Hackers’ comments on Katz’s "Don’t become a scientist" paper

February 24th, 2008 by jose

There’s an excellent discussion at news.ycombinator on why one should _not_ pursue an academic career. The post started with the ‘don’t become a scientist‘ article by Jonathan I. Katz that we commented before. What I find interesting is that ycombinator represents a population of very smart people (hackers and startup founders) who are not academics but most probably have had offers to go to grad school/take a postdoc, etc and declined them to start a new company.

Some members describe their experience as research programmers for big-name research groups, and it’s not pretty. Menloparkbum says:

Most of the people working there were like people working at any big, lame bureaucratic institution, only they had or were obtaining PhDs. Most of their time was spent surfing the web, sending email, and attending meetings. I have never worked anywhere else where people attended so many meetings.

User amichail says:

Don’t be misled by the promise of freedom in academia. It’s not like that at all. [...]

Unless you get a faculty position at a stellar university (highly unlikely nowadays), the teaching will be depressing. And your research will suffer as a result since you will be in no mood to do it.

Also, unless you plan to do everything yourself for research, you will need to get some funding. But whether you get that funding depends on whether your peers — competitors actually — like what you plan to do.

Not much that we didn’t know here. But why are threads like this surfacing more often recently? Or is it just me who finds them everywhere? I don’t even log into the Chronicle forums because the numbers of complains (‘I have no life’) there are depressing. This particular user group (Hackers and startup founders) are perfect examples of people who pick on new trends and evaluate what a market is offering. They seem to be all in agreement: steer away from an academic career.

What do you think?

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3 Responses to “Hackers’ comments on Katz’s "Don’t become a scientist" paper”

  1. Luiz AlphaNo Gravatar Says:

    I felt myself contemplated by this post! After many years of doubts, sacrifices and investigation, I changed the aspects of my academical job in pro of a lifestyle of freedom and satisfaction.

    Now i couch academical writing procedures, work home, as I want, I produce in my time and to propiciate me quality.

    Many of my coleagues and friends tended to continue with their academical life due to the lack of other options to consider. Unfortunately, here in Brazil we live in a moment when there is almost any synergy between academical and business life, and it is so serious that a lot of PhD are unemployed or subemployed. So, it is quite hard to change.

  2. AnnieNo Gravatar Says:

    We have a similar problem in the states. It is not as bad as you have stated in Brazil, but it is getting worse each year. My cousin is currently working on her PhD and I hope that it does her well. We’ll see..

  3. aprender poquerNo Gravatar Says:

    Good afternoon, I personally, I think that it is only in some countries, but mostly in and around the world that has an exact superarce to excel in as possible, and q with a lic. or ing., for some M is not sufficient, but we must move forward and pass each day.

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