Imagine you are minding your own business when you receive an email from someone who claims to have discovered the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. He provides some “details” about his theory, then says he wants to meet you and / or arrange a time for a phone conservation to discuss it. What should you do?

The only thing I’ve seen is this 1983 article by Underwood Dudley about what to do when the trisector comes. Dudley says not to examine the trisector’s proof, and also not to direct the trisector to the proof that trisection is impossible. Instead one should send computer-generated results showing that the trisection is imperfect. Problem with this is that it only works for questions that can be attacked by computers – there was a recent question here on Academia SE challenging conservation of angular momentum which this won’t work for.

What are some general guidelines for dealing with these situations? Re: ignoring the crank – one can ignore emails, but what if he goes calls or visits in person?

Earlier this year, I interviewed and received offers for two postdoc positions from competing universities, with one- and three-year contracts, respectively. The first is more related to my PhD, while the second is a bit distant but still in the general area of my discipline. I eventually accepted the second one for different reasons:

  1. It’s in a multidisciplinary research centre, and the description was that I will be part of a large team working on a massive project, which I found really exciting and non-traditional.

  2. Huge amount of money is being poured into this centre by the government, so there’s a good potential to grow.

  3. The project itself is interesting and I will gain different skills by pursuing it. The intended work was of industry-like nature

  4. The PI was extremely keen to have me onboard, which made me feel valued.

On the flip side, the university is large, but I will be working at a small campus. Most of the team are from one discipline and only a couple of members are actually from my discipline (say, for example, most of them are mechanical engineers, but I’m an electronic engineer). The PI is not from my discipline.

The disadvantages did not mean much to me when I received their offer as I considered myself joining an industry R&D department, which I also confirmed during the interview, and from the position description.

Once I accepted the offer and joined the research centre, I was shocked that I was assigned a very boring project that I will work on alone and doesn’t fit my background. It’s academic in nature, but with almost zero supervision. The potential to publish in reputable venues is small. I also found out that they hired another postdoc to fill the advertised position. This was a dead-end for me. I felt like I was put under a glass ceiling not to join the other university (a competitor). I deeply regretted accepting this offer, but at the same time, I cannot resign as I have just moved to a new city with a spouse and kids.

The good news is that I did a really great PhD on a hot topic, and was approached by 3 universities abroad to co-supervise PhD students distantly.

I communicated with my supervisor in this regards and expressed my feeling of being alienated and my preference to be integrated with the large team and be given a role as discussed during the interview. He agreed and gave me a task to do, but never replied to any email I sent later. He ignored me big time. Under the fear of being kicked out and putting myself and family in a financial hardship, 6 weeks later, I agreed to work on the project he assigned me earlier while working distantly with the other universities to keep my passion and academic career going. Ever since, our communication improved but still I feel isolated and doing worthless work.

What’s your advice for me? Finding another job is a top priority for me but that is going to be hard due to job market trends and the limitation of moving with my family to a new city/country for another time (kids, school, etc). I have been in this position for 4 months – long enough to hate it.

Is the creation of youtube content/lectures in your field worth showing off on an Academic CV?

In the most extreme case: if someone who is considering hiring for a teaching position in a university/college is looking at two candidates who are identical in qualifications except for one candidate having a youtube channel which teaches topics in his/her field (with somewhat decent content) would that candidate be considered more “qualified” (in the broadest sense of the word).

A little context here: I graduated from medical school in 2012, practiced briefly till 2016 and stopped. I simply got bored with traditional medical practice and then decided to pursue my first love – research. I’m naturally a curious individual and I would prefer doing research all my life. My medical background makes it best suited for me to do research in medicine or health in general.

However, it appears that it is difficult to simply just leave medicine to do ONLY research. People say that there are no support structures for researchers outside academia or medical practice, and that worries me. Now, I have been out of medicine for about two years and not really making much headway with research. I have gotten to a point at which I am confused and thinking I might have made a mistake focusing solely on research.

Is it normal to feel this way? Is there any hope/opportunity for any researcher outside academics or clinical medicine?

I got a scholarship offer which requires me to work for a financial institution for three days (24 hours) a week. The scholarship is quite generous (50k AUD per year). Is it worth it to take it if I don’t have to take the responsibility of TA and RA? I am just afraid it will influence my academic performance during my PhD life. After all, I take a PhD for making myself have a position in the academia world. If my publication record will be influenced by the three-day work, I’d rather not take this scholarship and turn to self-fund(I don’t have any other scholarship). Can someone who has already experienced a PhD life help me estimate the pros and cons of this scholarship?

