I am having some arguments with my friends in academia about this particular point… Usually the debates happen around warm pizza, so everything stays civilized, but it is really surprising that a simple concept like “help those around you” is far from unanimity in our profession 😮
Perhaps I have a childish approach to this type of things, but for me the average colleague creates an automatic positive response… A person who chose the same path in life as I did, a person who likes some of the same things I like and can relate to many similar experiences in a classroom. Now imagine if you grab a handful of those, put them in the same place and they became your team… It would be fair to say that it’s inevitable to develop a sense of belonging and camaraderie, or even friendship seeing each other week after week 😀 Accepting this premise, shouldn’t we all agree that it’s better when a team stays united and efficient? So if I can do something to help a member of my own team, wouldn’t it benefit me as well? After all, it makes the team stronger.
It doesn’t take much time or energy to point a colleague in the right direction regarding bibliography, topics for articles or proofreading stuff in Spanish before they send it somewhere… So I think the main problem of those who disagree is that they have allowed the system to affect their natural solidarity. At some point they started considering other colleagues as potential competitors for future positions, grants or projects, instead of seeing them as partners walking along the same road. My main point whenever we deal with this subject is that not helping others is not a neutral reaction without consequences, but it’s actually a negative one that has ethical penalties of the kind that stops you from being truly happy in life.
And no… I am not some hopeless idealist… you can read my other articles and you will see I pride myself on being very pragmatic, which is why it all makes sense if we follow this reasoning. If Melanie (a hypothetical name I regularly use for these examples) is a Spanish professor from -insert random British village here- and makes mistakes with subjunctive when writing her academic articles, helping her we are also helping her students and our own department. If a person needs our help and guidance to do things the right way, and they are favored in a future grant or project over us, it wouldn’t be their fault… it’s the fault of the system and they should not get penalized for it. I know it might seem contradictory, but denying Melanie help, would not correct a supposed injustice… it would place you in an active negative role. It’s a difficult grey area, but I strongly believe the correct approach would be this: “If Melanie is now in our team and a selection process or publication chooses her over us in a future occasion, she is not to blame, others are” 🙁
One last example. We go to a job interview for taxi drivers. Our friend will also be going… He happens to be blind, he doesn’t have a driving license and has never used a car outside his garden. He asks us for help to cross the street to the office… I honestly believe we should help him… and pity the fools who prefer him over us to drive their taxis
Help other colleagues, especially in your department. They are your team 😉