The lament of scientists’ other halves. We’ve been to a fair few academic dinners over the years. They’re not all like this but I have to admit that there have been a few occasions where the following happens: While the evening generally starts off well, after some time the conversation tends towards discussing current work, academia in general, or research-related anecdotes.
It could be that the way students are taught to write for academic publications? Or could it be that an academic dinner party is one of the few social occasions where a researcher can really let loose and talk about their work, in comparison to usual social situations where they worry about seeming boring?
There could also be a cross-cultural element to this. Since research groups can be made up of people from many different countries, maybe talking about work ensures that no one accidentally makes a cultural faux pax such as asking too many personal questions.
I’m sure academics aren’t the only ones who can’t switch off outside of the office. For many who get dragged along to a work event, the pain can be even worse. As the work-life separation gets more and more blurred, with people taking work home with them, they’ve probably had a full run down of all recent work activities at home the night before. Or maybe if you talk about work at home enough, your wife will be able to make a science webcomic…
Prof Panda: I know you find these academic dinners boring, but I promise we won't talk about work!
Dr Mad: RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH!!...
Scientist: Research research
Dr Mad: ... Research research research research research research!
Scientist: Did you read that new article research research research?
Scientist: And then reviewer two said research research research!
Other scientist: Research!!!!
Prof Panda: Research research research research...