Beki Grinter

Two Questions for a Researcher

In academia, academic management, computer science, research on August 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I was asked two questions today. First, what is an important thing you need to know as a researcher? Second, what is the one thing you would advise people not to do as a researcher?

I wasn’t prepared for these questions, but they are great. My answers

The most important thing you need to know as a researcher is yourself. I gave that answer because the more I come to understand the types of problems I am interested in (and those I find dull), the more I can plan what I will do next. The more I understand about my philosophical assumptions the more I am aware of the types of approaches to solving the problems that I will find personally relevant and commit the time and energy I need to solve the problem. I subscribe to the theory that research is sufficiently hard and at times frustrating that you have to have a passion about the problem and the solution. I can’t think of a better way to have that than knowing yourself.

I would advise people to never forget that it takes a community to do research. For example, the students who take up questions, and who ultimately come to shape the questions asked and the approaches to their solution and with whom I collaborate. There’s is the invisible college of peers who read, review, and riff on (sorry I wanted a third r) the research. My colleagues at Georgia Tech who provide encouragement, a sounding board, and collegiality the latter which I prize as being part of setting a tone in the environment that encourages risk taking and productivity, while maintaining respect.

What are your answers?

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