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On life in academia Serge Abiteboul INRIA-Futurs and Univ. Paris 11

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Presentation on theme: "On life in academia Serge Abiteboul INRIA-Futurs and Univ. Paris 11"— Presentation transcript:

1 On life in academia Serge Abiteboul INRIA-Futurs and Univ. Paris 11
Serge - Life in academia

2 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
Organization Introduction Some questions you always wanted to ask Performance evaluation Success optimization Result: Life is great in academia Conclusion Serge - Life in academia

3 Introduction

4 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
What is academia? Academia is a collective term for the scientific and cultural community engaged in higher education and research, taken as a whole. The word comes from the akademeia just outside ancient Athens, where the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning Wikipedia Also on the Web (Google define:academia) Hypothetical or theoretical and not expected to produce an immediate or practical result. Marked by a narrow focus on or display of learning especially its trivial aspects Serge - Life in academia

5 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
Why go to academia? To manage people To be rich To not work To be famous To have power To be useful try the army try start-ups try a rich spouse try show business or serial killer try politics try NGO Serge - Life in academia

6 Some reasonable reasons
Why??? Tough question Because you cannot do anything else Because you don’t have any better idea We will come back to that Serge - Life in academia

7 How do they spend their time? Conflicting demands
The tasks Teaching Research Including system development/experimentation Advising (PhD students, etc.) Grants Reviewing Industry and consulting And the normal life: family, friends, hobbies, sports… Time management is the big issue Serge - Life in academia

8 May vary depending on institutions – where ?
Teaching load varies from 0 to hundreds of hours per year Industry academic research centers: IBM, MS, Lucent… (rare) Pure research institutes such as INRIA (rare) I teach hours a year but I don’t have to University Depends on the university: much less at Stanford U. than at San Jose State Depends on the country: less in UK than in France than in Germany In China? Implication in software development also varies a lot Serge - Life in academia

9 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
How do I spend my time Not the way you would expect  And not improving with time  other activities real research education 100% 0% Time spent doing research PhD junior senior social Serge - Life in academia

10 How do you spend your time in academia?
Some university in the US Source: private + Jennifer Widom (expert in time management) Travel – too varied to quantify Conferences, visiting colleagues, grant-related meetings, etc. Light (each <1 hour/week) Coffee and lunch breaks Prospective & think of new topics Read research papers you don’t have to review Serge - Life in academia

11 How do you spend your time in academia?
Medium (each 1-5 hours/week) Deliver lectures Department duties: committees, faculty meetings, etc. Write research papers Reviewing Grant-related work (proposals, reports, etc.) Read drafts of student Heavy (each >5 hours/week) Handle of all sorts Prepare class lectures, handouts, assignments, exams Research meetings including meetings with PhD students Serge - Life in academia

12 Spending time in front of a dull machine
Reading/writing code & documentation Reading/writing papers Reading/writing s Blogging about life in academia Serge - Life in academia

13 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
Work-Life balance There is no limit to the number of papers/lines of code you can write There is little limit to working hours If you don’t think you can balance, choose another job Rumor: job-related stress is the main cause for leaving academia [Opposite rumor: people join academia because of less stress] Serge - Life in academia

14 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
The ancient rituals When the season comes, the researchers gather in some fancy place for bizarre rituals with weird names that make sense only to the initiated, such as SIGMOD, PODS, VLDB… The main point is networking Not for favors Perhaps to be part of the crowd To meet the colleagues you want to work with Hitting bars is more important than attending talks (don’t repeat this to your advisors – they know) Sponsored link Serge - Life in academia

15 Warning: You came too late
The time of these gatherings is counted because of their ecologically disastrous effect Thank you for attending the first virtual SIGMOD Serge - Life in academia

16 Tough life – Think about it
Academia is a very competitive environment Do you know many places with such a high percentage of PhDs? Academia is loaded with smart people who are perhaps faster more knowledgeable better at writing code or proving theorems than you Sponsored link Serge - Life in academia

17 Performance evaluation

18 Evaluation is essential in academic life
You will be evaluated all the time For papers to conferences and journals For grants, awards By ranking in GoogleScholar, Citeseer, h-index… For promotion also People sometimes get reviews such as “this is stupid” or “no real contribution” Don’t worry This is life and life is tough This is the price to pay for having one of the greatest jobs on earth This is not going to improve with time Serge - Life in academia

