When one of my bosses, let's call her Dr Janice (not her real name), implied the above, my fellow colleagues were in shock. Me? I was strangely calm. It was not until Dr Janice left the office that we all became chicken littles, freaking out over the possibility of job loss.
Next, as per typical human behaviour, my colleagues engaged in the blame game. "Dr Janice could have formulated the research participant inclusion criteria less stringently. That way, more participants could have entered into the study and this would have been a non-issue."
The above is one way to look at the current situation. An alternative perspective is to consider the operational workflow of the entire research process. All of my colleagues are data collection personnel. They handle administrative stuff, meet participants, and collect data. Then, they pass the data over to Unintelligent Nerd, the database developer/database administrator/data analyst/social science researcher guy (yeah, my current role is quite rojak; a small bit of everything) for data entry, database development, programming scripts to automate processes, and statistical analyses.
After that, it goes to my three bosses (let's call them Dr Jason, Dr Jeremy, and Dr Janice). That's that.
If there is a bottleneck at data collection, we are screwed. How fast data is collected depends on my colleagues' social skills, rapport building, and pro-activeness. Unfortunately, my colleagues are not proactive individuals. If can slack today, then slack lah! Why so kan cheong to collect data?
Speaking of which, I'm a kan cheong spider. I'm a Type A who likes to pia here and pia there while they are Type Bs who are more chill. As we are stationed in a satellite office away from the watchful eyes of our bosses, they have been reporting to work late by 2-3 hours. They have been caught multiple times when my bosses spring surprise visits on us. Hence, there's the possibility that the conversation is meant to imply "buck up!" to them (and is an empty threat?)
Yet I digress.
So, what will Unintelligent Nerd do in the case that the whole study folds? Let's consider my financial assets first. In light of the possibility of a market crash, I have been liquidating my stock portfolio over May and June, taking profits whenever Mr Market allows me to. Off the top of my head, I've liquidated around 30% of my portfolio. As a result, my cash/war chest grew from 5% of my net worth to around 25% of my net worth. Roughly, I have 3 months' worth of my gross pay in my emergency fund (in fact, I have diverted some of my profit-taking to my emergency fund instead of my war chest). Short-term, I should be doing okay if I do get retrenched.
What if I get retrenched and then the market crash? Well, I would still invest, even if more cautiously. To play safe, I might not even use up all of my war chest. Instead, I would bolster my emergency fund with my war chest!
In terms of getting a new job, I think I might do fine? My domain knowledge in social science + statistical know-how is still sought by social science research employers (see here). Now that I have more experience in statistical programming, I could also try applying for statistics-related jobs (see here). Anyway, since I've been pursuing breadth over depth (a lot of "beginner level" knowledge in various fields), I think I should be flexible enough to meet the requirements that employers would throw at me. Worst case scenario is to go become an insurance agent (see here). Hopefully that won't happen......(not my cup of tea, personality-wise).
What else have I learned from this episode? One of my colleagues adamantly believes that longitudinal studies suck. There is a lot to plan and many unknown-unknowns. If the unknown-unknowns are discovered at a late stage, correcting them may prove to be very difficult. I need to pick my bosses' brain more, to learn from their experience in this area.
Second, could you diversify your risk away? Dr Jason and Dr Jeremy have other studies they are involved in. If this study blows up, they still have their rice bowl. For Dr Janice, well.......you get the picture.
That's all for now. Future pay will either go into my emergency fund or my war chest. I'll only whack hard when the market correction comes.