Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why Is It So Difficult To Get a Good Research Job?

This question was asked by many graduates trained in Science & Technology. Here are some of the common reasons:

1. Matching jobs to individuals is one of the biggest challenges that face every employer and employee.

2. Most employees do not have a clear idea of the type of research they like to do. They grab whatever comes their way only to find out later that what they got is not what they want.

3. Their personal interests and the demands for research changes with the rapid changes in S & T. Because of this some quit their jobs and others become redundant. It appears that with a few exceptions (like University professors) there is no career for pure research in Singapore unless one is prepared to go into administration sometime during their career. There are a lucky few who can do both. Now it is better than it was about 50 years ago when Singapore had just become a self governing state.

4. People get confused with the various types of existing research activities.

I am one of the lucky few who had never been a full time professor. Yet I could do research, administration and teaching part time throughout my working life of more than 50 years. In the process I have learned to classify my activities into the following categories which may be useful as a guide for potential researchers:

Basic Research

Creative Research

Innovative Research

Problem Solving Research

Routine Work

1. Routine Work.

A fresh graduate usually starts with the routine work where he puts his technical skills into use. In the beginning it can be exciting. But soon it can be boring to some.

2. Problem Solving

Problems usually arise in our routine work. Solving some of these problems can be quite challenging. This is where the staff with initiative can be differentiated from the ordinary ones.

3. Innovative Research

An innovative researcher is one who “itches” to improve things all the time. He uses his knowledge and skills to improve procedures, methods, processes, and products. He has a base to start with and broadens the scope of his work or business when he succeeds. The “modifications” he introduces may be modest but his contributions can be very significant. Sometimes this is called “Applied Research”.

4. Creative Research.

Creative Research usually involves the quest for new knowledge whose application will open up new frontiers. Such work can produce inventions, patents or new fields for more research. They produce great scientists like Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklins and Alexander Fleming. It takes a lot out of the individual and it gives one a good feeling when one succeeds.

5. Academic Research

Academic Research is usually carried out by university professors and teachers. It is part of their continuous education programme required to make them better teachers in this fast changing times. The exceptional ones will become Nobel Prize winners, who make new discoveries or produce new theories for others to study.

Our professors are also involved in “Mission oriented” research where they deal with “Problem solving, Innovative and Creative Research” and act as consultants at the same time.

Research is a very desirable activity to be involved in. It has its Joys and its Pains like every other human activity. It is good to know what these are and that they exist. I will share with you some of my experiences in research in the articles in my blog to follow. We need more researchers of all types. I hope you will join our rank.

Lee Kum Tatt

22 May 2007

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