Big data approaches to scientific career success

Undark recently published an article by Viviane Callier, looking at recent research on scientific career trajectories: “What Matters Most on the Road to Scientific Success?”.

For many people, the most salient (and potentially troubling) findings coming out of this research are that publication in “prestige” journals is transmitted through training networks, from supervisors to trainees. That, and there’s a selection effect at work:

“The prestige of your doctorate does matter insofar as it helps you get a more prestigious job,” Larremore explained. “But what we’ve found is, once you’re in the door to a faculty job, the training then doesn’t matter.” In other words, once in the same department, the productivity of faculty members who trained at more prestigious universities was indistinguishable from that of their colleagues who trained at less prestigious universities.

Relevant to me:

<blockquote.They also found that scientists were more likely to succeed if they trained with graduate and postdoctoral mentors with disparate expertise that they could incorporate into their own work.</blockquote>

David said he suspects that building connections that had not previously existed might be key to success. “There’s an intellectual space that hasn’t really been occupied before,” he said. “And if you can draw on two different areas of expertise and take something that’s kind of unique to each of them and bring them together into a problem of your own, then you can stake out some territory that hasn’t been explored before.”

Most successful scientists today will work in teams. Moving between teams seamlessly is very important to anyone who wants to continue to do exciting, cutting-edge work.