Scientific Community #4 — Concluding Remarks

Every community has it’s downsides.
Don’t leave it out of an emotional response.

So, in this short series about the scientific community and how to gain access to it, we had:

  1. The Scientific Method is People
    Showing that science is a social enterprise and the field (your colleagues, peer-reviewers, and editors) decide whether your contribution to the domain is accepted or not.
  2. Getting Into the Community the Right Way
    Showing that it matters how you act towards the community and how you should normally gain access to it.
  3. Analyzing the Literature to find out more about the Community
    Showing the worst case — when you have to find out about the community on your own by looking at the artifacts of that community — the journal papers and the conference proceedings.

In this last posting I’d like to summarize and reiterate a few crucial issues.

First, like Thomson and Kamler (2013) said, science is taking part in a scientific discussion with your peers who are working on the same topics, within your discipline or across different disciplines. You have to establish yourself as a competent discussion partner. You need to convince them that your contributions have value — and they should have value.

Second, it is hard to impossible to get into the community completely on your own. If all you have is an office and a couple of years, save yourself the trouble. Unless you know what to do — and I hope these postings shed some light on it — you will likely waste these years. Without the synergy of a good department and informed feedback it’s hard to stay on track and take part in the discussion of the community.
Remember, we’re not talking about a discussion among interested amateurs, we are talking about taking part in an expert discussion. If you have no support get an external mentor ASAP, someone from that community. Someone who is interested in your contributions and gives you helpful feedback.
Seriously, in Academia, a laissez-faire supervisor is not giving you freedom of research — this person is letting you waste away, all the while pretending to do you a favor. Don’t be fooled. Laissez-faire departmental culture contributes to students quitting their PhDs — for good reasons.

Third, and I’m paraphrasing Sternberg (2003) here, while becoming part of the specific scientific community is essential, these networks will (hopefully) NOT get you papers for free, or grants via insider deals, or a career without a real contribution. But these networks will help. They will make your contributions known, so that you can get rewarded for your work.

So, that concludes this short series. I hope there was something useful for you in this series. If you want to know more, send me an eMail (address under Imprint). I also like to recommend (again) the book by Thomson and Kamler (2013). It is only had come out 5 years ago.



  • Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Psychology 101 1/2. The Unspoken Rules for Success in Academia. Washington, D.C.: APA.
  • Thomson, P., & Kamler, B. (2013). Writing for Peer Reviewed Journals. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.