Academia can be a tough place with hard competition, stress and a constant feeling of doing too little. It is also very conservative regarding equal opportunities with few women, people from minority groups, etc. Also, doing research is not an easy job. Most people I know get rejected a lot as a part of their publication and writing application processes. Also, the academic culture is that of critique, and academics seldom overdose others with positive feedback. Despite all this, I have been in academia for a long time now – soon 20 years and recently I was asked what motivate me to continue working here.
For me, my work is associated with a feeling of autonomy which I appreciate a lot. With this, I mean that I have strong freedom or control over my life and self, and many days of the year few people know what I am doing, where I am or what I prioritize. To a considerable extent, I can decide what I want to focus on, and what I put time and effort into doing. Of course, I have deadlines in projects, teaching and reports that need to be written or read but overall, I have a lot of autonomy. One of the main components of autonomy is the locus of control, a continuum on which people lie that denotes how much authority they have over the outcome of a situation. Most often, I feen a high locus of control. Writing of funding applications is a large exception, though. I have no feeling of control over what is funded or not. So far it seems more of a lottery than anything else when you submit an application that you believe in.
Intellectual stimulation through collaboration is the second part that motivates me to work in academia. I have very nice and smart colleagues to discuss with and learn from. I enjoy the discussions where my horizons are expanded, and we find new pathways forward. Honestly, I am motivated by being a bit outside my comfort zone, and to dig my teeth into new areas, theories, research questions or ideas. There is always something to learn still!
The sense of being in a position where I can make a difference. I have the feeling that I can make a difference through my work with equal opportunities, research and teaching. I want to make a footprint, to impact change in the right direction and to improve things. My areas where I want to improve things are IT in health care, equal opportunities, IT, sustainability and the work environment. All areas are indeed difficult to change, but I am trying the best I can. Lucky thing I am never working on anything on my own, but always in collaboration with excellent people who bring their ideas and experiences to the table.