I heard a lot of tips for (upcoming) researchers from top professors and researchers.

Almost all of them told that the passion of a candidate is one of the qualities that drive her research life.

All of them told the same fact in different ways. Some say that the element of surprise or shock is necessary in order to lead a research life.

It is true that anticipation/passion/element of surprise etc. may lead to great research life. But, I am thinking the other way round.

Suppose there is a professor named dispassion. She won't get surprised or excited by the results of great researches of researchers. She is neither passionate nor dispassionate towards research or results. She does it as a routine task without any excitement or surprise.

Is it possible for her to survive as a productive researcher in academics?

Note: Dispassionate here does not refer to the unwillingness towards work. She feels that whatever results that can be obtained by research are normal or ordinary and hence she is not excited or influenced by them. As a lecturer has anxiety, the researcher is dispassionate here.

  • 1
    Please consider similar questions before close voting academia.stackexchange.com/questions/84604/… Although it may be rare, it can happen.
    – hanugm
    Jan 5, 2021 at 9:20
  • Your question doesn't make too much sense to me. People may force you to leave Academia. But, no one can force you to stay. If you are not passionate enough to stay, you can always leave. Why bother to stay?
    – Nobody
    Jan 5, 2021 at 9:37
  • @scaaahu She has no element of passion. I told that she can able to work, but not with passion or excitement. She works for the sake of working, not with passion, but just as a routine.
    – hanugm
    Jan 5, 2021 at 9:46
  • 2
    @hanugm Most of the work of a professor is routine: administration, writing research proposals, preparing exam sheets, grading, reviewing student's theses. All of this takes probably 60-70% of the time and, believe me, it's just routine for which there's no passion around it. And then there's that 30-40% (sometimes even less and 40% if you're lucky enough) interesting part. Jan 5, 2021 at 12:30
  • 2
    Passion is a loaded word, perhaps one might instead talk about a "strong affinity". In a regular office job, it's possible to not care about what you're doing and still get by. I almost never see this in academia, at least among the people who are competitive to secure a permanent job. Jan 5, 2021 at 12:42

3 Answers 3


The "passion" thing is a myth and a shoddy cliche.

Your true feelings need not have any effect on your career. You just need to do the job. In academia, there is lots of competition, so "doing the job" means doing it very well - among the best in the world. But this requires actions, not feelings.

It can be handy to have the skill of making others believe you have certain emotions, though.

If you dislike academia, don't be an academic. Especially don't teach if you dislike it. There are better paying and easier jobs that are no more dislikable than teaching, but where you cannot harm students.

  • 2
    Exactly, "passion" can be, and mostly is, short-lived. One can be passionate about someone or something, but it's not long until they move onto something else.
    – C26
    Jan 5, 2021 at 11:16
  • @C26 How many decades is "not long"?
    – Stef
    Jan 9, 2022 at 11:09

I’ll try to analyze what’s hiding behind this “passion” meme and, as a helpful exercise, rephrase the same message without using the word “passion” even once.

The key point is that academia is full of people who work very hard, and are very smart. If you want to be a successful researcher, you need to think how you could be competitive in such an environment. The possibilities for doing that are fairly limited. They are, roughly speaking:

  1. You could be just as smart, and just as hardworking, as the typical researcher in your discipline.

  2. You could be a bit less smart than the typical researcher in your discipline, but be more hardworking than the average.

  3. You could be much smarter than the (typically already very smart) average worker in your discipline, which would allow you to work less hard than the norm in academia.

Individuals who can adopt strategy number 3 are very rare, so let’s assume that’s not a viable option. That leaves options 1 and 2, which means that, depending on how smart you are, to be successful you’ll either need to be very hardworking (the norm in academia) or very very hardworking — I’m talking about pretty extreme, workaholic levels of being hardworking here.

Now comes the part related to that word I said I wasn’t going to use. Ask yourself: how do all those hardworking people manage to be so hardworking consistently over many years? What’s their secret? And what is the chance that you can replicate such a performance?

The answer is simple. These people enjoy doing research. They enjoy it so much that it doesn’t feel like work. To them, going to the office or lab to work on research is as much fun as doing your favorite hobby. They don’t do it to get paid or in anticipation of the next promotion. They are a bit baffled whenever they hear someone talking of “work-life balance” (as if those two things are distinct and belong in separate compartments). Basically to such a person the whole concept of “work” and the connotations around it are quite different from what a lot of people (most people, I’m afraid) think of when they hear the word “work”.

So that’s all it is really. That word we were talking about is just a code name for enjoying something and wanting to do it out of intrinsic motivation and not because you are paid or out of a sense of duty. If you have it, it will not be a struggle to “work hard” because you wouldn’t be “working”, rather it will feel like you are playing a sort of fun game that you really enjoy.

And if you don’t have it... well, I’m not a psychologist but I think human nature being what it is, it will be an uphill struggle to maintain that level of hard work that others find effortless over more than a few years. At the very least, you’ll be at a serious competitive disadvantage, so you need to think what advantages you do have (being unusually smart, unusually creative, unusually good at collaborations etc) that could offset that disadvantage and allow you to still be successful.

  • You also need access to the right resources, e.g. plenty of people to bounce ideas off of, access to the leading experts. I think that most successful researchers have that.
    – cgb5436
    Jan 9, 2022 at 3:46

No, not for longer than 10/15 years.

The amount of overwork and the necessary submission to hidden power games and the extremely laborious task of writing proposals only to see them rejected will provide ample dissatisfaction to the dispassionated person to get out of research.

However, a non-negligible quota of research&teaching workforce of the academia will root its motivation in egoistic and selfish feelings, which makes academia a terrible world, where people are "happy" and are actaully enjoying and passionate about the progress and research, but at the expense of other people feelings and in a rather absurd competition mood, with the constant need of proving themselves better than the others by constant overworking (forcing the other to overwork themselves, in a constant downward spiral) as well as by smearing other colleagues and research groups, building closely knitted comunities and "how you dare" leave them.

So, no, you need a lot of self fuelled passion to survive in such a world.

Disclaimer: yes, I am very bitter, been there done that, in the academia for 11 years, since 3 years I left the Academia and I found that in the corporate world the human nature is more streamlined, at least people try to s***w you just because of profit/career and not because they dream they are helping a superior good (which they think they are entrusted to).

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