Since I just finally defended my PhD thesis, now, I can finally talk about the real reasons why I left academia (although I didn’t really quit doing research! — these are two separate and almost unrelated things…). And, I didn’t necessarily leave for the reasons that most people think I did.
The year of 2009 was groundbreaking, for at least two separate reasons. Firstly, on January 3rd of 2009, the genesis block of bitcoin was mined. Secondly, on October 12th of 2009, Elinor Claire “Lin” Ostrom has became the first woman awarded with a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”. The clue of this work is a phenomenon known in economy as the tragedy of commons. This phenomenon occurs when a group shares a resource, but at the same time, every individual acts on their own behalf, which is often against the common interest of the community. Can we spot the tragedy of commons in academia?
Initially, I was hesitating for a long time if I can even manage to supervise a student. Namely, if I will be able to catch some good vibes and keep on going regardless of little bumps on the way which naturally pop out during research: you try and fail, and then try and fail again and again… But now, I must say that supervising students is a wonderful experience to me, and I consider it – so far – the most fulfilling part of the PhD track.
Researchers have their personal styles of working, and some of them are more like craftsmen, whereas others are more like artists. And the irony is: in order to produce a novel scientific study and publish it well, you need to be an artist, but you also need to be a craftsman – and these two qualities are rarely to be found in one and the same person.
What does the competitiveness come from? It is not a very prominent feature of the Dutch society – this society is more about equity and cooperation. No wonder: once you look at the educational program at the Dutch primary schools, the first class they ever have is ‘working in teams’. Which is very much in opposition to Polish schools where they were always telling us to compete.