. It would be great if ResearchEquals got more support - and I still believe in what ResearchEquals proposes - but let's be honest, we do not have the resources at this point to impact culture change at the magnitude required. We will have to bide our time and wait for the seasons to change towards a more process based publishing of research.
I also do not think my "hustling" for income benefits the project itself. It affects my ability to lastingly work on this topic. It tires me out and I am putting other things in my life on hold. I do not want to end up resenting working on the project because I put my life on hold for it. There are personal life decisions that I am not even considering at this point, though I would like to explore what's possible. For example, would I be able to buy a place or finance other life decisions? I don't need absolute certainty forever, but what would my life look like if I had a bit less uncertainty?
For the project itself, there also remains the question of how my subjectivity of needing to be revenue driven affects whether we can achieve our goals. "What's the income this can generate?" would often become a question I would ask when I enjoyed doing something. This started to encroach the space to enjoy and be creative in my work, if there was no clear way what I was doing might turn into revenue. That's not where project success will originate. The joy and the passion are exactly the things from which ideas like ResearchEquals stem, and that's where its power resides.
Looking for a job
As a result of all these reflections, I'm reprioritizing my professional activities.
First off, I am contributing to too many things next to ResearchEquals. I have already stopped my activities as an editor for Upstream and will end in my advisory capacity for OA Switchboard at the end of the year. For the Journal of Open Source Software (JOSS), I will no longer take up new tasks and wrap up my current tasks (final paper review plus getting JOSS indexed in PMC).
Secondly, and more importantly, I started looking for a regular job. My main motivation is to get a (relatively) more stable income. If you'd like to talk, feel free to reach out. I am looking to work in a team again and do meaningful work that puts people over profits. I am happy to explore things ranging from managing a team to developing software. I am not bound to the open research space – but I am not willing to relocate away from Berlin and introduce uncertainty that way.
Until I find something I'll simply keep working as is. This includes ResearchEquals, Liberate Science, and winding down my other activities. There still is the six months runway available to do that at the moment. After my transition, Liberate Science and ResearchEquals will keep on existing, honoring all the commitments and contracts, to subsequently become the vessel for all the work that still will be done. By winding down my current volunteer activities, I will be able to continue dedicating time to both, but that time will become less structured (an evening, day, week here and there). This change also means that my time spent on the project will become condensed and has to be more intentional. Time spent will then be driven from joy, passion, or need.
I wonder how my job search will go. Like Scott Chamberlain already shared - applying is not necessarily an efficient process.