From where do today’s academics get inspired? Top 10 sources for researchers from the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields
While the primary mission for most academics is research, effectively disseminating that research among other academics, as well as conveying it to the masses, is just as important. For this to happen, research needs to be communicated beyond self-contained researcher circles and beyond academic language. Science, when creatively communicated, has the potential to reach a wider audience, including distant disciplines and even a non-academic audience. Creatively presented research can also inspire other researchers through effective and lasting communication of ideas, opening the doors to interdisciplinary approaches.
It is therefore important that academics are able to explore different modes of communication and new avenues of unfamiliar research fields as well. With the vast array of literature and sources available online and offline, it may be a daunting task to figure out where to start from. Many academics unanimously agree, however, that the following options are good foundations.
1. International Journal of STEM Education: Journal from SpringerOpen
The most traditional avenue listed here, this multidisciplinary journal is a good source for updates on STEM education and the latest happenings in academic and education fields. The journal regularly features articles on 4 major “hot topics”, namely women in science, STEM-focused high schools, engagement of students in STEM, and the broader integration of STEM education.
2. Hello PhD: Podcast by Joshua Hall and Daniel Arneman, featuring guest speakers and writers
Working towards a PhD is the first daunting task in most researchers’ lives: this podcast guides you through different stages of this years-long journey and beyond. While the podcast is central to their website, you will also find blogs written by academics, focusing on research experiences and how they chose to overcome it. Through their site and podcasts, Hall and Arneman hope to encourage collaboration and bring the stories of others in the field to the limelight.
Derek Lowe is a medicinal chemist, and a regular writer for the blog In the pipeline, where he voices his thoughts and takes the medical and pharmaceutical research sector. His blog serves as an introductory for the latest research that fascinates him, and a standpoint where he does not shy away from voicing his thoughts on the latest happenings and issues.
4. The effort report: Podcast by Professors Elizabeth Matsui and Roger Peng
In this podcast, Professors Matsui and Peng talk about life in the academic circles and spare no detail. This blog delves deep into the professional roles of academics, and the daily challenges and struggles. The creators’ discussions range from tips on mentorship to managing mental health as an academic.
5. Cosmos: Book by Carl Sagan
A book based on the hit television series Cosmos that aired first in the 1980s, this book nevertheless remains relevant even today. Through 13 illustrated chapters, Sagan reflects on anthropological, historical, and astronomical events through the ages, and excels at explaining complex scientific ideas to anyone interested in learning, even non-academics. This book is a great introduction to science to a lay-audience, and a good refresher for academics
6. Advice to a young scientist: TED talk by E.O. Wilson
This TED talk by renowned biologist E. O. Wilson covers advice collected from a lifetime of experience. Professor Wilson’s words inspire and mobilize, and the wisdom of his years is evident in this 20-minute speech. He speaks about the importance of selecting your discipline, of choosing to seek out mathematics, and of never forgetting the importance of creativity and marvel in academic life. This talk can be bookmarked for rainy days for revamping morale when one is questioning their professional choices.
7. Shtetl-Optimized: Blog by Scott Aaronson
A professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin, Scott Aaronson is also an avid blogger and has been penning posts since 2005. He writings touch everything from quantum computing to current politics, and the blog also occasionally features write-ups by guest writers. Aaronson also regularly provides updates about collaborative openings and vacancies in his lab
8. Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD): Comic strip by Jorge Cham
Chances are that if you are an academic and use social media sites, you will have come across his insanely popular comic series at some point. PhD Comics feature short humorous anecdotes of academics and researchers and have been instrumental in changing the perception of the non-academic audience regarding academia.
9. Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It: Book by Adam Savage
This intriguing book serves two functions: it is essentially a memoir of Savage’s life as a creator, but it also functions as a toolbox of sorts, that provides guidance and inspiration to the reader stuck in difficult situations. This can be an especially invaluable asset to researchers while problem-solving and brainstorming.
10. Ego Is the Enemy: Book by Ryan Holiday
This book falls more within the shades of personal development but draws on a vast array of stories and anecdotes, ranging from literature to philosophy to history, all stressing on the importance of keeping ego aside in one’s pursuit of success. The lessons this book puts forth are applicable to academic careers as well, as one is encouraged by Holiday to be “less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness”, so that “you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve”.
This list is merely a kickoff; the internet is abundant with resources for academics. Find more sources here.
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