Research interests should be short-lived?

How did I come to Computer Science? Through geophysics! I was once given data sets spanning several CD-ROMs. Back then, this was a lot of data! To this day, my research is still inspired by this short gig in geophysics. I keep trying to bridge mathematics and software implementations.

This warped path was beneficial to me. I still feel the need to keep my brain on its toes. In Mapping the evolution of scientific ideas, Herrera et al. suggests that this strategy might be sound:

(…) communities that are more willing to reinvent themselves tend to be the ones that have most impact per paper (…) our analysis shows that communities with a higher fitness tend to be short-lived.

Good researchers  need to be exposed to strange or surprising ideas and problems. Attending the same conference year after year does not count.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

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

3 thoughts on “Research interests should be short-lived?”

  1. Some areas move much faster than others.

    I started out in PDEs and now I’m in biostatistics. I was surprised by the differences in publishing in the two areas. PDE papers are much harder to publish: it’s harder to be original since the field is more mature, and papers typically have fewer authors.

    I enjoy being in a faster-moving area, and it sounds like you do as well.

  2. The most prolific and inventive researchers I’ve known tend to switch away from a (sub)field as soon as it starts to solidify.

    However, because they provide outlets for career advancement, some fields continue to exist and push papers out long after their leading lights have deserted it and gone into more exciting/promising directions.

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