• Question: What are the pros and cons of your profession?

    Asked by Samantha to Keegan, Clay, aka Dr. Dirt, Alex on 5 May 2016.
    • Photo: Clay Robinson

      Clay Robinson answered on 5 May 2016:


      Pros and cons are largely determined by peoples’ preferences and personalities. What is a pro to one person could be a con to another. For instance, I am extremely comfortable spending hours and hours alone by myself as I work inside or outside, often in almost complete silence. So I enjoy fieldwork even when I am the only person on the trip. Other people need to work regularly with other people, and are unsettled when they are alone for long periods of time.
      So, allow me to rephrase the question and talk about challenges and rewards.
      Some rewards: opportunities to pursue the path your curiosity takes, discovery, enlightenment, discussing ideas and hypotheses and observations and findings with other scientists, sharing information that may encourage people to use more efficient methods that are better for the environment, when you see someone “get” what you are teaching
      Some challenges:
      For researchers and professors, there is a need to conduct research and publish the findings. You may have heard someone use the phrase, “publish or perish”. This is just a simple way to indicate that researchers are evaluated on their productivity, and their productivity is evaluated on how many of their research articles are published in scientific journals.
      Conducting research often requires more funds than their employers provide, so researchers often must apply for additional money to fund that research. These funds are often available through competitive grants, which means other scientists and professors from other organizations and universities are applying for the same funds to support their own research. Only a few people will receive funding, which means many will not, and then have to look for money from other places. This process sometimes takes almost as much time as writing the report at the end of the experiment.
      Time management is a challenge for people in any profession, but the researcher must balance their time between conducting experiments, analyzing the results and writing the reports, and writing proposals to seek funding for the next project. If a researcher is also a professor who teaches at a university, that adds another layer to time management: preparing for lectures, developing assignments and exams, assessing student performance, and possibly organizing laboratories.

    • Photo: Alexander Taylor

      Alexander Taylor answered on 5 May 2016:


      For me, the biggest pro is being able to talk to smart and curious people every day about important questions about how our world works.

      The biggest con is the amount of time I have to spend getting grants, permissions, and doing paperwork.

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