The Chronicle has an interview of Scott Keeter who after twenty-four years as university faculty member is now working in a think tank The interview dwells on the similarities and differences between academic jobs and ‘quasi-academic jobs’. Quasi-academic jobs are not necessarily restricted to think tanks for political scientists. Many economics academics consult for governmental, non-governmental and commercial organizations. Mathematicians and computer scientists do foundational research in the IT industry where the big firms have big research and development departments.
Keeter makes many pertinent points which are applicable to any quasi-academic job. In order to make a better transition, Keeter mentions two aspects to keep in mind. Firstly, a graduate program may not give enough opportunities to work in teams and collaboration and team work has to be inculcated. Secondly, one may get used to speaking and writing to academic audiences. It is essential to get more training to write for nonacademic audiences. The interview also highlights the importance of being able to juggle many responsibilities at the same time. This is something which I feel academic do have good training in what with handling research, teaching, getting funding and administrative matters.
One aspect which is not really discussed is to have a better business sense of the research area even if one’s own research is more foundational in nature. This is because even if one is working in a research group within a company, business interests run supreme in many instances.
The interview suggests ways to get an entry into quasi academic jobs. It is helpful to intern in appropriate organizations during graduate study and also to keep in touch with one’s relevant professional association.