Some insight from John Travolta

This morning, I was chatting with a colleague, Richard Hotte, and we were discussing research, funding, and the relation between the two. I’ve also had these discussions with Martin Brooks. Richard pointed out that John Travolta has figured it out all some years ago when he received a prize at Cannes for the movie Pulp Fiction. According to Richard, Travolta was asked then about how it felt to finally win a prize that he surely coveted for many years. John Travolta answered that his goal was never to win a prize, but rather to grow as an actor. The prize was nice, but not his goal.

This echoes my own feeling about funding for research. If your goal is funding, you’ll probably get some, maybe a lot, but unfortunately, you may never become a great researcher.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the Université du Québec (TELUQ).

3 thoughts on “Some insight from John Travolta”

  1. The point is you may never become a great researcher. In some sense, we are all in
    this category if you put yourself in the stream of time or in the scale of
    the globe. Then, what do you do if you still want to have a career and to establish some status or influence, even if you recognize that you are not a first class researcher? Funding is a game to play.
    With funding, you can say that you are a researcher been recognized, though you are not so great.
    Funding is also one index of market — the trend of the investment in science and technology.
    It is like the investment in movies. You are a great actor for Shakespare plays, but
    it is not in the trend anymore (maybe). So you will be a great but lonely actor for your life. I would do both,
    to be a great actor, and stay in trend. If you are not so talent, try to be a pop star :).
    To win a best paper reward, to get funding may not be the goals of the scitenific carreer. But they are the targets.

  2. I think that John Travolta was a pop star at the very beginning of his career. He also did not go into plays.

    I believe you can become a great research while participating in fashionable research trends… however, what is your goal? If your goal is only to hop on the next trend, and get money and publish lots of papers, you will never grow… and so, you’ll always be at point zero, doing the same thing all over again, and again, and again… as with all new trends, you’ll start again, publish lots of papers, get lots of funding.

    Is that all there is?

    I think you should have a more noble goal for yourself.

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