Surviving in science

Surviving in science

This is just a little place to air my current views on how science works from the perspective of an early career researcher. There is quite a lot of chat about this, but its nice to try and collate ones own thoughts in one place. So this is it:

Ethics in the science industry

Science it seems is a pretty hard place to work. 40% of PhD students at Exeter, where I did my PhD, said that studying for their doctorate had worsened their mental health. The “publish or perish” culture of academia has even been directly associated with the suicide of a professor at UCL in 2014. You’ve got to ask yourself: “is it worth it?”

worth the risk?

I always felt that science could be a great place to work because, if you enjoyed your job, then it wasn’t really like a job anyway. That makes the long hours and less than fantastic pay kind of fine, as you don’t really feel like you’re working. But I know not everyone feels like that. People can get faux-competitive about the hours they work or how stressed they are. But I’m a big believer in working hard when you’ve got the flow, and if you’re getting nowhere and can’t get into any task, give up and go do something else. You’ll feel better for it and be able to tackle something else the next day, feeling fresh.

Ultimately, I think the best approach is to treat your self well. Eat healthily, variably but enjoyably. Exercise, for stress busting and the endorphin buzz, and as a way to meet people outside of academia who also aren’t struggling to write XX or analyse YY. Get get a hobby or two so you can be achieving stuff even when your project isn’t going so well.


I mentioned publish or perish above. The truth is that according to pretty much any source I’ve asked, the best way to get on the post-doc ladder is to publish out of your PhD. So the pressure feels on from the get-go to be submitting to those nice glossy journals.

papers = shiny trinkets. Always more required

I’m part of this game, this blog is partly to advertise what I have got published so far. But I am trying to make some good choices along the way:

Everything I have published so far is Open Access

Ok so I only have seven papers but still I think its a claim not many can make. I’m indebted to the RCUK policy to providing institutions with block-grants to pay the article processing fees.

I’ve also tried to chose journals that are run by societies to submit to, as profits help fun conferences and provide grants for students. That means yes to Animal Behaviour (ASAB) and Behavioral Ecology (ISBE) and a big fat no to Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. Journals run purely for profit should be avoided IMO.

Some people like Alicia Carter go as far as to boycott Nature and Science. I’d love to but I don’t think I have the balls to say that, if I ever had anything really, really ground breaking, I wouldn’t want to showcase it in the most well-though of journals. Can’t escape that most people still use the journal a paper is in as a measure of the author who wrote it, and if I’m at the bottom of the pile I need to play the game to get up.

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