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Question about Researchers

  1. Feb 27, 2014 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I am new to the forums and have a question. I am considering becoming a researcher in physics as 1 of my career paths in the future. Right now i am finishing high school and I have received my early admission letter to my university of choice, majoring in physics. My question is directed towards anyone who is familiar with researching careers in any field of study.

    Are researchers expected to be successful in every single project they undertake? For example if I were to research the planets or something and my hypothesis was _________, and the hypothesis turned out to be untrue in the end, and the research yielded nothing substantial or of foreseeable value, would that be the end of my career as a researcher?

    If yes, How often does something like that happen? And if something similar were to occur, like if I were to research a topic but I didn't have the means to complete the research (like technology limitations or something, i'm not very well versed in any field of study right now so i can't really find myself thinking of a realistic reason, sorry), would I find myself in a similar situation as the one above?

    I guess the tl;dr version would be: How stable is a research oriented job?

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 27, 2014 #2


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    Gold Member

    Today, to be successful, and have a stable career, you need to publish papers in well noted peer-reviewed journals and conferences. Peer-review implies acceptance by your peers. And this implies mainly original results obtained with a scientific approach.

    Negative results is not the question.
    What matters is if those negative results are useful.
    Often they are.
  4. Feb 27, 2014 #3
    Try reading C.P. Snow's novel. "The Search", which is all about a young chap wanting to make his way in physics research. Throughout the book it is stressed how lucky you need to be! One key exam failed, one experiment gone wrong, one hypothesis shown to be unduly motivated, some wrong courses taken, and it's goodbye to a long term, successful career in research.
  5. Feb 27, 2014 #4


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    Homework Helper

    I think you have got the important point there. What makes a "good" researcher is finding the right questions to ask. If you already know the answer to the question, it's not "research" at all. And if finding out the answer (whatever it turns out to be) doesn't give you any useful or interesting information, that's not a good research question.
  6. Feb 27, 2014 #5


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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Researchers aren't expected to get everything right from a "moral" sense. It's research. Sometimes you do a heck of a lot of work for not much payoff.

    Unfortunately, from a practical point of view (particularly in academia) in order to remain competative (for positions and research funds), you need to continually be productive - and be able to demonstrate that you've been productive.

    But you can still be productive with negative results. If a question is worth asking, if there is debate about an existing hypothesis, then producing a study that negates the hypothesis is certainly of value to the academic community.
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