Monday, February 9, 2009

Holy shit!

Just when you think you have it bad, something like this comes along to give you some much needed perspective. Seems like, Daniel Bennett, a doctoral student at Leeds University, had seven years of work he built up while "studying the rare butaan lizard" simply thrown in the trash. Granted, the work was literally a big pile of shit (77 pounds, in fact), and it was inadvertently thrown out after a "clear-out in his lab", but still, fuck... I think if someone threw out the few hundred or so pages I've accumulated on my dissertation and throughout graduate school, I'd handle it a little less well than Mr. Bennett, who seems to have some sense of humor about the whole situation:
"Whether it was the largest collection of lizard shit in the world is uncertain, but it certainly contained the only dietary sample from that little-known species Varanus olivaceus, and probably the most complete dietary record of any single population of animals in South East Asia. Its loss left me reeling and altered the course of my life forever."
Leeds University's offer of "£500 in compensation" for the mix-up got me thinking about what sort of compensation I would require if someone flushed my work done the toilet (you think that's how they disposed of it?). I mean £500 is a lot of money for us in the states, but I think I'd shoot a lot higher than that, like funding for the next five years or a computer made out of solid gold. How about you? What's the price you'd put on your work?



Anonymous said...

Given that my dissertation is already garbage, I think I'd be willing to pay THEM to flush this shit down the toilet, so I never have to look at it again.

missamerica said...

I'm inclined to think "£500 in compensation" for seven years worth of work is just insulting. If he's a PhD student, and they threw out the data for his dissertation, then it seems they at least owe him funding for the amount of time needed to re-create that data. Alternatively, and assuming he was doing reasonably good work, I wouldn't think it excessive if they just went ahead and gave him the degree plus a year or two of funding for a post-doc. But, seriously, £500? That just speaks poorly of the university.

Platowe said...

As an MA candidate many years ago, I was taking my professionally-paid-typed (no computers then) final draft for approval to the graduate school on the back of my motorcycle when I looked in the rear-view mirror to see it spraying over the four lanes of Kingston Pike (as made famous in the old song "Thunder Road"). I got off my Honda 350 and wept. But at least I had a backup to edit and have typed again. So in my own little way I understand some of that horror.

BTW, Charles Dickens finished his first manuscript of "A Christmas Carol" only to have his dog chew it to bits--and he wrote it over. Not that's a lesson in sticking to one's goals.

chrono said...

I'm glad that he's suing them. How do you monetize seven years of life's work? Depending on how much money he gets they might also owe him a job. Depending on how good his dissertation could have been with the bag of lizard shit vs. how good it will be without the shit. Shit!

Anonymous said...

What about the unfortunate cleanup person that probably got fired for throwing out the bag, which was after all full of shit! I mean, think of that story: "so, yeah, I got fired because I was supposed to clean up this lab, and in so doing threw out a HUGE bag of shit.... go figure". They should give the 500 pounds to that poor person!