Leaving academia: View from social sciences

Joe Higard writes:

The lackadaisical response I’ve sometimes received when raising concerns about papers has further convinced me that most social psych research does not matter. When I email a journal to say “none of these statistics add up” or “these effect sizes are ridiculously big,” I often get no reply. Compare this to the sort of all-hands-on-deck response we might get if we found poison in the dog food. It doesn’t matter that the product is no good — we produce it for the sake of producing it, quality irrelevant….

Being prepared to leave academia has benefits beyond the materialistic. You might recognize some of my more pugilistic works pointing out effects that are artifacts of selective removal of outliers, or effects that are too consistent or too big to be true, or the last two years of the Zhang affair. It can hurt your academic career to make enemies or to be known as a trouble-maker. Even outside of that, these projects had an opportunity cost; while I was writing criticism, I was not doing my own primary research and making discoveries with my name on them. Being ready to leave gave me the freedom and power to criticize what I felt needed to be criticized.

I have included them here (a view from social sciences) to get a different perspective. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to get into academia. It only means I need to break the echo chamber of “publish or perish” culture, because it encourages behaviour which is not conducive to research. The linked blog post has an interesting perspective on what meaningful impact the author had.

Getting into academia has its own perks – it challenges you intellectually. One ends up acquiring a novel skill set, which provides its own intangible benefit. It may offer peer recognition too.