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In praise of slow

Irene Nobeli



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[...] After a relatively relaxed Ph.D. and postdoc, I had been thrilled when I landed a tenured job. But as I worked to establish myself as a group leader, I began to feel intense pressure to be more competitive and publish more. Recently, as I wondered why I felt so discontented at my job, I realized that I could apply some lessons from running to my research. [...]
Lesson one: In the right race, your weakness can become your strength. [...] I often perceived my inability to focus on a single research topic as a barrier to success as an academic scientist. But I've found that my desire to branch out to different fields helps me make connections across disciplines and see my work in new ways, which has led to unexpected and exciting insights.
Lesson two: Choose the right pace for your race. [...]
Lesson three: An honest race is the only race worth running. [...] Principal investigators are pressured to keep their spot in the fast lane, postdocs are chasing the elusive permanent contract, and students are keen to make their mark. Several of my publications would have had a much easier ride through the reviewing system had I been slightly less honest about our findings. The temptation to cheat to get an advantage can be great. However, and this is something that is often overlooked, an advantage is only useful if you are, in fact, engaged in a competition. [...]
Lesson four: There really is no race. For me, running isn't about being faster than other runners. Likewise, my goal in research is not to “beat” my colleagues. [...] I don't do research only to get invited to conferences, see my name in print, or be promoted. Like running, research is a game with its own intrinsic value. Playing this game of discovery gives me enough joy to keep me going. [...]


Science, Vol. 359, No. 6375. (02 February 2018), pp. 602-602, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.359.6375.602 
Key: INRMM:14528641

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