As nowadays research becomes more and more multi-disciplinary and complex mixture of many things, one trend emerges - separation between idea proposing and execution. This is kind of obvious result from one fact - proposal of such idea require significant experience, knowledge, and expertise in a wide range of fields while such person typically lack of enough time to spend only on one research project. As a result of this mismatch in capacity in intellect and labor, it is nowadays common to find a PhD student to execute well established idea whose proposer doesn't have enough time.
Actually, this is kind of traditional picture for PI-PhD student relationship in academia. But, something weird is that this happens more and more frequently even beyond PI-PhD student relationship. Recently, I heard many PhD job talk-level seminars, but many of them were just "labor" not a "brain" in a sense that their main topic of PhD is not proposed by themselves. Can we call them as PhD? I would like to call them as empty PhD. It is very worrisome that academic culture kind of drives generation of myriad empty PhDs... Lamentable.
Recently, I feel that I am entering a critical moment to transit into the next stage in my career as a researcher. As always on the verge of big leap to the next level, feeling of stability and boredom coexist. It is exciting to prepare the next chapter of my lifelong journey.
Nowadays, winter Olympic game is ongoing. It reminds me of old question - similarity and difference between sports and study.
As a part of spectrum in human activity, I assume that sports and study might share the same quality in general. When I watch young Olympians endeavour, I feel great amount of self-development and fierce competition with others to prove it, in rather naked form. I personally find that most people consider these as kind of beautiful scene, which I agree most of time. Gold medalist's triumphant moment is commonly depicted as culmination of one's achievement, a champion surged above the fiery but fair competition.
Sometimes, I wonder whether the same point of view can be taken to study - which is generally longer and more static process than sports. I personally believe it can be, but such approach is occasionally considered as taboo even amongst academics. Why is so? I may need to think more on this. Fragments of reasonings are floating around, but it may take more time and experience to stitch them into nice idea. It is still a big puzzle to me.
When people climb up their career, particularly in academic world, it is common to find oneself surrounded by bright minds that make our own shine look dim. Typically our course to intellectual training and maturation are inevitably endless combinations of self-development and external competition. During all hustle and bustle of academic life, one lingering challenge for me (and maybe for you and all of us) is how to establish self-esteem amongst bright(er) minds.
For nerdy kids who have found their joy of life from distinguishing talent for many years of early school periods, it is understandably frustrating experience to find oneself being "inferior" to someone in the same age (or even younger) or with similar life trails (or even less fortunate ones). Over years, I personally felt such frustration and luckily, sometimes was the source of frustration (while such luck typically diminishes quickly). More daunting fact is that such self-esteem conflict is fairly routine in academic environment, especially fueled by nowadays' winner-take-all culture of academia.
Do I have solution for this? Unfortunately no. As people get experienced in academia, it is sometimes too obvious to feel this themselves or from other people. Maybe the only ready solution can be being insensitive to these kind of thing. I personally learn to be self-looking rather than looking around brighter minds. But for longer term remedy, correcting the academia's winer-takes-all culture would be more constructive movement. However, it would also be problematic to reward inferior talent over superior talent. Probably this is just a variation of the central problem of human society - making everybody happy is hard - again disclosing the tormenting nature of human life.