Effective January 1, I have resigned my tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.
Before reflecting on a range of things, let me start by answering a question that may have popped into your head: I have no plans to join the Trump administration (ha ha).
Technically, my resignation is a retirement event, since I am on the Georgia State Teachers Retirement System, and I need to retire from Georgia Tech to get my pension (although I am a few years shy of 65). I have requested Emeritus status.
So, I have retired from Georgia Tech, and I have no intention of seeking another academic or administrative position in a university or government agency. However, I most certainly am not retiring from professional life.
Why did I resign my tenured faculty position?
I’m ‘cashing out’ with 186 published journal articles and two books. The superficial reason is that I want to do other things, and no longer need my university salary. This opens up an opportunity for Georgia Tech to make a new hire (see advert).
The deeper reasons have to do with my growing disenchantment with universities, the academic field of climate science and scientists.
A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.
How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).
When I first started down this new path in 2010, I published papers that could be categorized as applied philosophy of science (e.g. uncertainty monster, etc). This seemed to be a path towards maintaining academic ‘legitimacy’ in light of my new interests, but frankly I got bored with playing the game. Why go to the extra effort to publish papers, wrestling with reviewers who (usually) know less than you do about your topic (not to mention their biases), having to pay to get an article published some months in the future, so that maybe 100 people will read it? Not to mention the broader issues related to coping with the university bureaucracy, government funding, etc.
Once you detach from the academic mindset, publishing on the internet makes much more sense, and the peer review you can get on a technical blog is much more extensive. But peer review is not really the point; provoking people to think in new ways about something is really the point. In other words, science as process, rather than a collection of decreed ‘truths.’
At this point, the private sector seems like a more ‘honest’ place for a scientist working in a politicized field than universities or government labs — at least when you are your own boss.