Being evaluated on WHAT and HOW

When I moved from academia into industry 1,5 years ago, the biggest eye-opener was that in that company we were being evaluated not only by WHAT we did, but also HOW we did it. So it is not only important that you submit a paper, or get results from an experiment, or start a collaboration, it is also very important how you do that. It is for example important that you openly communicate with people, involve all the stakeholders that are important for the particular project. And this leads to an evaluation system where it can happen that you did not submit a paper that you were supposed to submit before the end of the year, but that happened because you involved an additional collaborator, thereby making it a more influential paper and/or set up a new collaboration, and you will still be evaluated positively because of that contribution.

I really like this way of working, because it means that shit can happen (and being in research you can rest assured that shit does happen), but the most important thing is not the shit itself, but how you handle said shit*. To me, this feels very different from being in academia, where it seemed like I was being judged by things that felt largely out of my control, like getting papers and grants accepted and rejected. It seems like in academia there is much less appreciation of HOW you make things happen and I wonder if changing that would contribute to more people being happier there?**

*Of course in the long run you do get judged by the things that you’ve helped to make happen, which makes sense I think.

** Additional reading: Universities with "cooperative culture" can help women thrive 

2 responses so far

  • Namnezia says:

    Agreed. There was a lot of discussion in my department a few years back about someone coming up for tenure. This person was being critiqued for not having enough papers w/out outside collaborators. Which was ridiculous, because by establishing this collaboration (the collaborator was also a junior PI) this faculty member was able to elevate the level of the science and have not one, but two papers in super glam journals. Rather than rewarding their resourcefulness that allowed them to make the best science, this person was chastised for "lack of independence". Which is of course ridiculous. In the end it worked out, fortunately, and said person got tenure.

  • ivy says:

    yes, I've noticed that difference too.

    Also, (1) not getting penalised in your performance evaluation because your experiment failed due to something completely outside your control e.g. a power failure causing loss of samples. And (2) an understanding that while a failed experiment / boring result might not lead to a glamour mag paper now, it might be the foundation for something better in the future.

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