Life as a scientist is not as easy as some people might think. But it is really varied. Why? Because we have a multitude of different almost simultaneous tasks!
We do excellent and innovative research, which is at the forefront of science and we publish our results regularly in peer-reviewed high-level journals.
We supervise MSc and PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, build up our research groups and teach graduate and undergraduate classes.
We apply for research grants to a variety of funding organizations all year round and we are, of course successful in obtaining grants and administrate the financial side of the grants.
We create research network with other scientists, nationally and internationally, and present our results at conferences, meetings and workshops.
We engage in administrative tasks, evaluate research proposals, applicants for university positions, and the performance of other research groups.
We take courses to advance our pedagogic skills, our administrative and interpersonal skills.
We take part in different scientific and administrative panels and panel discussions, interact with policymakers, and set the stage for future research directions.
We publish our research results in popular science magazines, give popular science lectures, join social networks to promote our research, explain our science in a way that everyone can understand it, and interact and communicate with the media.
We also need to be objective in our research and we need to be encouraging and enthusiastic towards our students, and diplomatic towards our colleagues.
This list is definitely not complete and superman and superwoman scientist are surely engaged in much more, because new tasks are continuously added up. However I do not think that the demands placed on scientists today are at all comparable to the life of researchers only 15-20 years ago. None of the professors I encountered during my undergraduate and graduate studies possessed the interpersonal skills and integrities that now are in such high demand. These men did not publish a lot of peer-reviewed papers in international high quality journals, and they certainly did not communicate their research in an understandable way, neither to their students or the general public. They had their own little kingdoms, composed of their students and others who were dependent on them, and they defended this kingdom as much as possible. I am really glad that these kingdoms have disappeared or are gradually vanishing, and that democratic systems are much more common at today’s universities. But what makes me worried is that few people understand how high the demands are on many of today’s younger male and female researchers, who try to succeed in their work and who are at the same time trying to build up a family. Survival of the fittest is still ruling.