I very recently came across a blog entry which was about a PhD candidate quitting a few weeks/months shy of completing the degree due to frustration with the way academia works in general.
Now you may agree or disagree with the notions put forth, but both the anonymous letter and the long row of comments it has attracted certainly provides an interesting and lively discussion, relevant to many academics if not all.
One particular subject it got me thinking about is the choice of projects, safe-and-uninteresting vs daring-and-interesting. For those who do not feel like reading the discussion in the blog, essentially it's about how many researchers go for projects that have little to no impact practically, in fields where a lot of the "interesting" work is put forth. Such projects are essentially after small incremental additions to the literature, more often than not special case scenarios, or replication of previously demonstrated results with other methods than previously reported.
I am currently at a large conference, and I started reflecting on this subject. I noticed how the "better" speakers claim of excellence, or ground-breaking research, the-whole-picture type projects (e.g. "mapping out the entire human kinome", or "developing antibodies for each and every human protein"). Currently I am sitting with my iPad observing people passing by my poster from some distance. Just like I suspected most people just pass by and barely even stop to read more than a sentence. That's how poster-sessions work you might say, but I am confident that a major contributor to this is the fact that the project I am presenting is inherently not that interesting; it's about a rare disease, effecting mostly elder patients, and does not involve the newest and hottest instrument or technique. I can only imagine that editors and reviewers will be equally unimpressed with the manuscript when we submit this study.
That being the case I got into thinking whether or not it's actually worth getting into such a study. I feel like I have put a lot of time and energy into something that's not really my field of study and not liekly to have a rich "return-of-investment". Before I go to my supervisor and have a serious chat about this I would like to get some feedback on whether or not this is a common phenomennon, within the biomedical sciences/academia in general. As scientists-to-be is our primary responsibility to ourselves, to our bosses/departments, or to science itself?