Salma, a Bioinformatician in the early stages of her research career, identifies that she does public engagement because she enjoys bringing information to the masses and feels passionate about the role of scientists in combating fake news by making credible evidence accessible to the public.
The university where she works seems to have a broadly positive attitude to the Pint of Science events she organises and hosts. However, she feels frustrated that this activity will not contribute to her being promoted or achieving funding. The time spent will not be accounted for in the working model. No, it is just one of the extras she fits into a 60 – 80 hour week.
There are myriad roles, in medical communication for example, in which skills around science communication are valuable. Salma could spend time researching and brainstorming a list of organisations and roles that are linked to these interests and skills.
Why does this work?
Many people have tangled ideas about happiness and success. Researchers in the sciences do experiments to find out by trial and error. Failing is one way that we learn about what works and what doesn’t.
The academic publishing industry, and some PIs, reinforce the notion that ‘success’ is the goal of research by encouragement to only publish ‘successful results’. When researchers were asked what they thought about this by the Wellcome Trust:
‘[...]only 60% believed their supervisor valued negative results that don’t meet an expected hypothesis and 66% would feel comfortable approaching their supervisor if they couldn’t reproduce lab results.’
Welcome Trust, What Researchers Think About Culture
But negative results are valuable because they help us to eliminate a line of inquiry, and to focus on alternative an hypothesis.
Paying attention to resentment and anger, perhaps that you have been ignoring for a long time, can give you insights into situations in which your boundaries are being crossed. Those activities or situations may tell you about things you want to leave behind.
Conversely, thinking about activities where you feel joyful and engaged, will give you tasks, skills and interests you find fulfilling which you can link to potential career ideas.