Academia should be collaborative, not competitive. So why do I feel like some junior colleagues are rushing to tear each other’s work apart online?
I had always imagined academia to be a collegial environment. I pictured teams of researchers putting heads together to solve real-world problems, collaborating on new discoveries. After completing my PhD, I realised it was more about academics competing against each other for grants and jobs. Even then, I thought optimistically that our shared experiences of unsuccessful applications might bond us together. But a recent experience online has confirmed for me that, actually, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.
Earlier this year, I published a book based on my research but aimed at the general reader to supplement my income from academic work. A few months after publication, I was idly scrolling through the Facebook page for an academic group I’m a member of, and caught sight of my name on a new post. It was from a young academic researcher, publicly proclaiming that my book was “useless”. Another researcher responded, and what started as an attack based on my book’s lack of endnotes – which they viewed as unacademic – descended into a personal attack on me.