When the general public are asked to describe the life of someone with a career in academia, the typical response is often somewhere along the lines of boring, dull, and stable. While it’s true that the traditional role of academics in the past was marked by long periods of consistency with occasional spikes of excitement as the pendulum swung regarding topics like standards and pedagogy, the stable scholastic landscape as we once knew it is now shifting and evolving.
The Digital Era has forced those who defined themselves as a staid and intellectual academic to reanalyze their identities. Now, researchers are expected to be highly intellectual, competitive, innovative, and creative in a time when knowledge is constantly called into question as new data arises regularly. With so much change in a field that was historically known for its dependability and consistency, how does one define their identity as an academic anymore?
The Intertwining of the Digital Era and Academics
Until the past two decades, the landscape of academics was predictable. It was a connection of teaching and research-based practices, in which the focus of knowledge was on subject or discipline-based instruction, pedagogical practices and studies into the best methods of disseminating knowledge to students, and contributing information and research to the institutions and community around you.
The Digital Era took all of these factors and shook them upside down. They are each still integral to the academic landscape, but now, global accessibility of knowledge and careers has created a competitive aspect of education that drove a wedge through the once stable field.
Now, academic researchers must redefine their purpose in the educational field based on the university’s priorities, budget concerns, competition in their scope of interest, micromanaging, quality audits, and other stressors.
Struggles for Academics and Challenges to their Identity
Scholars traditionally have been highly respected as experts in their field and allowed to focus on what they are passionate about, having earned that right through years of schooling and proof of their expertise. Today, the knowledge of an academic is respected less since competition has been raised to a global scale and perspective has shifted.
What once looked like a genius-level way of thinking is now expected and undervalued, causing even the most intelligent of individuals to question themselves and their identity.
This already diminished level of respect is compounded by the decrease in government funding towards academic endeavors. Research grants are competitive in nature, often with the grant going to those who already have a strong reputation as a scholar and neglecting the opportunity to give the chance to others to prove themselves. This trend of name-dropping means that those who already have a reputation no longer have to focus on quality research because they have the edge in funding.
The high demand of universities and stakeholders on researchers, the increased pressure from outside competition, and the drive by governments to produce the best, most innovative research in the world has turned a field of professionals from competent, confident scientists into unsure and floundering higher-degree graduates looking for a way to prove to the world and themselves that they are experts.
Redefining Your Identity in a Field That Continues to Change
If you allow outside influences to determine your internal identity, it’s always going to be in a state of flux as the world of academics continues to change and evolve. Instead, you must be able to shift your perspective and determine your identity as it pertains to your values and belief system.
The first mistake academics find themselves making is pairing their worth as an instructor or researcher with performance outcomes and imperatives of what defines excellence. An expectation of norm-referenced results does not take into account the quality of your work. It’s a factor that relies on the performance of variables outside of your control, such as student attentiveness during a test.
Another error that is easy to slide into making is the feeling that you must be able to do it all. In a world where competition is massive, it is sometimes the extra skill that one person has over another that makes the difference. But going too wide means you lose the opportunity to delve deeper in an area. Instead of attempting to “do it all,” which is scientifically impossible, focus on improving your knowledge in your own field and let those who are experts in the other areas do their own thing, too.
As you reduce your focus on thinking about your own identity in context with how you measure up to others, you’ll realize that you create your own stabilizing force in an unstable field, and by continuing to stand strong in who you know you are, you’ll make an impactful change to those around you.
Impactio is a Stable Platform for Academics
No matter how in flux the field of academics becomes, you can always count on Impactio as a constant, secure way to get your work out to the world. Impactio is an all-in-one platform designed for researchers to take them from entering data to submitting their work for publication.
With Impactio, you can turn your findings into professional PDF documents and web pages ready for submission to the publisher, follow your work once it’s released through citation indicators, and connect with other experts in your field to continue to help you grow, learn, and shape your own identity in an ever-changing academic landscape.