When some people outside academia ask about the role of a postdoctoral researcher, they expect that it is mainly a teaching job. It is surprising for them to find that many academic positions do not require any teaching. So what do these researchers who are not teaching actually doing? The answer is that research is a multidimensional activity which involves many responsibilities and skills:
- Researchers spend a lot of time reading. This includes reading latest research papers, classic works, surveys, theses etc.
- One also spends time thinking: formulating problems, analyzing previously known methods, considering alternative solutions, defining concepts, discussing problems, proving theorems etc. One may be more productive if one is thinking more than simply reading. However both activities complement each other.
- Presenting takes up some time. Presentations are made at conferences, meetings and workshops. Professional researchers pride themselves in being able to present their own work in a clear way. Presentations could also be informal such as explaining your work to a colleague.
- Grants are another important issue which researchers need to take care of. This includes writing applications to scientific organizations and funding institutes for research grants, academic fellowships, and travel scholarships etc.
- Another activity is serving the scientific community. This includes reviewing papers and rating research proposals, serving on organizing committees, working in program committees, editing journals and books.
- Supervising and managing is another important responsibility. The senior the position of an academic, the more significant is one’s supervising abilities. This can range from supervising a graduate student to take care of a huge institute.