Less than a couple years ago I was still wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up. At my age, another question has to accompany this question: when will I be grown up? Now that I have a real grown up job, I’ve turned to wondering “What will success look like?” and “When will I be successful?” I’ve read two articles recently which address success. “Research Centered” describes her endeavors to avoid impostor syndrome in her approaching 40’s. Douglas Green defines what success means to him in the article “Opinion: Success!” in The Scientist.
To Green, success happened during the transition from him asking successful scientists what made them successful to him getting that question. He compared this to “The Princess Bride”, where every night the Dread Pirate Roberts told Wesley “I’ll probably kill you in the morning,” until one day the Dread Pirate Roberts announced he was retiring and that Wesley was now the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Shortly after starting my new job I had a list for myself. To be a successful researcher, I decided, I need three pretty decent publications and an R01 within 5 years. The R01 is a 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, and often at least one if not two or three simultaneous R01s are required for tenure. Having narrowly escaped a tenure track job, I came up with exactly the same criteria. And I only gave myself 5 years to do it, whereas most departments give their tenure track professors 6 or 7 years to do it.
“Research Centered” is a lot like me, in that she narrowly escaped a tenure track job. But her career is not as research focused as mine. Despite her blog name she describes herself as 75% administrative, 25% research. If she wants metrics for success she can’t copy and paste from tenure track definitions. That’s lucky for her. I want to do better than that too. There’s a reason I am no longer interested in a tenure track position. So what sense does it make to impose the same on myself? That’s no escape.
I still want good publications and an R01. But maybe I can come up with different definitions of success for myself.