When discussing “success” in science there is a huge number of different concepts which are mostly not compatible with each other.  I have listed below – in random order – a number of indicators which may help to characterize a person, a group or an institution as “successful in science”:

  • Exciting results
  • Being an expert
  • Being a source of inspiration for my own students and/or for future researchers
  • A permanent position as a professor
  • A highly paid position in the industry
  • A high hierarchical position in academia or industry
  • High responsibility
  • Exerting power
  • Huge amounts of funding
  • Being member of editorial boards of scientific journals
  • Being a board member or president of scientific societies
  • Being a board member or chairman of commissions
  • Getting regularly invited as (keynote) speaker
  • Receiving important prizes
  • Receiving the Nobel prize
  • Being a “science star”
  • Having a lot of international collaborations
  • Having a huge research group
  • Being responsible for a high number of (excellent) staff members
  • Having an impressive publication list
  • High number of citations, high impact factors, h factor, m factor
  • A very long publication list
  • Having many excellent patents
  • Creating a blockbuster product
  • Being rich
  • Having many or highly paid industry collaborations
  • Being present in the media (TV, press, social networks)
  • Doing a lot of different things
  • Doing the job in less than 40h per week and not working during weekends
  • Being socially well integrated and working well together with my colleagues
  • Enjoying my work
  • Being happy and fulfilled
  • Doing what I really like
  • Following my passion
  • Having a substantial societal impact with my research (new and better therapies, technologies etc.)
  • Doing important “pro bono” and charity work in any field
  • Make a substantial contribution to the world and leave a legacy
  • Having most of the above AND a healthy family life 🙂

It is useful to discuss these parameters with your peers and to become aware of the unspoken rules and beliefs within yourself and within your institution/company – see also this post: What is a “successfull career” in science?

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