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I focus on a domain X with my prof. My research has been taking a lot of time for certain reasons. While I have some publishable material, it will not gather much citations.

There is this other opportunity which will gain more citations and my advisor is forcing me to pursue that avenue. I am not really interested in that domain and it will divert significant time from my current work.

I personally don't care for citations and only conduct research because the topic interests me a lot. Is this a wrong approach?

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    Probably a balanced approach is better. I know researchers who write articles suitable for laymen, which attract lots of citations, and they also do highly specialized work that probably only less than a handful of people would understand. If you have a big group, then you can place your bets on multiple areas; e.g., get a student to work on topics you find less interesting personally. Alternatively, collaborate with researchers who do works that may attract citations. End of the day, people like to see quality and impact. Aug 17, 2021 at 3:19
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    What are your career plans and prospects?
    – henning
    Aug 17, 2021 at 6:38
  • Thank you for the suggestion. At the moment I am an undergrad looking to get into PhD Programs.
    – Academic
    Aug 17, 2021 at 6:39
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    Obligatory XKCD: xkcd.com/978
    – Ed V
    Aug 17, 2021 at 17:09

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This is likely very dependent on individual circumstances, but I'll try to answer in general. I think there is a balance between pursuing a personal passion and 'putting food on the table', as it were.

It is very difficult to earn a living unless you do something others find valuable. In my career, I have lost count at the number of hours I have put into completing tasks that don't interest me. However, I try to take a professional attitude and learn something from each of these 'nuisance tasks'. In retrospect, I've actually learned many useful skills and, as an added benefit, slowly gained the trust of others in my field.

As this trust grows, I plan to pursue things that are more interesting to me. Ideally, my credibility will be higher, which may help others join in my interest. I recall one academic telling me once he/she had tenure, they were going to write op-eds and try for more mainstream influence. There's a need to pay your dues in most fields.

I would encourage you to be open and honest with this question to your adviser and peers in your field to learn about specific dynamics. Ideally, you can find some overlap between your passion and the research task proposed by your adviser, even if it's just getting practice actually producing a publishable manuscript.

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  • Thank you very much, this was exactly what I was looking for!
    – Academic
    Aug 17, 2021 at 6:41

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