I will be soon starting my Ph.D. but have already experienced some of the research environment. I have chosen to work on a field in machine learning that is becoming increasingly popular. Every time I see people publish something new in this field, I cannot help it but feel like a loser who missed out or has lost the opportunity to publish that others did. I feel like when I catch up and have the necessary skills, everything would have been already discovered.

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    Every time I see people publish...I cannot help it but feel like a loser who missed out or has lost the opportunity to publish [w]hat others did You cannot publish every result in the field.
    – user2768
    Jul 8, 2019 at 16:59
  • I feel like when I [start research], everything would have been already discovered That's impossible, there's always more.
    – user2768
    Jul 8, 2019 at 17:01
  • @user2768 What you say is true. I did not mean those literally but just expressing how I feel at the moment. Jul 8, 2019 at 17:02
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    I'm fond of the following quote from Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: "The cry 'I could have thought of that' is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn’t, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too." — Remember that you are in excellent company; for each enviable new result, there are billions of people (and at least thousands of machine learning researchers) who didn't get to publish it.
    – JeffE
    Jul 8, 2019 at 21:02
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    If it makes you feel any better, I'm in machine learning as a staff scientist and feel pretty confident that there is A LOT left to do in this field. Finding a good mentor/lab will help make that apparent.
    – SciGuy
    Jul 8, 2019 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


This is a downside of working in a "hot" area. But it is also why you have an advisor to guide you. In reality you can't do everything and your research will be (should be) deep and narrow. Therefore a lot of the stuff flying around you just isn't especially relevant to your research, provided that it is properly grounded.

Focus and treat all the other stuff as noise. Once you get some research published you can think about broader issues and where you want to take you next deep dive.

Don't completely ignore the general work going on, but don't be overly concerned if others are picking apples in the same orchard. Only get worried if it seems like others are making progress on your problem faster than you are. Your advisor should be able to help with this. But nothing is guaranteed. There is a lot of parallel work going on in hot areas.

  • It just feeds my procrastination as if I "lost" that opportunity. But reality is that I am just starting as a Ph.D. Thanks for your reply. It's very true Jul 8, 2019 at 17:25

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