David Patterson has an amusing way of giving advice on research careers. He advises on ‘How to have a bad research career‘! Well, if one wants to avoid pitfalls it is always good to know what the pitfalls are. Among the bad choices one may make, he mentions the following three:
- Be THE leading expert
Patterson is of the view that it’s not a good idea to invent a new field and be totally divorced from other researchers. It is also not wise to act like the lone ranger so that others cannot get credit for joint work. A lot of research only happens if there is an exchange of ideas. Patterson also suggests that sticking to one topic for the whole of a career is unwise. In this case, one is at the risk of getting stale or even obsolete.
- Never be Proven Wrong
Patterson warns that the ‘never be proven wrong attitude’ is not clever. It leads to researchers avoiding implementation, quantitative experiments, and benchmarks. It may also lead one to ignore the validity of key assumptions in the model.
- Don’t be Distracted by Others
This point is similar to the first one. Patterson warns that dominating conversations and not listening to others is a short road to disaster. Moreover, not reading and talking to people can also be very harmful. He points out that it is important to talk to users and the industry for meaningful feedback. This final point is especially relevant to theoreticians.