Posted in Professional development and Identity, Recap, The job search

Recap: #ECRchat on Defining Success Outside of the Traditional Academic Path

This week’s chat was hosted by Katie Wheat, a postdoc in the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at Maastricht University. Katie completed her PhD in Psychology at University of York and blogs at Life After Thesis.

Today we tackled the difficult topic of “Defining success outside of the traditional academic path”. I broke the topic down into a few questions to help guide our thoughts. For example, we talked about what we mean by traditional academic measures of success and what their pros and cons are. Measures such as publication output, academic promotion path, and grants were discussed. Many chatters raised the point that pressures to fulfil the requirements of academic success may be detrimental to achieving real success. Such as, publishing parts of a story in order to increase the number of publications by a lab, rather than submitting a more satisfying and complete story.

Next, the discussion moved to the other things we do that may not be valued as highly, but perhaps should be. For example, networking and communication skills and activities take up a lot of time, but this time is not necessary protected or available. We also discussed outreach activities and whether ECRs are aware of the possibilities for recognition from their institution for this kind of work.

The second half of the chat was dedicated to a discussion of how we personally view success, and how we would encourage future academics to think about success. Lots of really positive suggestions came up, including the idea that success is closely linked to happiness. Furthermore, we should be aware of our successes at home as well as at work.

For me, I think the tweets really speak for themselves this week. You can get an overview of the chat from this Storify or download the archive of the entire chat here #ECRchat_tweets_2012_08_23.pdf

It was a difficult topic that needed a little more structure than some previous weeks but it was clear that people have a lot of strong positive ideas about success. There also seemed to be a lot of frustration surrounding how we measure up against the traditional academic measures of success, and how they may be almost unattainable in some case (e.g., a professorship), and even detrimental to success in other cases (e.g., rushing to publish incomplete papers). Overall, I found the chat to be inspiring and uplifting, even if one chat can’t fix the system we are battling against to prove our worth.

Looking forward to chatting with you all again next week!


#ECRchat will be back at the same time next week with your host Liz Gloyn. The poll to vote is up now. That’s 11:00-12:00 in the UK (BST), 12:00-13:00 in Europe (CEST), and 20:00-21:00 in Australia (EST), on Thursday 30th August.


Postdoc in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, researching visual word recognition. Likes MEG, TMS, fMRI, reading, waffles, and motorbiking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s