a journal of a researcher

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Academic in the old world and the new world

Comparing to Canada, this world is called the Old World. The best thing I like in Europe is its western academic traditions. You can find the research capacity is inherited by their blood. Their students probably do not need to be trained to do research, and even excellent research. I admired a lot my peer-students during my first visit to Germany as an exchange student in 1997. I came from an even older world, where we once led the technology in the world, but we never developed science. From 1997 to now, I am not a layman in scientific research any more. If let me criticize, I would say the Europeans are somewhat trapped by the formation of research. I’ve read many papers drawing trivial results from prefect formalization and presentation. Many papers discuss some subtle topics that only a few can be interested. In Europe, it is very common that a researcher stays in a very narrow domain for more than ten years. In this way, he/she is sure to e an expert on this domain. But the research is more like to play sophisticated games than solving real world problems. The good thing is the publishing is guaranteed each year by small steps of progresses.

In North America, things are different. The researchers want to get as much as funding, and produce as many as papers. They can have extreme long lists of publications. I do not know how people really evaluate the papers. But if so many people do this, maybe sometimes the length of the publication list works. In North America, the researchers change interests more bold. Ah, can be funding driven.

Anyway, for most of the researchers, research is a career that needs to manage and exploit. Many are hardworking craftsmen, instead of being a master. I would like to suggest that instead of working hard as a bee to accumulate the publication list and funding, it is better to enjoy your life if you do not have splendid ideas to work on.


  • It seems like your post is very insightful. It does match my intuition. I do see many European researchers focusing on very narrow research and not ever changing.

    However, this is common in pure research. So maybe your comparison is more between pure researchers (Europe) and applied researchers (America).

    Myself, I think it is more fun to change your research focus from time to time. Yes, it is more risky publication-wise, but having some "range" as a researcher allows you to look things from a distance and maybe, you can better choose where to focus your energy.

    I think that you are right: if you research is not so important, if you don't receive massive funding or are about to make tremendously important discoveries, maybe it is best to enjoy life a bit more.

    By Blogger Daniel Lemire, at 7:08 PM  

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