Date: 21 June 2022By

How to achieve long-term goals as a researcher?

Researchers benefit from long-term goals to enhance their academic careers, optimize research and increase the speed of publishing

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What are long-term goals and in which sense are they common in research?

A long-term goal differs from a short-term goal in focusing on a larger achievement, which takes instead of a few days or weeks at least a year. In a broad meaning, a focal future goal for researchers is to “explore the hidden science”, so scientist Anam Tariq. For scientist Eiríkur Hull one important goal in the long-term is to “make meaningful discoveries and share them with humanity”. In general, longtime goals in research depend on research discipline, historical period and location. For most scientists, their concrete, final goal in research is to analyze their particular field of study. In a simple language, this is accomplished by generating new ideas about scientific relations and validating them. After the actual research phase, the long-term goal “share the knowledge with humanity” is attained by publishing, giving lectures and attending research conferences.

Which benefits bring long-term goals vs. short-term goals?

The ability to stick with goals in the distant future is already determined at the beginning of the academic career and for the general life path. Studies reveal that persistent people are happier (Siah et al., 2020), so long-term goals lead to higher levels of happiness compared with short-term goals. According to Duckworth, people focused on long-term goals reach higher scores on cognitive tests and higher educational degrees than people focused on short-term goals. The so called “persistence” is even proven to predict success better than cognitive intelligence. The persistent to stick with long-term goals might have enabled researchers to graduate with a high school diploma and perform well academically – the ticket to a career in science. In the subsequent career as researcher the persistence on long-term goals can allow them to research more intensely and to continue publishing a high number of papers. This will increase their scientific results and their reputation.

How to reach long-term goals in research

In the following, there is a summary of methods, that will contribute to achieve long-term goals in research.

Goal Target

Funding proposals contribute to long-term goals in research

Public Governments or private donors frequently offer funding seeds to foster innovations that contribute to society. The funding seed can finance additional experiments, better scientific equipment or a larger team of scientists. The call for proposals often includes networking events for their applicants. These events are a great option to get in contact with other scientists to exchange knowledge and strategies which contribute to successful research. These new contacts offer the chance for future research collaborations. In addition, a researcher can benefit from conversations with politicians and representatives from the industry. This will help to solve misunderstandings between aims of politics, industry and research. In the long-term, this communication will accelerate the implementation of new research findings (Lavis et al., 2010).

Working in a research team contributes to reach long-term goals in research

Scientists are sometimes pictured as lonely wolfs spending several hours with thinking – separated from the public life. In reality, a functioning project team accelerates and optimizes the progress. One reason for this is the quick generation of feedback, which is shortening the trial-and-error circle of research. That minimizes the probability of logical fallacies at the beginning. Individuals can benefit from expert knowledge of team colleagues in specific fields of research. Moreover, working in a team offers the option to split tasks. This increases the efficacy of routine tasks, reduces stress and generates better results in the end. To visualize this idea: One team member specifies in data analysis, the second one in analyzing recent literature and the third one in structuring the writing process.

Sharing research results in the digital world can increase persistence

To generate attention in the digital world, sharing results on social media is highly efficient. Twitter and LinkedIn are matching platforms to inform the digital community about recent research successes. This can be a starter for further examination of similar research findings. And the research team in total will feel more confident when getting positive feedback.

Sometimes the research seems to be stuck or positive feedback from outside remains off despite research results. But that is not a reason to be held back. Reviewing the initial research mission and – unless finding significant proof of going in a wrong direction – keeping with it and increasing effort is an appropriate reaction. A good way to overcome these difficult periods is to track progress. In this way, small results will not be overseen. Even small accomplishments lead one step closer to the final goal.

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About the Author: Sarah Großmann

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