Here's a balanced thread on #academia vs #industry from the perspective of someone who has held senior positions in both. I'm going to write this thread because a lot of what I read here reduces to "my tribe is better than yours" or "grass is always greener".

The academic trade is fundamentally freedom for money.

As a Sr #academic you barely have a boss and really get to determine which of millions of options you can pursue. New intl grants? More policy engagement? Acad leadership? Media? Translational research? All up to you.

Making the most of this implies a couple of things:
1) you must have a clear path to a senior position to take advantage
2) your institution must not be over corporatizing.

Let's address these two

First, academia rarely gives a pathway up. And if it is going to, it's usually quite obvious.

If you are in postdoc after postdoc the likelihood of that converting to a Sr appt gets lower and lower.

If you don't have a path up, the trade you're making might be too big.

Is that fair or good? Probably not.

But this thread is about having an honest discussion about the sectors.

Now what about corporatization?

Well public funding is drying up and if you aren't in a tier 1 research institution it can be getting quite difficult. Don't be surprised to see management changing strategies in ways that undermine your independence.

For instance I often see institutions seeking to commoditize academics - trying to sell nameless "capability" to industry or govt. If they're doing that vs naming individual high level experts, you may be suffering corporatization. The future is not bright if so.

I may be old fashioned, but feel that the whole virtue of a university is as a collection of scholars.

If youre going to be sold as "capability" why not do so for 3x higher salary from a defense contractor or think tank?

What about industry positions?

Well industry you generally form part of a capability. The expectation is you will work much more in a team and have much less autonomy to create a pathway forward in the short term.

Sometimes you will have no choice at all of activities

Now there are lots of #research driven industry positions that look a bit more academic. But even they tend to be directed research with shorter term goals. Do you care? That's up to you - it isn't good or bad.

Industry can be totally awesome particularly in breaking out of the $1 in/$1 out mentality of academic grants. With private capital behind you project income (if appropriate) can be massively leveraged to build much bigger efforts.

If you're looking at a well funded shop, they can often move much faster than academia and build much bigger efforts which can be very exciting.

Caveat emptor - sometimes big industry is just as slow and painful as academia!

In industry (esp large incumbent industry) it's also more common to find folks who just don't care - something pretty rare in academia. If you go to a large established shop you may be more likely to trade aggressive personalities in academia for dead weight.

You will also find there is less tolerance for bad behavior - HR policing can be a real painful thing. Is that better or worse than in academia? These days it's getting reasonably similar but academia is still more tolerant of divergent personalities...
A better part of industry is that bc there is less intrinsic motivation to succeed or grow among staff on avg, the orgs understand incentives much better. You actually get paid and they use financial rewards to shape your behavior.

Academia does NOT understand incentives

If academia understood incentives at all it would be a much better sector.

The demands for filling in tables of industry engagement or talks given (with tons of necessary supporting detail) but no discernible personal upside make a huge disincentive to help the univ

What is the best of both worlds? A #research driven #deeptech startup!

You get opportunity to have huge impact, leverage, more autonomy than normal in industry, speed, and financial incentives for your efforts.

Is it self serving? No, it's just why I'm building @qctrlHQ

I also sometimes hear #academia is particularly bad for #diversity.

These problems are real. Those who claim they are *worse* in academia likely haven't worked much outside.

In AU, 27% of Univ VCs are women: not great.

In the ASX200 there are only about 5% women CEOs.

That comment is not made to absolve Universities of their failings or the way they sometimes/often protect staff with serious histories of abusive behavior.

It's only to say it is not obviously better in other working environments on average.

Why are Univs great? Freedom to chart your own path, pursue challenging long-term problems/questions, & pursue what excites YOU.

Back to the start, the ability to become an authority & determine what is worth addressing is a fundamental value of #universities
In a Univ, a Sr #academic becomes an authority in a discipline and (when things work normally) their views should help to shape not only future inquiry, but future industries, policies, etc. You as an academic shape the future in the long term.

Now of course some of the challenge is that a respect for authority is currently diminishing and Universities are simultaneously shifting to short-term thinking, in large part due to government incentives.

Again, it's getting trickier to extract the benefits of academia.

Thanks for the reminder of the importance of being able to think deeply in academia @Chemcommunicato . Ill caveat that as you get more Sr in academia you also tend to get more committee & admin responsibility that eats into this time.


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