Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sell your science not your hyper-activity

One of the most important sections in grant applications in Australia is where applicants have half a page to described their "significant contributions to the field".
Such material is also important in CV's and job applications.

Many people seem to write things like:

-I published a paper in a high impact journal and it has been cited and I got invited to speak on it at a conference.

-I worked on topic XYZ where I learnt how to use technique ABC and then I got offered a job at the prestigious University of Mediocrity.

-I have used state-of-the art software to calculate such and such a property of this exotic material which is a really hot topic right now.

-I previously got a grant. Therefore you should give me another one.

These are all activities not contributions to scientific knowledge.
Grants are inputs not outputs.

Instead you should write something like:

I developed a new technique to measure the position of atoms in crystals to a resolution that was an order of magnitude better than existing techniques. With collaborators from Austria, we were able to show that the actual structure of blah-blah materials was different from that predicted by the standard theoretical model....
This led theoretical chemists to develop a new model which shows that entropic effects are actually important in determining the most stable crystal structure at room temperature.....

Research is all about knowledge creation, not about busyness, metrics, or points scoring.

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