For several years I've been thinking that a major path to success in our free-thinking but busy academic world is how skilled we are at managing what our job as a research scientist calls for. As we've all experienced —at least for those who did their PhD in the past century— graduate and sometimes post-graduate work did not always prepare us for the demands of a faculty job, such as preparing classes, managing people, and writing grants. The good thing is that this era is now over, and most universities have instated some form of faculty development program. There are even great handbooks on the topic, such as Kathy Barker's At the helm, and HHMI's Making the right moves.
Aside from excellent and à-propos trainings and guidebooks, I found that the web is a fantastic source of self-help for getting unstuck or even avoiding hurdles down the road, by avoiding remaking mistakes that others have found solutions to. Because the job of a research scientist is challenging enough with science itself, it seems some sanity can be regained by simply not having to reinvent the wheel. Although most of this advice comes from North America, I found that 90% of it pertains to pretty much any academic setting, as foundations for academia don't vary that much from one culture to another (i.e., we're still supposed to get funding, carry out science, publish it, teach classes, etc.).
In that spirit, I'd like to share the three most useful resources I came across that helped me and many of my colleagues stay afloat:
- Inside Higher Ed, and in particular blog posts by Kerry Ann Rockquemore
- 10 simple rule series, edited by Phil Bourne for PLOS Computational Biology
- Tomorrow's professor newsletter by Rick Reis at Stanford, see for example this post on preparing courses while keeping your sanity.
For some very sound and clear advice, I'd also like to add this article on "what you wish you knew when you started as a professor", which I came across today.
Happy academic (and personal) thriving everyone!