Thought of the Day on Expectations of Nomadism

April 10, 2014

I wasn’t following the Twittscussion on academic nomadism closely, but one thing struck me.

There are those in academics who don’t realize why it would be a bad thing. To expect scientists to move around a fair number of times because their career demands it.

This is unfortunate.

I hope that some day they find a place to live that makes them realize there are many things that are more important than moving solely because of career opportunity.

12 Responses to “Thought of the Day on Expectations of Nomadism”

  1. Dave Says:

    Exactly. Much of the pressure to move seems to be this constant need for one to distance themselves from anyone and everyone who has ever served as a mentor. Of course I understand this, but it is perfectly reasonable that some choose to establish an independent career in one place (or in the same place as their training). It can be done, and not every post-doc has an evil, selfish, d-bag BSD boss who will not allow independence, will force you to work in his/her sub-field and, if you do stray, will steal your work and ideas for the duration of your career until you tow the line.

    It just seems a little……dated……to me.


  2. becca Says:

    Well, people are different. I don’t think all the rolling stones are rootless hobos who have no real love for people or place. There are a lot of different places that are lovely to live, and for some people academia has been the avenue that has led them to experience a number of them. But for me? Turns out, I care. Some places I like better than others. And moving is horrible for me, and hard on kidlet so… I wish there was less expectation for nomadism. And more research within two hours of Chicago. Or more money in it.


  3. SwissGuy Says:

    Nomadism (in combination with a family) is the top reason why I left academia. And I’m not the only one.


  4. drugmonkey Says:

    There are a lot of different places that are lovely to live, and for some people academia has been the avenue that has led them to experience a number of them.

    oh, I agree with you that this is an upside to academia. what I don’t like is the expectation for quite so much of it, so deep into life.

    I don’t think all the rolling stones are rootless hobos who have no real love for people or place.

    My thought was that some may be prevented from finding out the benefits of growing a little moss…..


  5. whizbang Says:

    Leaving, or at least getting a serious offer, is often the only route to a raise in academic medicine. My current institution/department guarantees no increase in base salary for promotion/tenure or other accomplishments.


  6. Ola Says:

    There’s a spectrum. At one end the opportunists who are moving because startup = an extra R01’s worth of $$ every 5 years. At the other, the fantastic junior-sci desperate to move but stuck in a given place due to “none-of-your-fucking-business”.

    If Vonnegut were to talk about this, he’d probably say “Damn it you’ve just got to find your happy place”. So yeah, reviewers should butt out of this decision-making process.


  7. E-rock Says:

    I was surprised to learn a few of my colleagues went from undergrad to phd to fellowship (K route I think) to appointment to advancement all at the same institution. I admit that my immediate reaction was to feel (but not show) judgemental and maybe a little smug. And then reality check: they’re happy, successful, productive, prosperous. Who am I to judge and where did the immediate reaction come from? Irrational bias, perhaps envy.


  8. Zeeba Says:

    The day I saw my father’s expression as my daughter ran laughing into his arms was the day an pretense of moving for a job ended. Somethings are just more important.

    -a 5th yr postdoc


  9. david Says:

    This isn’t just an academic issue. It’s a significant part of a pharma career, which offers very little stability these days (in R&D at least).


  10. I don’t mind if people stay in the same place as long as they travel to other institutions and real study how they work/remain open minded to new ideas. The worst is when I hear some distinguished professor that has spent their entire career at one place declare with authority, “well I’ve never heard of a department doing that…” when there are a dozen places I can easily list doing exactly X. The same goes for departments in different fields. You would be shocked how differently engineering departments even in the same college are if you bothered to ask and find out. All I ask is that you are going to stay at one institution that you realize there are other ways to do things that people might like better. Also, don’t gasp when I don’t know the minutia of your institution after 4 years versus your 15 years where you experienced undergrad and grad school as well. It is great to have those people that do know the inner workings and history BTW!


  11. math Says:

    One of my children has lived (for two months or more) in six cities in 3 countries. And that’s the child who just turned five. And we’re just about to move internationally again. We have moved and moved and moved again because we are two serious scientists with exciting scientific opportunities in multiple places. We try to accommodate both of our needs for research visits, changing postdocs, etc, not to mention all the conference/seminar travel during the working life. While our children aren’t complaining–they don’t know it any other way–it does require a lot of a certain type of discipline to make all of these moves. I have gotten so used to accepting that we’ll move immediately that I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be in a real home. Even though our next positions are long-term faculty positions, I think we’ll still have some trouble adjusting to relaxing into feeling “settled.”


  12. I am practicing nomadism for my PhD because I wanted to see more of the US and I don’t have a family to tie me down, so this seemed like the time to do it now. That said I am trying now to get closer to home to be closer to my family that is growing older and one day may need my help to take care of.


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