If you ask me what I like to do most in life, I would straightaway answer two things: solving problems and explaining things to others.
I think these two passions are what led me to academia and eventually a career in research. Doing research is a non-stop problem-solving job. And once you solve your problems you need to explain your ‘complicated’ ideas, sometimes to people with a very different background than yours.
I’ve mentioned some things briefly about version control in the reproducible research chapter, as it appeared as one of the four pillars constituting reproducible research. So what is version control?
In the broad sense, version control is a way of keeping track of different versions of something. This something can be a process, a design, a document, an analysis or even a part of a software. The means of keeping track of different versions can vary and can be by simply making separate copies of the file for each version or using dedicated software to automate that process.
Meetings are an integral part of academic life. Actually, it’s not only important at the university, but almost everywhere. You either have to work with people, give report to your suppervisors or receive updates from your subordinates. Organising a meeting is the most wide-spread way to do that.
Often people will argue about its efficiency and necessity, however let’s assume that you cannot escape having them. What is there to be done besides trying to make them as effective and pleasant as possible?
Research is a long ongoing process. You will see this sentence being repeated often in this book. The fact that is long and the fact that is ongoing means that often, you will have to jump back in time and re-evaluate things that you have been doing. That might be necessary either because you (or someone else) might have suspicions that you’ve made a mistake somewhere, either because you received new knowledge that maybe help you improve your work or because simple you want to expand what you’ve been doing earlier on.
As it will be mentioned often in these posts, a PhD is a long process that is not always very clear since the beginning what the ultimate goal is. It of course depends on whether you are working for a well defined project or for a broad idea of what needs to be achieved. To achieve such a long term and not well defined goal, it is beneficial to follow a specific reasoning.
Presenting your research, ideas and work is of ultimate importance, not only in academia, but in any field you might be working in. It is actually what it is all about when working with others. You need to exchange your ideas accurately and be able to understand other’s ideas, feedback or proposals. However, as much as communication is important, bad communication is probably the number one reason why people sometimes cannot work well together.
One of the greatest problems one has to deal with when performing research, is procrastination. What I mean by procrastination is not only the fact that you are not working when you’re supposed to. Besides that, you can also fall in the trap of procrastination when you are working on things you are not supposed to be working (e.g. due to their lower priority/importance). Through these years, I have been a victim of procrastination multiple times (and still am), but now, at the end, I am thinking that I could have achieved so much more had I managed it a bit better.
A non academic approach to approaching academia When I finished my PhD, I realised that I really enjoyed the process of compiling a piece of work into a book. Well, if you want me to be honest, I didn’t enjoy the process as much as I did enjoy the final outcome of having something on my hands to hold. So I decided to write my second book, which will be about the process of doing a PhD :)