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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The ups and downs of working in R&D

"How do you see yourself in 10 years time? " - typical job interview question.

Still short, wrinkles here and there and probably with extra few pounds.

Not relevant heh?


I believe in Msia, there're two types of R&D ; industrial R&D and academia R&D.

There's really a fine line between the two but when it comes to salary and work environment, there is a huge difference.

R&d in industry is more profit oriented. The work is generally routine work and most of the time, the working environment is harsher and your freedom is limited to improving the company's product. However, the positive thing about working in industry is the benefit, salary and the long term commitment.

Then again, what do I know? Cause I'm on the other side of the road.

You see, I work for a non profit company/university.

Awkward and uncomfortable position to be in but there are pros and cons to it.

In Msia (I think), it is extremely difficult for private organizations apply for research grant and it's a lot easier for universities to apply for one. For a non profit organization such as the one I have one foot in, they had to seek for research collaboration with universities to fund their research. In return, they provide the research proposal, facilities and equipment to work with. Private organization usually have more structural aim, objectives and their work are mostly better monitored.

In another word, you give me money, I give you name. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Get it?

More and more grants are given to various group in universities so that they can come up with more and more papers/publications which in consequence will contribute to the university's ranking. Their name will go up, so is their ranking, and then more students would come in.

On the other hand, the private company would usually have a more narrow aim in their research. For example, I have another foot in cancer research organization which like the name says, aim to contribute to the cancer research in Msia. The fact is, it's a non profit, therefore, we survived only on university grants, donation and charity. Where the money goes in our research will be closely scrutinized by the management.

The perk of working in academia is that you have a huge freedom on your project. How you lead your project is really up to you. If you're able to give a head start on a new project, that would be even better. You really manage your own time which means when being late to work is not usually as issue (tapi agak2 la kan) as long as you have your work progress accordingly.

The downside is however, you can't get far unless you have a PhD. And even with a master's degree, you don't earn much. Switching from academia to industry is also very difficult (so I've been told).

And that's my dilemma.

By the way, that my friends....are the ups and downs of working in R&D.

You might want to think twice before forcing your children to be in this scientific domain. It's a very slow pace in Msia. Please don't even compare us to other countries.


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