Sudden Changes and Dropped Research -- Industry only?

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Sudden Changes and Dropped Research -- Industry only?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:45 pm

One of the comments I hear often at postdoc and grad student gatherings is that "In industry, you can lose your project and have to start in some other area of research on a moment's notice." It's repeated enough that it appears to me to be one of the major concerns that scientists have about a non-academic career in science. Yes, it's true that a Board of Directors might say "Let's lose the XYZ project, because it's not going anywhere" or "It's too small of a market and it just doesn't make sense any longer."

And when that happens, you have to shift focus. But a recent article in by Andy Tay shows that it can happen as well in academia. It's an interesting short read.

I'd love to hear views on this topic and what it says about the trust and faith that you place in your advisor or PI to continue funding that direction you are on . . . Read further,

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Re: Sudden Changes and Dropped Research -- Industry only?

Postby Dave Walker » Tue Jun 28, 2016 10:27 am

Hey Dave,

I too have heard the fears of "losing a project" from postdoc and graduate student gatherings. I hope I don't sound cranky, but it always sounded like naivete about the real world to me. I think trainees get very caught up in their work and, in their minds, it inevitably blossoms into a career researching the same thing forever. But let's be real: projects are supposed to end at some point! This is usually a good thing, too!

In industry, projects shift, especially if they succeed. Every single person I've known in industry does not see this as a negative. Most actually crave new opportunities: skills to learn, chances to make an impact, promotions. Even during layoffs or restructuring -- i.e., the worst case scenario -- there is a market for seasoned industry scientists elsewhere.

In my opinion, this ScienceCareers article says, "real life issues can happen in academia, too."

(As an aside, it hurts a little when trainees turn down the idea of an industry career because of "losing your project." It sounds like ignorance; I wonder if they've ever talked to someone who works in the industry before coming to that conclusion.)
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Re: Sudden Changes and Dropped Research -- Industry only?

Postby Andrew » Thu Jun 30, 2016 7:50 am

Well, the extreme of that is working in the CRO space where you need to get up to speed quickly on some new area, make a contribution that the company is being paid for on time and on budget, and then move on to the next thing. This may happen four times a month. We can't hire people that feel compelled to get to the "ultimate truth" of something regardless of the scope we're being paid for. We need intellectually agile and flexible people that want new challenges frequently. Clearly not for everyone. This attitude is one of the primary things I interview for.
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