The beginning of the end

Well. I’d like to say that this Internship is wrapping up, but it really isn’t for me. The reason for this is that, when forced to choose between doing something practical and of reasonable scope vs. doing something ambitious and possibly excruciatingly valuable, my mentor and I selected the later. As a result, we’re gong to have two really fantastic deliverables- a polished PPSR Data Policy Primer, and an academic paper studying privacy in citizen science and participatory sensing communities of practice. In accordance with a “hard” conference deadline (as opposed to a flexible Internship deadline?!) these will be available on August 15th.

I’ll post my final blog entry with links to both pieces then. Until August 15th, here are some thoughts I put together on lessons learned this summer:

Give yourself space to rest. Andrea taught me a lot about work life balance; namely, that you need to have it in order to be the most productive version of yourself. Yes, I pulled a few 12- or 14- hour days working on different pieces of my internship; many students work best under pressure. But I balanced these with 6- hours days that included a really long hike/ bout of reading fiction in Sapsucker woods.

Give yourself space to play. My internship had a few core tasks and key deliverables, and it was largely up to me to figure out how to best implement them. Because of this, I didn’t always have a laser beam focus—I spent a lot of my time performing a sort of an intellectual comparison shopping to see what other people were doing in similar spaces. This led me down a few rabbit holes, but few proved entirely useless. At the beginning of the project, Andrea told me that she wanted me to “break down disciplinary walls.” I don’t know if I broke down any walls, per say, but I did survey a lot of different literatures. My primary deliverables cite papers from citizen science, participatory sensing, ubiquitous computing, ecology, ethics, genetics, political science, and law. They are much stronger because of this diversity.

Involve yourself with your intellectual community.  For me, this meant spending a few months in Cornell to take advantage of proximity to my mentor and the other PPSR researchers at the Lab of Ornithology.  From my experience collaborating with a close colleague in Utah (vs. Washington, DC) I know how easy it can be to let projects and people that aren’t immediately in front of you fall become lesser priorities regardless of your actual commitment to them. Being in the same physical space as my mentor kept our project very visible, and helped preserve its importance at the top of both of our daily to-do lists. Additionally, I benefited from the feedback and general community of others at the Lab of Ornithology.  Someone who is already stretched very thin is much more likely to help the person who knocks on his door with a cup of coffee in hand then the one emailing from states away. It’s not that we don’t care about people who aren’t nearby us. It’s just that we’re busy and highly social creatures and we navigate our lives by focusing on the here and now.

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