We need more personal assistants

Saturday, February 27th, 2010 by hinrich

Among many other responsibilities, secretaries used to take on work that nowadays is done by many people themselves (e.g., writing letters). A common trend is that more and more administrative work is pushed to the individual with the aid of computer systems. This work is supposed to be done in a short period of time, is claimed to be easy and simple and only a small burden. However, like the well known feature creep increasingly adds only marginal benefits to a software or a product, the number of such tools and other factors such as occasional poor network performance can result in a substantial administrative burden. Things come to mind like web applications for the registration of holidays, visitors, project time, address changes, goals & objectives, and many more.

Next to this administration we get increasingly more emails resulting in a larger number of projects that we work on than even ten or twenty years ago. While this indeed has brought about a higher productivity, I am afraid that we may loose the amount of time we can spend for purely scientific thinking and interpretation of experimental results.

Why not encourage the education and training of personal assistants? People that could take over a lot of the time consuming administrative work making use of some level of scientific background knowledge in combination with learning on the job? This would free up time of people that tend to be well paid and highly specialized. At the same time, such people could be more efficient in the use of such administrative tools and skilled in the processing of correspondance that do not require the expertise or input of the scientist.

Posted in Science