What if…. a poem by Warwick Kipling

Ed: you probably won’t understand this post unless you have read this and this, which I strongly encourage you to do.

UK.  We received this beautiful poem yesterday from Warwick Kipling, Rudyard’s little-known son.  He’s not in the top 50 poets, but he really wants to be.


– by Warwick Kipling

What if you can keep your funding when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on committee
What if you can be sure that the editor is an idiot
When they don’t send your paper out to review
What if you can wait for months and months and months
And months and months and months, only to be told “no thanks”
Or be scooped by that group, the one you think was a reviewer
And remember their name and extract vengeance years later

What if you teach for 30 hours a week, make time for grants
supervise students and edit their crappy writing
What if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And pretend those were the results you were expecting
What if you can bear to listen to the feedback
From the committee that rejected your grant (fools)
And watch the thing you gave your life to, broken
Dismantled by the finance team

What if you can bring in indirects three times your salary
Yet know that it’s not enough
What if you can watch the compliance team treble in size
And not get angry that you had to sack your post-doc
You know the one, the one that did all of the work
The one you built your entire career on
And now you’re f*cked because they took all of their
Skills and knowledge with them, oh sh*t

What if you can go to conferences and pretend all is OK
And not cry into your coffee whilst rocking in the corner
What if you can look at your Inbox and be amazed
You didn’t know Outlook could store that many unread messages
What if you can force your heart and brain and instinct
To ignore those outliers and that batch effect
So that you can get the p-value you’ve always wanted
The one that will definitely get you into Nature

What if you can hype your results, and hype and hype
And hype and hype until the news outlets take notice
What if you can pretend your tiny, miniscule effect
Will cure cancer, HIV, diabetes and old age
What if you have neither friends nor foes, nor loving ally
Only people who’d kill for more funding
Then yours is the University and everything in it
And which is more, you’ll be an academic, my son!

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2 Responses to What if…. a poem by Warwick Kipling

  1. Pingback: Universities introduce form to fill in before you are allowed to speak | The Science Web

  2. David says:

    Doesn’t rhyme, and the scansion’s off; the original draws much of its strength from its strict rhyme scheme and perfect scansion. There’s no point in a pastiche or parody that doesn’t match the original in technique, before going on to the funny stuff.

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