19 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
Evaluation: pitfalls It is not because your work was rejected that it is trash Reviewers are sometimes wrong May be you are ahead of your time (2) It is not because your work was accepted that you are a star May be you just did some timely increment I have seen colleagues (including myself) indulging in both  Both are negative and lead to psychological disorders  Both are positive and lead to breakthroughs You become modest and work harder You are driven to push further your works & dare wild ideas Serge - Life in academia

20 Evaluation: the two sides of the coin
The reviewers and reviewee are the same people They are too busy and they sometimes do a poor job at it Remember! you are both reviewer and reviewee As a reviewer, do reviews seriously as a service to the community As a reviewee, try to understand the point of the reviewer There is always the chance that she is smarter than you Even if he is not so smart, he is the one deciding! And this is the best known system, arguably better than a random function (not proven though) Serge - Life in academia

21 Evaluation: what you should try to remember
Peer reviewing is arguably the best known system Serge - Life in academia

22 Success optimization

23 Optimizing your chances of success
Learn to manage your time Try to focus your time/energy on the essential Work hard Most successful people I have met in academia are hard workers Kiss! = keep it simple stupid! This is true for systems but also for theory Human quality matters Most of the successful works I have seen are teamwork The quality of relationships in the workplace is a key ingredient to success In particular, the weird alchemy between colleagues (e.g., between advisor and advisee) Serge - Life in academia

24 Optimizing your chances of success
Choose carefully your research topic Is it new? Elegant? Technically Challenging? Useful? Is it fun? Quotes (apocryphal ) I had this idea of a topic. I got drunk. It still sounded like a topic. Then I decided it was one. Italian researcher who asked to remain anonymous This idea is crazy and will probably not work. It is so much unlike everything I have seen before. Who cares! Let’s try it for the fun. French researcher who is declining any responsibility Serge - Life in academia

25 Result: life is great in academia

26 Why it is such a great job
Intellectually exciting and challenging I don’t know of any job that is as much fun (perhaps writing novels but that’s too competitive) Less repetitive than other jobs When you get tired of a topic, you change Freedom and independence No real boss Freedom to choose what you want to work on Rich human interactions with smart and international people Socially positive People think it is a cool job Clearly useful (for teaching and perhaps research) I am free!!!! Serge - Life in academia

27 10 highlights of life in academia
Some light of understanding in the eyes of the audience The excitement of the arrival of a new PhD student The deliverance of the departure of a PhD student (aka defense) The success of your ex-students in their career The orgasm of proving a theorem that resisted for months The delight of having your system finally do something real The ecstasy of having a paper accepted at a top conference The happiness of seeing your paper cited and (with God’s help) even read The joy of seeing a book that you wrote on the desk of a colleague There are only 9! Just to check whether you are listening carefully [AbiteboulHullVianu] Serge - Life in academia

28 Conclusion

29 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
Don’t be overwhelmed by your responsibility in the progress of science Anyway, most of the time you will be too busy to think about it I wont let my very high philosophical expectations of research interfere with my main goal that is to get: A PhD A job Tenure This grant Other (indicate what) ………………. Do not freak out! Serge - Life in academia

30 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
And the most important Enjoy your time as PhD student If you choose academia, enjoy it! Sponsored links INRIA INRIA proposes postdocs in many areas. Tell your friends Gemo, Paris INRIA’s database group. The best environment for database research Serge - Life in academia

31 Some interesting questions I was asked when presenting this talk
Aren’t there too few women in academia? There are for sure too few in computer science We should do efforts to have more women in general in science and in engineering What is the value of a PhD if you don’t stay in academia? A PhD is a great personal experience even no matter what you do after The training of engineers via research yields better engineers So, it is worth it even if it is not clear whether it pays salary-wise What should you do immediately after your PhD? It is a very good idea to go away for one or two years, e.g., post-docs It is a very bad idea to be hired in the department where you graduated Serge - Life in academia

32 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
Merci Merci Sigmod/Pods, Beijing 2007 Serge - Life in academia

33 Serge - Life in academia - 2007
Bibliography David Lodge: Going places & other novels Batya Gur: Literary murder a list of blogs about life in academia – I did not find the time to read them ACM Sigmod record interviews by Marianne Winslett Serge - Life in academia

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