Five abiding academic fears



  1. The latest book manuscript disappears. It’s almost done and it would be unbearable to lose it. I can’t even comprehend coming back from the loss, having to rewrite it all. But it won’t happen. It really won’t. No, really. I have multiple copies, the publishers have a first version, as do reviewers, it’s in the cloud, it’s on my back up drive etc etc. Still I worry.
  1. My reference library disappears. One day I wake up and it doesn’t work anymore. Oh hang on, that has happened. That’s when the various platform developers don’t talk to each other… the new version of word doesn’t talk to the bibliographic software and the help line just says yes and the website says don’t trash your old copy of word because you’ll need it for a while as we sort out our new compatible version…. Yeah right. As it happens I didn’t trash the old version because I’m suspicious of all of you. The lot of you, every last one.
  1. I lose the thesis I am examining. Well it’s never happened but it could. Really, it could, And I would look, and I would be, so unbelievably stupid going back to the university (and the doctoral researcher) saying that I can’t find the big book any more. Hardly a vote of confidence in your examiner is it? But I guess that they’d replace it and what I’d really lose is face.
  1. I forget to turn up for a viva. I’ve switched my diary entirely over to the digital and it regularly seems to lose things and get confused across different time zones. I’m still recovering appointments from the invisible early hours of the next day, a legacy of when I was away at New Year in Australia. I can live with missing meetings and messy appointments and I’ve got used to fessing up to having not managed conflicting appointments as well as I might. But it would be unthinkable – no, the trouble is that it’s entirely thinkable – to manage to miss a viva.
  1. One of those emails offering me millions of pounds from a distant dead relative, those emails that I just trash as soon as I see them, is actually true. One of those emails telling me to change my password and check my balance because I have weird new transactions is true. One of those emails telling me to change my email password in ten days is true. Oh hang on, it was. I’ve been locked out of my email once before because I didn’t recognise the difference between the real IT and the fake. Well, they look so similar, anyone could do it. It took a long wait and then a phone call to get it back, but I’d rather it didn’t happen again. But how to know which of the multiple scams might just be the real one?

Really? Not afraid eh. I wonder how far that would get me.

Oh well then –  just call me Paranoid Patter.