While curiosity killed the cat, curiosity fuels academia. Academia is an incredible profession where amongst the administration, the student complaints, the tedious grant writing, and the journal rejections, you get to investigate, get to experiment, get to learn, you get to teach, and you get to be curious. Actually you need to be curious. This is what drove me towards academia- getting to find out stuff. How privileged I am. It is easy to lose sight of that in academia, because it is not the only part of our job, and because many of the people who go into academia are ‘perfectionists’. High achievers in school, high achievers in university. People who seek perfection. The more I learn about academia, the more I think this quest for perfectionism is a detriment to curiosity, to the very thing that forms the foundation of academia.
Now, don’t get me wrong, discipline is important. As academics we should continuously be improving our writing, our grammar, our editing skills, our statistical techniques, our lab based experiments. We should strive to make our courses for our students the best they can be. Strive to teach the students we supervise discipline. However, this should never be to the detriment of curiosity- academia would not be academia without taking risks on a new technique that you don’t know everything about. Without developing new scales that may not have appropriate validity. Without trial and error. Without rejection.
I always tell myself, I am not perfect, and of course I shouldn’t be- I am an early career academic. If I am perfect there is something wrong with academia. I then also tell myself, the expert in the field- the very pinnacle, the person you aspire to be, is not perfect. If they are perfect there is something wrong with academia.