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Background

Nowadays, academic research has been becoming an arms race and there are millions of paper published every year. Besides, a potential research topic/area means the research group is eager to know and answer it. Therefore, researchers are facing strong competition in most potential research topics and areas (e.g. deep learning today).

Question

How do researchers choose the proper research topics and areas to avoid strong competition, especially when their research interest is becoming popular?

  • Choosing an another research topic, but less interested in that.
  • Keeping the strong competition.
  • Quitting academic career.
  • Others.

Thank you for your suggestion.

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  • @Younes, because the comment didn't answer the question. I hope I've fixed that now.
    – Buffy
    Mar 10, 2020 at 21:40

1 Answer 1

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My suggestion about choosing a research area and topic is to choose something that interests you personally and that you won't mind spending time and effort on. Time and effort for perhaps a significant amount of time. Advisors can be good at suggesting problems worth the effort.

If it isn't fun, it isn't worth doing, personally.

Actually, research in most fields is extremely balkanized. You are likely "competing" with only a few people in a very narrow area no matter what you choose. Math is like that. Better to form collaborative circles and stop thinking about competition. Most of the "millions of papers" are of no interest whatever to nearly everyone else. Some exceptions, obviously.

My own doctoral work was very interesting and significant. But significant and interesting to only about six people world wide, most of them at my own institution. It took years for anyone to decide to follow up on it and more years to find an application. But it was interesting enough that it was remarked upon immediately on publication. So, extreme balkanization.

Moreover, if you do wind up with competitors you are likely to be surprised when it happens and surprised too late to take action. Some people work in parallel at different institutions. I know of a fairly public case in which this happened and two people submitted nearly the same paper to a CS conference based on their independent doctoral work. Their advisors were well known to each other, but no one suspected that the students were working on the same problem.

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    I agree. If you are always watching your back, you won't get anywhere. If you are not in a group that is leading a hot area, I reckon it's not a good idea to be directly in the hot area. For example, you will not have the resources of Google Mind to do what they do. Lastly, you need to work with someone experienced in the area and who has many research directions . This person can then give you a direction that is way ahead of the pack. Otherwise, you do not know where to start 'running', and yup, you have to run, especially if Google Mind is chasing you. Mar 10, 2020 at 22:47
  • "If it isn't fun, it isn't worth doing, personally.": +1 Mar 11, 2020 at 15:33
  • @Prof.SantaClaus Thank you for your helpful opinion. Do you mean we should choose fun/interesting but not hot areas when not having resources (such as Google Mind in this case), that is the first option in my question?
    – User
    Apr 28, 2020 at 10:36
  • @Jun ideally, you should always follow what interest you. Otherwise, you won't have any motivation to pursue a topic. Also, in my opinion, you shouldn't worry too much about competition or what is hot. Research is long term, it's not a race but a marathon; for some area it is a race, like finding a vaccine for Covid-19. It is worth noting that people who contribute to hot areas have ready tools, knowledge and resources to contribute now. Unless you are in that position, you will lose to the competition. Apr 29, 2020 at 1:12

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