Lots of attention, here and elsewhere, focuses on problems. Stuff that’s “broken” or otherwise Bad, that needs fixing or replacing. That’s for various obvious reasons.
We also pay attention to things that are New or Changing. And we pay attention to things that Great–outstanding in some positive way. Again, for obvious reasons.
Without wanting to downplay the importance of any of that stuff, I think it’s worth occasionally taking time to appreciate things that are Fine (no, not that way). They’re not perfect (what is?). They’re not great. But they’re not bad either. They’re fine. And they’ve been fine for a while, so we tend to just take them for granted and not even think about them. Which of course is a big reason why we have attention to spare for bemoaning and fixing Bad stuff, and celebrating Great stuff, and noticing New stuff. One measure of the health of an institution, organization, or society is the amount and importance of stuff that’s just Fine. It is good to be able to be able to take some perfectly adequate things for granted!
So: which bits of science and academia are Fine? The more broadly-applicable the better. (After all, something that’s Fine for a select few and Bad for most everybody else often isn’t really Fine…) Let’s take a few moments to appreciate the stuff that we needn’t either worry about or celebrate, because it merely needs to be–and is–good enough.
Here’s the first one that occurred to me off the top of my head: the quality of talks at ecology conferences. It’s fine. Are some talks better than others? Sure. Could the average quality be raised? I dunno, maybe. But the overall quality of ecology conference talks is fine. And it’s been fine at long as I’ve been attending conferences, which is…[counts fingers]…[removes shoes and socks, counts toes]…[runs out of appendages]…many years. Which means that whatever we’re doing to prepare our own talks, and teach others how to give talks, is also basically fine.*
But I’m sure y’all can come up with many more examples. Looking forward to a Great comment thread about things that are Fine. 🙂
p.s. If you’re feeling brave, you can also suggest things about science and academia that are in your view basically Fine even though they’re widely believed not to be. My opening bid in that category is “peer reviewers and editors performing the gatekeeping function at selective journals“.
*Note that in other fields the quality of conference talks may not be Fine.