Don’t Judge Me-I’m a Scientist!

Everyone wants to be successful. Whether it is in school, in our relationships or in our career, success is a key motivator of personal behavior. In order to define success, one must be judged. After all, how is it possible to measure one’s level of success without passing judgement.

As scientists, success, and therefore evaluation and judgement form the cornerstone of our careers. Levels of funding and promotion are often based on measurements of success as well as professional respect and the feeling of self worth. For example, several weeks ago we wrote about the problems associated with the infamous journal impact factor. The JIF, as it is affectionately known, ranks journals by their importance and publications in high impact journals are often used as a method of evaluating the performance of individual scientist. One reader commented that the JIF had been used to promote a colleague who, on the surface, seemed less promotion-worthy than his better-funded peer based on the misuse of the JIF as a metric of success.

How the American scientific community defines success, will definitely determine the future of scientific America. Everyone wants to be successful. Tell me what the definition of success is and I will do everything in my power to acheive it. That is what’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So how do we define success? How do we want to be judged? Below is a list of ideas that I heard from a recent talk given by a scientist from the world of chemistry.

Scientists are judged based on their:

  • Money
  • Publication
  • Successful completion of graduate students
  • Industrial Links
  • Scientific Impact (think JIF or citations)
  • Student Reviews
  • Administrative Leadership
  • Academic Ranking (i.e. professor versus associate)

While this is not an exhaustive list, it is certainly a good start. If we want a strong scientific America, we need noble metrics of scientific success.

How do you define scientific success? What are your career goals?

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