The real life of a lab rat


Els Heinsalu is a senior researcher in the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics. She studies various complex systems, including language dynamics, ecological models and econophysics. She was awarded with the L´Oreal Baltic fellowship “For Woman in Science” in 2017 and the Baltic Assembly Prize in 2018. She was the first president of the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences.

It´s a bit of a gray morning. I start with reading the e-mails…

Els Heinsalu

Our book ‘Languages in Space and Time: Models and Methods from Complex Systems Theory’ will be a part of the Physics of Society Series and will have the corresponding logo on the cover. – Great, hopefully this will prevent our next grant application being transferred to the social sciences where we would have no hope of getting the funding. Actually, after two years of experience in the research council evaluation committee expert panel, I think I evaluate the situation quite realistically if I say that there is not much hope anyway. One has to be the best of the best and have luck with referees. But if you have such an interdisciplinary project that they even do not know in which panel to put you, then finding proper referees is a bit hard. But the truth is that we should study the complexity theory much more because we live in the world of complex systems… Well, the truth is that we need much more science in general.

Report from Reviewer 2 for our last article submitted… Nothing new respect to the old naming game model, unclearly written, substantial changes needed… Nasty style refers to this that Reviewer 2 just did not understand anything. “There is nothing new” is a strong argument when one has nothing to say. Ok, one has to answer the referee and change some things in the manuscript. Such referee reports do not increase the motivation very much.

I stop correcting the manuscript because of a phone call… It is the kindergarten. The blood sugar of my daughter is 3.2. I tell the teacher to give her lunch without insulin… When will they finally find the real solution for diabetes? Right, everything is already done and we need no more science.

I meet the illustrator of my next children´s book after lunch. This book is not an easy job for her. I would not call it a popular science book for children, but a knowledge book. The book is accepted, no demotivating referee report, and next month I have a meeting with schoolchildren in a library. I know, this is not really what I get paid for, but in the end, it is more important than one more article.

I have another two hours to proceed with the manuscript. Before that, I have to call the boys to remind them to do their homework. Them doing the homework is also important for all of us.

… the whole day without the sun.

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