Tuesday 6 August 2013

A Guide to Survival in Science

I recently completed reading the book "A PhD is not enough! A Guide to Survival in Science" by Peter Fiebelman [link], an illuminating read for any aspiring young scientists. I have thus compiled a concise list of points that I found highly relevant :
  • Planning your research as a series of relatively short, complete projects is the best way to achieve a disciplined publication schedule, one that serves your interests. Each of the short term projects should yield a publication.
  • Work on more than one project at a time. If you run out of ideas for project A, you can turn to project B. It also makes you broader.
  • Be mindful of networking opportunities. Budget time to learn what people beyond your research mentor's labs are doing. Attend their seminars. Engage them.
  • Many a grad student spends time trying to understand what his advisor wants and getting it done. In fact, it is the young scientist who define and carry out what they want, who learn to be scientific leaders, who have the most productive careers.
  • It is highly important to tell a good story.
  • Researching in a fashionable area is risky business- do you have a realistic chance of emerging from the mob? Make sure you don't get "scooped" i.e., a competitor pre-empts your publication by publishing first. A less riskier approach is to lead rather than follow.
  • Your lab group members should see the big picture and have a general sense of purpose.
  • Figure out why your research is important.
  • In the introduction of your papers, cite relevant literature- your scientific colleagues are very eager to get credit for the achievements. You have much to gain and little to lose by scrupulously citing your competitor's work.
  • Be curious, lead, interact with others and have a research direction.
  • Have as few distractions to research as possible.
  • When it comes to employment, your ability to attract funding is going to be very important- and it will be the results of your individual initiatives that will bring the needed recognition.
  • How does your research fit into the bigger picture?
  • Be a problem-oriented researcher, not a technique/tool/framework/language-oriented one.
  • No one ever got ahead in science by saving funding money. Be ambitious.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your audience.
  • Get your priorities straight.
  • Learn when to say no.
  • Will the paper you are writing be one you'll be proud of in five years?

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