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Postby John D. D, » Sat May 30, 2015 12:52 pm

This post is in reference to the dilemma posed in the post below. ... t.a1500130
I agree that there are a couple of critical barriers at this point, and the person who replied did a great job of researching options within the system. There is an enormous amount of competitiveness within the system so that the number of applicants who could potentially get grants exceeds the number of positions that require them. Grants are very often huge, to support an auxiliary industry, when in fact, they could be smaller, somewhat less accountable, and support creative independent research.

One thought that I had, was to initiate smaller $30000/yr grants to people who can publish one independent paper as a single author, and write a proposal in their field of study, reviewed but not necessarily accepted, by 2 people. At the end of the year, they are accountable for this with a poster session.

Where to go with this? It allows people who really love science and research and want to be independent to have a life on a really limited budget.

In your case, you might have to go outside of your institution (your real job) to find possibilities to do anything independent. Either that, or mount this huge campaign to change the rules your adviser put in place (a lot of energy). A better compromise would be for advisers to allow some independent work. My experience is that isolation of your ideas from your adviser's becomes a critical issue here, and then finding a community of people that you can respectfully present and discuss your work with can become very important in order to have an identity.

Some people will never fit in well with the traditional system, or even any really competitive system - people with invisible handicaps, difficult family situations, life traumas, difficult work histories, etc. Do you allow "THE" system to define you, or do you create something new with what you have?

I've also seen chairs at very respectable institutions where the rules are almost "in stone" define new categories of people so that young people can have a professor title without the traditional ramifications. This addresses the competitiveness question on tenure review boards, and basically says "look differently and not traditionally" at this candidate. Another option might be to start a company that never makes a profit (so that a Ph.D who soars with the eagles is not associated with making plastic test tube X which VWR already does very well). Instead, this company allows you to do the research that you want to do, bringing your kids to work, setting your own hours, working when you feel well enough, etc.
John D. D,
Posts: 70
Joined: Sat May 30, 2015 1:53 am

Re: options

Postby John D. D, » Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:34 pm

I think there is a feeling in the scientific community that science is fundamentally about community, the objectification of a subjective experience, and its validation by reproducibility from others.

Careers can become passions and identity, but this does not have to be the motivation for everyone. For some people, the relationship with the reality is a motivation - designing airplanes that can fly, or figuring out why the chair doesn't sit just right and how to fix it. For yet others, the motivation can be medical, with intuition into a disease that others merely study and get grants for.

It's important to respect different motivations, and not just build a pyramid that honors the first. Building communities that can do that will be a great first step.
John D. D,
Posts: 70
Joined: Sat May 30, 2015 1:53 am

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