Passion – The Converging Theme of the SCP Doctoral Consortium

ImageJim Bettman, Punam Killer, Greeta Menon, Barbara Kahn, and many of the other speakers and round table leaders all touched on one common theme: “one should do work on what you are passionate about.”

This doesn’t mean ignoring the necessary unfun pieces one has to do to have a successful career, but it means making passion the center of one’s career. The faculty also made the point that success comes first and foremost from passion.

Jim Bettman kicked off the day of advice by putting passion as the first principle of his research plan (passion-ownership-impact). Overall, the faculty converged on the idea that passion helps motivate good work and supports a good life.

This advice stands in stark contrast to the advice graduate students often hear about being strategic. One roundtable panelist noted that “One can be over strategic” and another suggested that doing a paper just for an easy “A” publication is bad idea. Other speakers noted that one should follow their passion even if that passion leads them out of academia and into industry.

Jim Bettman summarized that that passion is a way to inspire, drive, and sustain programmatic research.

SCP Doctoral Consortium Advice Highlights: Part 1

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Greeta Menon and Barbara Kahn recommend the 2 – 2 – 2 pipeline plan.

The professors advised students to have a pipeline of work with a few projects at each of the stages (e.g. review, writing, data collection). As a rule of thumb they offered that one should try to have 2 items at each stage.

Be Your Own Brand

Geeta Menon explained that ““People recognized you for you, not where you go, so you can be your own brand.” She mentioned how no matter where you can go you can use your own work and your own web presence to shape how others see you.

The Punam Keller Goal List

Keller explained that she sets specific academic goals each year (~5). The goals must have actionable steps. Then whenever she considers doing an activity she simply asks “does it fit the goals?” If it does not, she puts the activity and her “say no” list. She says this keeps her focused and her “say no” list allows her to feel okay saying no to things. She also keeps a personal goals list in a similar way and accordingly keeps a great work life balanced. “I have a fabulous life,” Keller told students on Thursday.

“Play around with Facebook Ads”

Zak Tormala recommends students look into the opportunities with Facebook advertising to test hypothesis with cell sizes approaching the millions.  The use of field data was echoed by many throughout the conference. Punam Keller presented a nuanced view of field research. She said she uses the field when it is appropriate and the lab when it is appropriate. She advised against testing hypothesis in the field just because, noting “there needs to a reason” to use the field.

Guest post: Why we should talk to the media (part 2)

claudia hammondFollowing the guest post from Lisa Munoz at SPSP, this week we hear from Claudia Hammond, an award-winning presenter, writer and psychology lecturer, on why she thinks young researchers in particular should engage more with the media. In addition to being part-time faculty at Boston University’s London base, she presents All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4 and Health Check on BBC World Service, and is the author of “Time Warped: Unlocking the mysteries of Time Perception“.

In my many years hosting radio programmes for the BBC I have interviewed dozens of young researchers. When a new paper comes out, we like wherever possible to talk to the people who have done the research themselves instead of relying on a commentator. From our perspective it makes science programmes sound better, providing listeners with a direct link to the scientists.

So that’s what’s in it for us as broadcasters, but why should researchers bother? Scientists can sometimes feel frustrated that their work is misunderstood by the general public. Science literacy varies massively amongst the population and speaking about your work to the media can help to demystify it. All my work, whether making radio or TV programmes or writing books aims to make science accessible and to increase the understanding of the importance of evidence. Researchers themselves have a vital part to play in this and by doing interviews they can reach vast numbers of people in one go. BBC World Service where I host a weekly programme featuring newly-published health and medical research, has 44 million listeners.  If the public is to be expected to continue to fund scientific research they have a right to know how their money is being spent and this is a great way for scientists to get their message across about the importance of their research.

There can also be advantages for researchers themselves. Increasingly grant-giving bodies are making public engagement a condition of their grants, so it’s as well to start practising early in your career.

I also know of many situations where appearing in the media has led to new research collaborations. People often get in touch with me after they hear an interview wanting to contact someone they heard on my programme. When we have studio discussions the participants often exchange emails afterwards so that they can work together. I’m surprised at how often they are unaware of other researchers in the same field. It sometimes feels like a researcher dating agency, but it’s good to see people sharing their ideas.

Sometimes researchers worry about what their peers will think and to be honest, the secret to doing to a good interview is to imagine you are explaining it to a non-scientific friend. Don’t imagine your supervisor by your shoulder. You know your own work inside out and you can explain it. You’re not going to be asked questions which are so in-depth that you can’t answer them, but it’s important to consider the context of your research. Has this topic been in the news recently? How big is the problem that your research addresses?With a little preparation before an interview, you can have an impact.

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