12 January 2020

Goodbye Academia: When You Have a Pet Project

There was a recent event at work that somehow struck an interesting nerve with me. See, there were some academics who wanted to do a study, and somehow the topic of this study was rather close to me professionally, for some reason. It was a very small study, very qualitative and not the most data-driven, I must say, yet the turn of events that was triggered by this study was rather large, and resulted in a few stressful though exciting days. I don't want to talk about the details, but in any case this just gave me yet another reason why I feel like academia is not for me. The thing is, for academia, when you have a pet project, you think that that project is the most important thing in the world, and sometimes, one fails to be an academic: instead of looking at the evidence to confirm or reject one's hypothesis, one just selects random bits and pieces of information that would support the hypothesis and discard information that doesn't.

See, I felt like this is what happened with this study. It was a qualitative study with data coming from interviews from a very small handful of people, who definitely seemed to be cherry-picked just to support the argument that the authors of the study wanted to go for. It was also noteworthy that the journal that published this study wasn't peer-reviewed, it seems. So it seems that these authors just could publish whatever they want. And that's I think where academia gets nasty.

If one were a legitimate academic, then one would hope that one formulates hypotheses after a well-rounded data-gathering session. One would hope that ones information bits that one would consider evidence is not one-sided and coming from a single source. And one would hope that one would keep on revising one's theories as more and more pieces of evidence are gathered. Hypothesis testing after all is a continuous repetitive process of testing and retesting.

Oh well, it turns out that not all of academia is working in the ideal sense of the world. That's one more reason why I feel jaded and happy that I got out of that world. It was fun while it lasted, but in the long run, I realise with more and more conviction, that that world isn't for me.

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