Opened the July 09 issue of The Scientist to find an article by Steven Wiley on why, contrary to popular belief, you aren’t necessarily a failure if it turns out you’re not suited for academic research:
There is no disgrace in failing to achieve a career as a scientist. Truly. Some of my students achieved distinction in their graduate work only to walk away from a scientific career with no regrets and with much ensuing success. Life is full of opportunities. The more attuned we are to how we realistically match those opportunities, the more likely we are to find real satisfaction in our careers.
That is such great advice! As someone who was criticized first for wanting to teach college instead of running a research lab, and second for leaving a tenure-track position teaching college in order to explore science policy, I can say I’m much happier out of science academia. It wasn’t a good fit for me. I’m glad I recognized that.
But then, just two pages later, in an article about researchers who admitted to academic misconduct, we have this quote from the pseudonymous “Daniel Page,” who claims his career has been irreparably damaged by the lingering taint of a misunderstanding about authorship:
Page thought about leaving OSU, but his colleagues – who largely supported him and believed he didn’t intend to mislead – convinced him to stay. “If it wasn’t for them, I would have quit,” he says. “I’d be teaching at a college.”
Oh, yeah – because teaching at a college is the distasteful job of last resort for someone disgraced and shamed out of their academic position. I forgot.
Perhaps we have a way to go before the phrase “alternative career in science” loses its stigma. . .