10 steps to Becoming a Successful Academic – the definitive guide

A rather wonderful twitter thread from Maarten van Smeden went viral recently, so I asked if we could bloggify it and he kindly agreed. Enjoy.

How do I know how to become a successful academic? I don’t, but I have received plenty of advice. As a good academic, I will just summarize what I have learned from listening

1) Be the ultimate collaborator but also don’t be

Say yes to as many collaborations as physically possible: co-produce papers, LEARN, co-write grants, DISCUSS, it is all about synergy. But also, collaborations slow you down, have your own ideas! Just say no to collaborations

2) Be the methods ninja but also don’t be

Science is only as good as its weakest link: don’t be satisfied by applying the default analyses in the field. But also, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good and don’t confuse reviewers. Just apply the default analyses in the field

3) Be the superstar teacher but also don’t be

Professor means teacher, it is LITERALLY in the name. Being a good professor means being a superstar teacher. But also, focus on the science and minimize the hours of teaching, don’t try to become a superstar teacher

4) Be the open science practitioner but also don’t be

A modern scientist is an open scientist. Open up your code, your data and your publications. But also, your code is messy, the data isn’t yours to share and you should save the APC of open publishing to hire new lab members

5) Be the literature addict but also don’t be

READ YOUR LITERATURE. Be the literature addict and know what is out there to prioritize your own science and become THE EXPERT. But also, there is just too much! Invest time spend on reading in writing your own stuff! DON’T READ

6) Be the supreme knowledge sponge but also don’t be

Become the best in the world by borrowing knowledge from different scientific disciplines and by working in multidisciplinary teams. But also, be THE SPECIALIST. Focus on your own discipline and team, your CV is begging you

7) Be the social media rockstar but also don’t be

Outreach! Show you can and will communicate with the public to explain your science. But also, TIME DRAIN! Surely your tenure track committee is not impressed by your 30k followers half of whom are bots anyway

8) Be the peer review soldier but also don’t be

Be an active part of the scientific community: be ready for peer review duty. The system will collapse without you! But also, peer review is a waste: everything will be published anyway. Don’t answer the calls for peer review duty

9) Be the frequent flyer world traveler but also don’t be

You are an internationally oriented researcher: fly as much as you can for talks, collaborations and make sure you participate in ALL the discussions. But also, think about the environment: fly as little as you can

10) Be the family person but also don’t be

Don’t forget to live while becoming successful: family time should always be the number 1 priority.

But also, all of the above should be number 1 priority

I sincerely hope this thread will help YOU become an even more successful academic

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5 Responses to “10 steps to Becoming a Successful Academic – the definitive guide”
  1. Andrea Iff

    Hi Duncan, many thanks for sharing this. I think that also academia is on a pathway to change. I hope some of these things will not be dilemmas but rather work out towards one end of the tension in the coming years. This would also help academia to be a modern academia oriented towards public interest.

  2. How useful!
    ‘Borrowing knowledge from different scientific disciplines’ this is true, our association ‘Albanian Society for All Ages (ASAG)’ had to be involved in the networks of the fight against poverty to work for the extreme poverty of the elderly in Albania, a social group that did not benefit from national wealth, but also from development.
    “The Hungry” is the first work in sculpture by Odise Paskali and one of the masterpieces of Albanian sculpture.
    It was realized in 1924 in Turin.