When I was in graduate school, I was taught by a number of excellent limnologists. The mental model we were given of the academic life was that of a cohort of fish, something called “young of year.” As a fish cohort, we were supposedly thrown into a lake with resources where we had to compete. The best would get more resources, work harder, grow faster, and eventually be the fittest. These would succeed and get the best academic jobs, get the best grants, and become leaders in their professional societies.
One professor declared in a seminar, “In the end, what stands is your publication record. Jobs may come and go, spouses may come and go, but at the end, what you have is your publication record.”
This astonished me at the time and does not at all reflect my worldview. Although this person was an eminent scientist whom I highly respected, I felt empowered to strongly disagree. I disagree with his statement and with the “young of year” metaphor. I am not in competition with my cohort of fish friends, trying hard to be the one with the most papers at the end of my life. In fact, I suspect that one of the reasons many women drop out of the scientific world after getting their Ph.D.s is that they often do not accept that as a life goal.
Instead, Boorse offers an alternative approach:
I do not look at scientific productivity as the only measure of success. Rather than asking, “Am I doing everything I thought I would do?” or “Am I doing as much in my field as other people?” I suggest we ask, “Am I contributing to the world?” and “Does my life work?” A Christian can ask, “Am I doing what I think God is calling me to do with my talents and abilities?”Do you pray for Christians in academia, that their 'attitude would be the same as Christ Jesus...' (cf. Phil 2.5 ff).