We're a little crazy, about science!

On the ambiguity of email

As per the usual around here I’ve been swamped with things to do. Between classwork, experiments, data processing, and writing, its been a lot. It may sound like I’m repeating myself at this point, but stuff just keeps coming up and I prefer talking about it instead of just keeping it all bottled up. More to the point, it means I have new things to do and I like to talk them out here so I have a clear(er) path moving forward. What does this have to do with email and the title of today’s post? Well, let’s talk about that.

Where to even begin! My main-PI has been pushing me to get some data processed and each week I give regular lab updates regarding my progress (read more about this hell here)(and here). This week is only slightly different in that I was asked to get the work done in less than a week. Normally I’m rushing to get everything done, so this made it extra stressful. Again, basically normal stuff around here.

The short version is that I somehow managed to get all the work done (yay). Then sent off an email to my main-PI with the results. That was Sunday, but since he’s a busy person, I didn’t expect to hear back when Monday rolled around and it wouldn’t have been out of the question to not hear back from him Tuesday either, except I did hear back Tuesday morning asking for an update and (of course) the results for some of the data that I hadn’t finished yet.

Turns out he didn’t even see my email on Sunday, so I resent him the data, gave him an overview of what I had done, and told him that I would send the rest of the data later yesterday evening. Late last night I managed to get everything done, sent it off and called it a night. I woke up this morning to yet another request, this one unfortunately vague in scope which brings us to the title of todays post.

The email asked me to make some changes to the last bit of results I just sent him. That’s no problem, I can do it and now that I have code, I can do it pretty freaking quickly. The issue was his second request. It’s not that it’s a big request or that it’s particularly difficult, it’s that I cannot understand what he’s asking for!

I hate asking for clarification, we’ve had this issue in the past and I’m not sure if it’s me or if it’s the way he phrases things. In either case I always end up feeling like he’s annoyed and that I shouldn’t need any sort of clarification. I mean maybe it’s me, but I don’t know, others don’t seem to have this issue so I am pretty sure it’s me.

Basically today I’m going to get the stuff I know he wants done finished and returned to him, then I need to weigh my options. Do I take a guess at what he meant? Do I ask for clarification? I don’t know, but I need to think about it some more. I’m hoping if I just read the email a few more times over the course of the day the meaning will make sense. If not the worst case is that I send him the stuff I know he wants and ask for clarification then.

Either way, I should probably get some work done, good talk! And to anyone reading, may all your emails be clear!


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