ReproducibiliTea Blog

10 simple rules for failing successfully in academia | 24/02/23 | Emma Wilson

In this month’s Edinburgh ReproducibiliTea session, we discussed the paper titled “Ten simple rules for failing successfully in academia” by Gaillard et al.

The paper provides advice on how to navigate academic failure. The authors argue that failure is an inevitable part of the academic journey and that it can be a valuable learning experience if approached with the right mindset. The ten rules they present are:

  1. Define failure: You can think of failure as setting a goal and then never achieving that goal. However it is also important to think about the impact of the failure, how much control you had over the outcome, and learn to see failure as an event not a state of being.
  2. Dare to fail: Remember that there is never a straight road to success. Start taking opportunities even when there is high chance of failure.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to others: Comparing yourself to others can often lead to feelings of inadequacy imposter syndrome. Rather than comparing yourself to others, it is better to reflect on your own journey and realise how far you’ve come.
  4. Do compare yourself to others: Although it may sound contradictory to the previous point, you can compare yourself to others in a healthy way by listen to your peers who are often about their own failures.
  5. Keep track of failures and successes: Thinking about failures too much can sometimes stop us from celebrating the small wins. Keeping track of the everyday problems you face and the solutions you found can help you appreciate the effort you’ve put in to your work.
  6. Study the system: It can be helpful to think about the academic system that you work in and how privileges, discrimination, or distorted incentives may impact success and failure.
  7. Make failure a part of the process: Failure is normal, but there are things you can do to try to mitigate failure as much as possible. Try seeking out feedback before mistakes can happen.
  8. Create a support network: It is important to seek out people you feel comfortable sharing your failures with and connect with others in similar situations.
  9. Find what works for you: Everyone has a different strategy for dealing with failure. Sometimes you might be able to move on quickly, but other times you might need to step back and process the failure.
  10. Pay it forward: Share your failures, mentor juniors or peers, challenge the system, and do your part to normalise failure as a thing that happens to everyone.

Following a short presentation about the paper, we had a longer discussion session about our own experiences with failure and our strategies for moving on from failures. We did not record this part of the session so that attendees felt more comfortable sharing their experiences.

The session recording is available on our YouTube channel.

This blog is written by Emma Wilson


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