I often fantasize that when I will get my work to successful end, then I will have new possibilities open – and that maybe I will even receive scientific job offers. The work is obtaining new important results in computational sciences.

But then I get to the ground, think that giving someone job is rather a necessity for the employer – and not an act of appreciation or even not an act of support. Then, my results are important and useful, so someone may need them. However, the results can be understood, used and further developed by some other scientist. So it will not be necessarily me, who will get the job.

One related example that comes to my mind is Stephen Wolfram, who is independent because he is earning money himself. So he was not appreciated by someone, instead he won his share in software market.

3 Answers 3


Sadly, there is not a strict correlation between doing good science and being financially successful. It is entirely possible to do "creative, important work" and still not be well rewarded for it. For instance, one could have published these results in an obscure journal that very few people will read. Or, as another example, the researcher might be a poor "salesman," unable to convince readers and fellow scientists of the merit of his work.

In general, you need a combination of both networking and technical skills to forge a successful career as a researcher: the contacts will help you get interviews for jobs; your technical knowledge will get you the job.

  • The part about convincing readers and fellow scientists reminds me many life situations, where e.g. some people easily influence a group to move to some place (e.g. a cafeteria) and others struggle and struggle and nothing happens.
    – Mooncer
    Feb 28, 2012 at 3:43

When I worked for HP (in the storage area network division), much of the published research articles were for things that it still took several years to bring to market. Generally, it was about 5 years between the first papers and the time a product made it to market. Even things used everywhere - SQL - took 9 years to go from research paper (Codd's paper was in 1969) to first commercial product (Relational [now called Oracle] was released in 1978) with several large companies (including IBM) trying to bring a product to market. In software development, academic research runs 5 to 30+ years ahead of in-the-field practices.

As for Wolfram, I don't think he's a good model to emulate, as he fits the model of a crank more than the model I would attribute to a good scientist. Despite that, I bought his book and use his software.

Another example I can think of where creative important results don't translate to success is Long Term Capital Management. Founded by 2 Nobel Prize winners in economics, it was the first massive Wall Street bailout in the 1990s after the Russian financial crisis resulted in Soviet/Russian bonds going belly up. One of the founders was the Scholes in the Black-Scholes model, which is one of the most important equations in finanace.

Discovering something great and/or important takes a different set of skills than bringing that discovery to market.


aeismail's response is on target, and just to extend it a bit more, you will find few researchers who make money directly from their research. All your work is owned by the university and patents you file are owned by the university.

That being said, it is fairly common for a researcher to found his or her own company based on their work. There are numerous examples of this, but just to give two examples from my own experience:

Aside from creating a startup, some professors will consult externally for a fee. Anecdotally, depending on how well-connected the professor is, I know a number of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who did consulting work on the side.

Often, if researchers have business acumen and interest, they will follow one of these two paths.

  • 1
    It should be pointed out that many universities and corporations will engage in profit sharing on patents and other intellectual property.
    – aeismail
    Feb 28, 2012 at 2:52

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