I am writing here to get good advice for my career. I completed my PhD in Mathematics last year. I was quite happy after my PhD that I have gained a PhD degree, but I don’t have any idea what I could do with this degree. Normally people apply for postdocs after doing PhD to become more independent and gain more exposure to research in their field. However, what can they do if their supervisor does not support them to apply for postdoc positions? What if their supervisor says “you are not an independent researcher, so I don’t think you could really sell yourself as an independent researcher?”

I am stuck in my career after having lots of negative feedback from my PhD supervisor, who always says not to apply anywhere, and just stay here (my country) and integrate yourself with your colleagues. How could someone stop you or discourage you to apply anywhere else in the world?

One of the biggest and toughest situations for me is the field I had chosen for doing PhD has no funding all around the world and I can hardly find postdocs in my field. And even if I find an advertisement of a post relevant to my field, my supervisor discourages me from applying by saying that that is not exactly relevant to the field (topic) in which you had done your PhD. It’s so weird to me that is it necessary to have the same topic for a postdoc to apply in which a person had his PhD? Can’t we slightly change our research topic relevant to the field (same background).

The main problem is to apply for any postdoc we need a strong reference letter from our PhD supervisor. What can people do if they doesn’t know what their supervisor writes about them in the reference letter? I spent four years in my PhD and not once did I did realise that my PhD supervisor is unhappy with my work. But now when I am back in my country on completion of my PhD my PhD supervisor has negative thoughts about me that I can’t sell myself as an independent researcher, I will need guidance and direction.

And he is probably true, because most of my work in my PhD was done by him. And he never let me be independent throughout my PhD. I don’t even know how people find topic of research/problem to work on and how do they find techniques to attach on the problem. I had been given a problem with my supervisor and direction as well. I had done all the coding by myself advised by my supervisor and later analysing results and proving those results was done by him. In the end of my PhD when I was writing my research paper I put his name on it where he said no to me and writing paper solely with my name only.

Currently, I am a lecturer in my country. However, to survive in an academia I have to publish papers and supervise master’s students. However, I am not feeling myself independent in research, due to the reason I am applying for some postdoc positions, where I have no support from my PhD supervisor. What should I do at this point? Should I leave academia? Should I go to industry? To join an industry what skills I do need to have? How can I make myself a perfect candidate?

I am really stuck in my career without having any support from my PhD supervisor after PhD. I am looking for some really good suggestions for my career. I shall really be grateful.

I have been following threads on this website for a few months now. However it’s my first time posting. I am a postdoctoral researcher from a Western European country who has done reasonably well since my PhD a few years ago in terms of attracting funding, publishing, teaching etc. My professional situation for the next 2-3 years is secure (I have won a competitive European grant) and I am very happy with what I am doing research-wise. To be clear, this is not a rant & it isn’t about me specifically.

I have recently completed a three-year postdoc in Austria in a humanities subject. What I have witnessed there has greatly upset me: I saw careers being shattered, research being stifled or appropriated, young researchers being exploited with promises of jobs that never came or work conditions that were so bad that they never finished their degrees, students ‘bound’ to their supervisors in ways that I would not have imagined possible in the 21st century, etc. In short, an incredible waste of talent and resources…

Now I am moving to another European country but I still feel very strongly about my experience in Austria and I wish I could do something about it. I know that what I have witnessed isn’t unique to Austria, although things are perhaps worse there than anywhere else in Europe. In Austria I felt a sense of hopelessness I had never experienced before – people were just afraid to speak out and lose their jobs; in fact it was so bad that several co-workers turned to me for advice and support, despite my own situation being precarious.

At the time I realized that we had no-one to turn to for help. Works’ committees were mostly for people with permanent jobs in the institute – not for students or people like me on short-term contracts. So here is my question: do you know any young researchers’ professional associations or unions, perhaps at European level, with whom I could share my concerns? Surely the sort of problems described here are common in academia and there must be structures to represent us?

From many academics with whom I have conversed, I get the vibe that they seem to think they are doing something meaningful with their lives, contributing positively to the state of the world and driving our collective knowledge forward, as opposed to being mindless slaves of the corporations.

This is a bizarre notion to me, for several reasons.

  1. First of all, most academics do not produce anything worthwhile and meaningful. The vast, vast majority of academics are glorified teachers or immature PhD students too scared of growing up.

  2. Secondly, one could easily make the argument that what really drives forward research and makes the world better is not Academia, but rather R&D departments in the industry which combine research with a determined development and application focus. That’s where the real contribution is coming from, not from PhD students publishing their rubbish papers that will be cited 5 times over the course of the next 10 years … by themselves.

  3. Thirdly, academia would not exist without industry. Because it is financed by the industry (or, taxes levied on the industry). You are only able to do what you little you do because of everybody else. So be a little grateful, yeah?