Monday, April 8, 2013

If academia were another type of business it would be...

A few days ago, I was having lunch with another scientist and we had a friendly debate about what kind of business was most similar to academic research. In the end, we couldn't settle on a single sector, but we couldn't agree on whether 'academic research' was it's own standalone style of business -- there are too many common themes with other parts of the economy.

Though there are many industries which can supply strategies useful in academic research, none are a perfect model for academic researchers.  But many do offer concepts that can be borrowed:

Advertising.  Part of doing academic research is getting your message out there and using papers, conferences, and media to promote your work and your lab.  Like it or not, your lab is your brand.

Biotechnology/High Tech.  If you're in life sciences, a biotech model pushes you to be efficient to produce that final widget that gets you to your next slice of funding, whether it's another investment or a grant.  Similar analogies can be made for other faculties like physics, engineering, or chemistry.

Education.  Teaching models exist that can help train trainees and other members in your research group.

Legal.  Positioning your research as an advance in the context of literature is a little like putting together a convincing legal argument.

Service Industries.  If you've ever collaborated with another research group it's useful to treat them like a valued client and deliver on what you promised, quickly, efficiently, and to at least the standards expected.