Academia and industry aren't that different
February 2014 (postdoc)
To a first approximation, academia and industry aren't that different. Both are businesses with labor and management classes.
Over the past decade, I've seen the best and worst of both academia and industry. I've grinded in awesomely inspiring university research labs, and in some crummy ones too. I've been an engineer at great companies, and at some terrible ones too. Even within the same company, I've been in groups of widely varying quality.
Based on these experiences, I offer the following simplified viewpoint: Both industry and academia consist of businesses with labor and management classes.
When viewed in this light, a lot of similarities emerge:
When people stop viewing academia as some kind of privileged ivory tower and simply as another kind of business, then everything about academia starts to make more sense.
Postscript (March 2014): Also, people tend to compare the best of one world with the worst of another, which makes for great blog rants but not for reasoned arguments. For instance, pointing out some horrible misconduct at a particular company and saying, “Ha, these industry folks have it so bad ... academia is so much better since my faculty job is awesome!” Or pointing to one instance of a terribly-run academic department and saying, “Ha, academia is so inefficient and corrupt ... industry is an ideal capitalist meritocracy because my company rules!”
Last modified: 2014-02-16