This blog is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for Student Science and Technology (formerly the Canadian Young Scientist Journal) and Science.gc.ca. Our aim is to offer an interactive platform where Canadian students can talk about their passions, challenges and ideas on how to further pursue scientific interests and education. We welcome new contributors -- if you are interested please contact us at information@science.gc.ca.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How to Survive in the Competitive World of Science ?

Originally Published February 18, 2014
By: Sarah Lum

Success in the scientific world is based on so much more than intelligence. To achieve success, you need discipline, determination, and drive, but I believe that above all else you need to be realistic. The reality is that science is a cutthroat business where everyone strives to rise above their competition. I know that only the best can get published, but I am disappointed at how we are constantly forced to go up against each other, and how we approach research with the competition at the forefront.

When I first entered research, I was surprised at how hush-hush I had to be about my work. I was disappointed at how I wasn’t allowed to collaborate or share with other groups working on the same project. I was also afraid that they would use my information to their advantage to get ahead. I am personally used to talking to a variety of peers, advisors, or workmates about my work, but in research I knew that my liking for sharing ideas could be my downfall, so I kept to myself.

I think that the key to success in such a competitive environment is to do work with as much passion and determination as possible, but to approach it with an attitude of integrity and openness. I think that we should be more open to making allies, even if they are considered our competition, than keeping our work completely closed off from theirs. There is always an underlying uneasiness, but I think that the benefits outweigh the cost and it takes away the individualistic nature of the system.

I realize that it would be impractical to change the way that research is published, but I do believe that we can all adopt new attitudes when considering how to achieve publication.


Sarah is a second year Biomedical Science student at the University of Ottawa. Science, particularly organic chemistry, and math have always been the backbone of her interests, driven by curiosity and love for numbers. Sarah's current research is on organic semiconductors, and she is also working on bioengineering projects for city-wide environmental sustainability. Community involvement is very important to Sarah; she serves on the Biology executive, coordinates activities at a retirement residence, and teaches Sunday School at her church. Sarah enjoys long-distance running, competitive dancing, playing rugby, and solving riddles. She eagerly faces challenges, and constantly strives to widen her breadth of knowledge.

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