A note of caution on “going rogue”

Each week, Symposium Magazine invites an author to expand on his or her essay. This week’s guest blogger is New York-based writer Euny Hong. You can follow her on Twitter @euny.In a welcome shout-out last week, The Dish’s Andrew Sullivan cited my piece on Ethan Perlstein along with a cautionary response from political scientist Jay Ulfelder, titled: “Don’t Quit Your Day Job.”

“I want this to be true,” he wrote on his blog, Dart-Throwing Chimp, in reference to the idea that scientists can find research funding through social media and crowd-funding. “Honestly, though, I think it’s still very, very hard to survive professionally without a regular paycheck and an institutional or corporate mooring, and the vast majority of people who try will fail.”

Ulfelder cited the experience of his peers in the social sciences who are misguided by “this idea that Washington is awash in money and they just need to find a way to tap into that without immersing themselves in it.”

Depressingly, Ufelder said, even the hype about Big Data is not enough to provide independent scholars with guaranteed employment:

“The whole Big Data thing seems like it might inject a lot more interest into the field, but I’ll bet most of the research that spawns is going to happen inside big corporations like Facebook and Twitter, which can afford to invest in basic research.”

A recent tweet of his about the quixotic aspirations of some peers summed it up: “Step 1: Be a recognized expert. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit?”

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