The wrong type of scientist?

“You don’t want to have a publication in Science!? But that is everyone’s dream!” exclaimed another participant of a mentoring for early career researchers at my summer conference. For years, I was not able to say this out loud, but by now – a fourth year in my PhD – I got used to the shocked expression that usually follows my declaration.

I know many individuals (my supervisors, friends and colleagues) who have dreamed of this. I even know someone who has reached this academic Everest right after their PhD. And I am happy for them! Nevertheless, for me, this has never been the goal.  

But I have always wondered why people around me are so disturbed by my confession. And to be honest, others reactions made me feel guilty, like a bad scientist and brought a lot of self-doubt.


Yet, what I have never doubted was the importance of epidemiology. Recently, Maria Glymour has excellently summarized the magic of epidemiology writing that it is a “field of research devoted to applying biological thinking and statistical tools to address some of the world’s greatest injustices: preventable illness and injury”. I have always been curious mind, and passionate about social justice, equity and health. Thus choosing an interdisciplinary field combining these aspects, possibly guiding healthcare policy to improve people’s health, felt natural. And maybe the research I do, will never be published in the Science. Nevertheless, I am content to contribute, and maybe provide one piece of puzzle to be used in triangulation* of evidence*.

Now towards the end of my PhD, I can stand more proudly behind my statements. I have realized that if I have to choose I prefer an open access journals over prestigious ones. I have learned what my ideal research environment would look like – a place where we respect various dreams and drives, involve diverse individuals in productive manner, have mentorship that respects the multiplicity of young scientists dreams and personalities. I am dreaming of a research environment that does not dictate one type of science, but appreciates curiosity, and the hard work of the individual researchers.



My dream is to see open science, not just in a way of publishing, but in including individuals. But to all of those out there, who might struggle with prestige and pressure of the academic environment, remember that there is not one type of science. Science is the cumulation of our engagement and thinking. I think that science is for everyone! So keep on dreaming and doing YOUR science!

*Triangulating findings means that if multiple pieces of evidence (from diverse data sources, researchers, methodologies and theoretical background) arrive at the same conclusion, we can be more confident about the results.

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