Potential indicators of success in science – title

Potential indicators of success in science

When discussing success in science, there is a vast number of success parameters that are mostly incompatible with each other.  I have listed below – in random order – several success indicators in science that may help characterize a person, a group, or an institution as “successful in science.”

Please use this list as an inspiration to determine what it means for you to pursue a “successful career” in science.

Research success in science

Social success in science

  • Being an expert
  • Having an impressive publication list
  • Having a lot of international collaborations
  • Being a board member or chairman of commissions
  • Being a member of editorial boards of scientific journals
  • Being a board member or president of scientific societies


  • Having high responsibility
  • Exerting power
  • Being responsible for a high number of (excellent) staff members
  • Having a huge research group
  • Having a high hierarchical position in academia or industry
  • Getting regularly invited as (keynote) speaker
  • Being present in the media (TV, press, social networks)
  • Receiving important prizes
  • Being a “science star”
  • Receiving the Nobel Prize

Financial success in science

  • Having a highly-paid position
  • Being rich
  • Having highly-paid industry collaborations
  • Raising vast amounts of funding
  • Creating a blockbuster product


Life quality

  • Enjoying your work
  • Doing a lot of different things
  • Being socially well-integrated and working well together with your colleagues
  • Being happy and fulfilled


  • Following your passion
  • Doing what you really like

Societal impact 

  • Doing research with a substantial societal impact (new and better therapies, technologies, etc.)
  • Being a source of inspiration for your  students and/or for future researchers
  • Doing significant “pro bono” and charity work
  • Making a substantial contribution to the world and leaving a legacy

Integrated success in science

  • Having most of the above *and* a healthy family life

Undoubtedly, you may criticize the appropriateness of some category titles, and several indicators may belong to multiple categories. 

Discussing these success criteria in science with your peers and becoming aware of the unspoken rules and beliefs within yourself and your institution/company is helpful. 

This is an essential first step to understanding what it means for you to pursue a “successful career” in science.

Recommended reading

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  1. What about being a source of inspiration, not only for your own students but also for the researchers of the future?

  2. A very thorough list. Success can mean so many things to so many people nowadays and that is what I found good and interesting about this list.

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