I contacted some of the authors that wrote the papers I read, some of them replied that they are not doing the research anymore, or it's too long ago (some of the papers are in the 90s). Why is that? Why won't they continue the research? It's not like the problem has been solved.
One of them did mention that he had to do more admin work than research and the other one said that he's in a new field - is this the norm in academic research?
Could anyone share any light into this?
From what I can gather, the original output of most academics decreases as they progress in their career.
research progresses pretty much like fashion. a particular research focus can be popular at one time, and tasteless at another. this is due to the simple fact that panels who evaluate and approve funding change all the time. each group would have their own paradigm of what is important and what is not within a temporal vicinity.
knowing this, researchers change their focus to improve their *chance* of getting a fund. it's more or less an application of game theory. u develop a proposal that u think would gain the panels' interest. at the same time, u differentiate your proposal from other similar ones. this implies that prediction is crucial. u need to predict what others could be doing and then propose something that would outshine them. failure to anticipate this can be hazardous.
for instance, someone i knew was really enthused about computational immunology 10 years ago. he submitted a great proposal and tried to market the idea to other researchers, only to be responded with demoralizing remarks. he never finished his phd and got heartbroken along the way.
in 2009 computational research gained its boom. if i'm not mistaken, until now, a few hundred million has been invested to propel its growth in the US. apparently, what was hilarious 10 years ago (computational immunology) is now considered a compelling prospect that would allow pharmaceutical companies to save billions on research. presently, it's even considered a field of its own.
to answer the question, people abandon their research due to the perception of research value. if a particular research is perceived to be useful by the research community, it is continued. else, it would be abandoned. this argumentation is meant for the behaviour of change at the macro scale. individually, people can change their research for various reasons, which include interest, collaboration possibility etc.
still, some researchers are quite persistent in their research regardless of perceived value. when george miller started wordnet about 30 years, it wasn't really popular. currently, it's being cited by hundreds of papers and used all over the world. it is said that to be an expert in a field, or to achieve a research breakthrough, u need to allocate at least 10 years of research into it ( 10 year rule / 10000 hours rule). thus, changing the research often is kinda counterproductive.
hope this has shed some light on ur inquiry.
1) Funding goes into whatever is Fashionable.
2) Universities apply for finding according to their senior academics research interests and resulting prestige gained in their field. When the senior academic moves on, the University more often than not loses interest in favour of someone else's interests.
3) Doctoral and Post-doctoral researchers rarely get a contract of more than three years maximum and more often or not, hence they will move on to wherever the money is (in the form of research funding often at another Uni. or laboratory) meaning often a change in the direction of their research.
With respect to point three, such people will often return to the real world and give up on research altogether if they do not manage to gain academic tenure - at least the real world offers long term and permanent contracts that allow people to gain mortgages, marry and settle down with a family. That is very difficult moving from short term contract to short term contract (often accompanied by a change of location).
I know of one former undergraduate degree colleague who also went onto a PhD and after pursuing different research contracts at various locations, gave up and trained as an airline pilot. He could not make his PhD 'work for him'.
Let's put it this way, due to the insecurity in research, there are many projects that are not seen through to a workable, marketable conclusion due to changes in funding, direction and personnel. It is no wonder many people in research become easily disillusioned and projects are dropped.
As someone who has given up on a research career after being a post doc I would say there are several things that completely sucked the joy out of research and made join a new field.
The hyper competitiveness of getting any kind of academic job that has prospects.
The current structure of funding, where you have to constantly keep looking for grants means that researchers are almost punished for pursuing this line of work. No other field would someone be this trained be paid so little and so precariously.
The ideas around high quantity of publications in high impact journals being the only yardstick to measure research. Nothing about quality, usefulness or longer term implications.
The all consuming nature of the work that means you have to sacrifice relationships, opportunities and life in general.
The politics and drama about university life - by far the most unfriendly place I have ever worked.
Although this may be more about researchers leaving research, rather than a single area, I think it all plays a part.
======= Date Modified 03 Nov 2012 12:55:26 =======
Academics, even if they have 'permanent' posts, are constantly assessed on their performance against a series of research metrics (and these get changed mid-process to add to the uncertainty and stress). You are only as good as your current cv. It doesn't matter if you had a great record, if you hit a fallow research period at the wrong point in the REF cycle you've got a good chance of losing your job in the current climate. There's no time to waste on 'unproductive' research - if it doesn't pretty much guarantee high impact publications and funding forget it unless you have a desire to reacquaint yourself with the Job Centre. (There was an article in the Times Higher Educational Supplement last week about academics only finally getting to do the research they wanted after retirement).
On a more positive note after mining their PhD thesis for publications, many people are desperate to start a completely different project as they can't face continuing down the same track. Some people actually discover something that is commercially useful and abandon research for entrepreneurship. And quite a lot of people get their PhD and walk away very rapidly, having decided that there has to be better and saner ways of making a living than research!
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