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Thread: Connections still needed in Science Academia?

  1. #1 Connections still needed in Science Academia? 
    Forum Freshman Malcient's Avatar
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    I am a high school student, and similar to the "How to be a Scientist" post, I was wondering if scientific academia is still set up where you have to play the politics game to get anywhere.

    Recently, I've been reading some history of science books, which are really good, except I've noticed that in the books, there is a heavy emphasis in the scientific community on whether you have good connections or not and whether you are a good self promoter.

    This would be a problem for me as I do not like to do that sort of thing, but still want to succeed.


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  3. #2 Re: Connections still needed in Science Academia? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcient
    I am a high school student, and similar to the "How to be a Scientist" post, I was wondering if scientific academia is still set up where you have to play the politics game to get anywhere.

    Recently, I've been reading some history of science books, which are really good, except I've noticed that in the books, there is a heavy emphasis in the scientific community on whether you have good connections or not and whether you are a good self promoter.

    This would be a problem for me as I do not like to do that sort of thing, but still want to succeed.
    Yes and no. If you're going to be an academic scientist, you will mainly be concerned with getting tenure and bringing in research grants so that you and your students can do research. Both are affected by politics and performance. If you're a lousy scientist who never accomplishes anything, you probably won't get tenure or much funding even if people like you and you are well-connected. If you are a great scientist with many important publications, then you can probably get tenure and grant money even if people think you're an ass and hate you, simply because no one can argue with the fact that you produce results (there are a surprising number of people like this in the sciences). If you're an okay-but-not-great scientist who produces a moderate amount of good work but isn't that impressive, then whether or not you get tenure and funding can be heavily affected by who you know and how much your colleagues like you.


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  4. #3  
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    A lot depends on what your goals are. Academia is a small niche of the science community.

    In my city there are about 2,000 geologists in the energy industry and another 500 or so in other aspects of geology. There are only a couple dozen or so involved in academia. I've been involved in reseach several times in geology-related project but not in academia (except as a grad student).

    I'd 'assume' that 99% of those with engineering degrees are not in academia...nor are the thousands with various medical related degrees. Chemists tend to work in a variety of food, pharmaceutical, material , agricultre and so on... Any one today with computer related degrees are with all types of insustries. The military has many scientists...entering as junior officers and involved in billions of dollars of research...and military-related industries do all types of research.

    Anyways, the 'Scientific community' is multiple times larger outside of academia than in it. In my region geology nearly all professors have had careers outside of academia. There isn't as much 'politics' involved as in the Arts. The science community has it's standards whether it's medicine, geology, engineering as so forth.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    "I do not like to do that sort of thing,"

    What sort of thing?

    Developing connections: You do this by working in your chosen field.

    Self promotion: You do this by publishing your research.
    Dick, be Frank.

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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    "I do not like to do that sort of thing,"

    What sort of thing?

    Developing connections: You do this by working in your chosen field.

    Self promotion: You do this by publishing your research.
    Yeah, but there's also lots of going out to dinners with people, hanging out at hotel bars at conferences, etc. It can indeed get annoying if you're anti-social and aren't into that sort of thing.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    I'm not so sure these things are mandatory. Even if they are, you can make it clear, you don't want to be here, you are a scientist for science not for social reasons. You can turn the conversation away from socialization into scientific things. This will make your intentions clear. Just because others are doing things for reasons different than your own doesn't mean your reasons have to change.

    I don't understand the problem. There are many fields of science, I'm sure a very small percentage of them come with obligations outside of work. Such outings probably don't happen all the time, and if your working 60+ hours a day trying to catch up before a deadline, your going to enjoy some time off. Noone will be forcing you to socialize, although they may try, you can let them know your not very social.

    Are you a hermit or something?

    I'm a hermit too, I'm not very social, but when it comes to work, I do whatever makes me better at it. If I was a teacher, I would talk with other teachers about what methods work and how they deal with difficult students. If I respect a sertain colleges opinion more than others, I might organize outings with them so we can discuss such things in more depth.

    This is a part of any field of expertise, that experts discuss things and learn from one another. Do you know a better way?
    Dick, be Frank.

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