10 New Year’s resolutions scientists (probably) won’t keep

Every year, people make New Year’s resolutions that they are sure to break by the time February rolls around. In fact, it’s been reported that fewer than 10 percent of New Year’s resolutions actually last. And every year scientists make resolutions that are more than likely to fail. Here is a list of the top 10 doomed New Year’s resolutions:

Resolution No. 1

1. Always wear a lab coat.

Lymor’s take: While I was doing my Ph.D., my lab mates and I were scolded by the environmental health folks time and time again for wearing gloves but no lab coats. Yet still I do not make a conscious effort to wear my lab coat while doing experiments but rather use it solely for warmth. Chris’ take: Sure, wearing a lab coat is safer and good lab practice, but who will see my entire ensemble of decoratively bleach-stained clothing?
Resolution No. 2

2. Stop eating and drinking in the lab.

Lymor’s take: Sometimes labs don’t even have a designated place to eat or drink, so what is a hungry or thirsty scientist to do? Chris’ take: Luckily, I have the materials to deliver my coffee by IV drip. Without it, this resolution goes bust in 12 to 16 seconds.
Resolution No. 3

3. Plan ahead.

Lymor’s take: Every scientist has had days when he or she has been in the lab until late in the evening or has been forced to be there all weekend. Sometimes this is inevitable and just the nature of how science experiments go. Other times, it could be avoided by better planning out experiments for the week. Easier said than done, my friends. Chris’ take: This will work so well, and I’ll be so on top of things that I’ll get cocky and decide that I don’t need to write out my plan – I’ll just keep it in my head. Yes, that’s always worked out so well in the past.
Resolution No. 4

4. Read journal club articles ahead of time.

Lymor’s take: I’m talking about actually reading them – not just skimming them. I know I could get more out of journal clubs by reading the articles in detail beforehand, but somehow experiments, paper writing and social activities always seem to get in the way. Chris’ take: But I already know the introduction and the results are just a summary of the figures, so I’ll read the abstract, look at the figures and read the discussion. All right, skim the discussion. Fine. Read the last paragraph of the discussion.
Resolution No. 5

5. Attend seminars out of legitimate interest and not just for the free food.

Lymor’s take: But I am genuinely interested in the free food … that should count for something! Chris’ take: I always attend seminars out of a legitimate interest in the science. I believe the science … wait … I smell Chinese food. And there’s pizza across campus. I can get both if I leave now.
Resolution No. 6

6. Stop using Kimwipes as tissues.

Lymor’s take: Wait, are they not tissues? Chris’ take: Yeah, right. And I’m supposed to stop wearing bench pads as underwear too? Let’s get realistic here.
Resolution No. 7

7. Come into lab early in the morning and leave at a reasonable hour.

Lymor’s take: I know plenty of scientists who simply cannot get to lab early in the morning. Many labs look like they’re a dead zone before 10 a.m. Lab work is tiring, so we deserve to sleep in, right? Chris’ take: We all know how this one will go. I’ll keep this resolution for two weeks. Then I’ll have to stay late one night, refuse to get out of bed early the next day, and it’s back to the same old schedule.
Resolution No. 8

8. Clean out the fridge and/or freezers.

Lymor’s take: I’m not sure how lab fridges and freezers get so disorganized so quickly, but I know cleaning them out is a task I always put off for later. And how does the −80 freezer accumulate so much frost? There are few things in life I hate more than chipping ice out of a freezer. Chris’ take: I bet Gregor Mendel had trouble keeping up with his freezers. And if he couldn’t keep up with it, what hope is there for me?
Resolution No. 9

9. Finally finish that discussion section and submit the paper already.

Lymor’s take: We’ve all been there. A paper is near completion, and then it just sits on our computer screen as, for some reason, it seems to take forever to actually finish the thing. Chris’ take: I’ll actually finish this paper just in time for my PI’s annual hibernation/grant-writing session, from which she won’t emerge for another six months. Oh, well. I did my part.
Resolution No. 10

10. Keep the bench and overall lab clean and organized.

Lymor’s take: If only I could be better about doing this on a daily basis; maybe then I could avoid the dreaded lab-cleaning day! Chris’ take: I can do this! Buuuut I could use this time to read journal club articles…

And if none of these resolutions gets accomplished in 2014, we can just put them on the list again for 2015. Good luck with all of your New Year’s vows, and here’s to a successful 2014!

Lymor RingerLymor Ringer ( lrr28@georgetown.edu) earned a Ph.D. in tumor biology from Georgetown University. She is a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

Chris PickettChris Pickett ( cpickett@asbmb.org) is the ASBMB’s senior science policy fellow.