Recognition: Build a reputation

Chris Woolston in Nature:

CareerLess than a decade after receiving her undergraduate degree in biology, Holly Bik has transformed herself. When she started her PhD, she was as an aspiring marine biologist with a deep interest in nematode worms. Today, she is a highly regarded interdisciplinary computational and evolutionary biologist who travels the world to give talks on topics that range from use of social media to what she dubs 'ecophylometamicrobiomics' — the identification of eukaryotic microbes in the environment through sequencing. Now at the University of Birmingham, UK, she has led the development of the data-visualization platform Phinch and is actively involved in three working groups tackling issues as diverse as the evolution of indoor microbial communities and the biodiversity of the deep sea.

It is all a big leap from worms. How did she become such a sought-after figure in the science community? The key to property is said to be location, location, location; in science, it's all about reputation, reputation, reputation. “I'm trying to cultivate a reputation as an interdisciplinary researcher,” says Bik. “Marine biology, computer programming, genomics — I want people to think of me as a potential collaborator.” If science were truly a double-blind enterprise, generic researchers X, Y and Z would compete for citations, grants, invited talks and promotions solely on the basis of their accomplishments and aptitude. In the real world, scientists have names, and those names come with baggage, both positive and negative. In an increasingly competitive scientific environment, a reputation may matter more than ever, says Philip Bourne, associate director for data science at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. “The degree of separation between any two scientists is relatively small,” Bourne says. “If you're colossally brilliant, you can be a jerk and still have a good reputation. But if you're a mere mortal, the way you treat science and the people around you will come back on you.”

More here.