Leaving Academia: Goodbye, cruel world!

In September, my contract as a research assistant at the University of Bonn ended. I was lucky to have a 50% contract for three years and even more lucky that I had the option to extend the contract for another year. Nevertheless, I will leave academia as I’m close to finishing by PhD thesis and planned to work outside of the university from the beginning.

So, for now I am only left with writing my thesis.

I would not want to have missed the opportunity of working inside the university setting. While teaching Master students takes a lot of time for preparation, it helps to find accessible explanations for the research you are talking about. Since my courses were not related to my thesis, it also helped to find relationships between the course material and my research topics. At least in my third year I was able to go beyond the reading list by giving examples from other fields of research.

Academia is not for everyone. The system is broken as it still incentivises quantitative research output over high-quality research with less publications. There will be long times where you feel like you are not achieving anything of value. Fixed-term contracts and no job security are not helpful for mental health, either. On the other hand, the freedom to work on intellectual problems and having time to pursue solutions over many months and years is something you don’t easily find outside of academia.

Over the last years I have talked to many junior researchers who struggle with the conditions of working in German academia. And I have talked to junior researchers in Denmark and the Netherlands and see that other countries put much more effort in building the next generation of researchers. Germany, the country of “Dichter und Denker” (poets and thinkers) will need to invest much more money in the academic systems if they want to continue playing a role in international research. Outside of Europe, countries like China are investing much more money in research — and in a couple of years, you can expect their research quality to be on par with European or American universities.

New Adventures in Data Science

Since October I am now working full-time at SKOPOS, a market-research institute, and started building a team of Data Scientist with whom we will provide individual data-centric solutions to our clients. Using survey data in combination with operational data allows for interesting insights into customer behaviour that is rarely considered, when Machine Learning solutions are presented for marketing purposes. The challenging combination of data collection, data integration, analysis (using both statistics and machine learning techniques) and data visualisation is why I think the term “data science” is a fitting description.

With some connections to academic researchers and a personal interest in the discussion on methods in psychology, I will read or maybe write one or two papers in the future. And since my thesis isn’t yet finished (in fact, I haven’t worked on it for three months now), I will surely post some more posts on replicability in psychology over the next months.

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