Monday, March 11, 2013

Can academics be happy?

Brian Martin has an interesting article On being a happy academic that is worth reading.
He reviews recent research about happiness [contentment, well-being or satisfaction with life, not "jumping for joy"] in the context of university faculty members. He points out that many values and goals sought by academics [promotion, salary increases, international reputation] actually fail to provide long-term satisfaction. Unlike most jobs, academics actually have a lot of freedom as to how they spend their time. They have the option of being "counter-cultural" and focusing on things that may actually bring lasting satisfaction: understanding things, solving research problems, and building meaningful relationships.

Aside: Martin has an interesting career history. He did a Ph.D in theoretical physics and ended up as a Professor of Social Science at the University of Wollongong.
He has the courage to ask questions that most of us are afraid to ask (at least in public). For example, he has an interesting critique of the Excellence in Research Australia assessment exercise. Amongst other problems, Martin points out the confusion associated with counting grants as outputs rather than inputs. [I made a similar point in this post].

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