Bad professional advice

I wrote a column for the newsletter of our institute. Since I liked the result, I'm also reposting it below.

As a child I had a book "Bad advice" that contained nothing but poems suggesting you to do what you should really never do. So here is my bad professional advice (except that I won't risk making poetry):

  • Always remember: your job is to do your own research—you are not a charity or a welfare state. Never waste your precious time answering questions of your colleagues or collaborators. Also you shouldn't bother asking them; they are not a charity or a welfare state.

  • The best way to start an inter-disciplinary collaboration is to ensure that everyone knows which science is the best and which one is stamp collecting. Also they will never know this until you tell them.

  • If your experimental data looks cool, but you don't know what it means, don't bother analyzing it. Find a theory paper about the same topic and with similar pictures and cite them. The theorists are happy, reviewers are happy, you are happy!

  • If you, like me, are doing theory and don't have experimental data to explain—don't worry. Find an experimental paper about the same topic as yours, find a plot looking similar to yours and say that your paper explains it. Don't forget to mention that the theory they cite is wrong (they chose it just because the pictures look similar anyway).

  • Those, by the way, are the only good reasons to ever read a paper. Nobody is paying you for reading, and also there are much more entertaining things to read (like this newsletter).

  • Everybody knows that JPG is the best format for storing your results, as long as you choose merry colors. Really there is nothing else: spreadsheets are boring and long-winded, and the rest is for total nerds.

  • Colors serve another crucial role. Remember I said to find similar-looking plots? Guess what: if the colors match, the plots already look 90% similar!

  • This math may seem a bit complicated, but bear with me. If 10% of your job is teaching, you should not be putting more than 10% effort in your teaching. Neat, right?

  • If you, like me, don't have a big name, you may wonder how to make sure your results are broadly noticed. Easy: cite your paper on Wikipedia as soon as your paper is out. That way everyone will see it. Also you are now doing outreach, cool!

  • Telling your colleagues about your research is stupid. Firstly, it's already on Wikipedia where everybody can read about it. And also, if they are so interested, why didn't they ask you about it yet?

That's all I have for today. Once you get comfortable following this basic bad advice, feel free to come back to me for a master-class. Good luck!