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Last updated Jun 18, 2021 Edit Source

# The ‘rat race’ of Computer Science Academia

There is no mechanism today, other than time, donations, and personal social platforms,  for researchers to support other researchers’ work. Every act of support is out of selflessness and there is a lack of incentive for cross collaboration other than having your name on another paper. The reward system in this community is highly dependent on your ability to make your research well known and marketed. Shrey Jain

Source: Just ask for Generalization

My guess is that the research community tends to reward narratives that increase intellectual complexity and argue that “we need better algorithms”. People pay lip service to “simple ideas” but few are willing to truly pursue simplicity to its limit and simply scale up existing ideas.

The typical research project might last 4 years at the longest because that is the max duration of a PhD and post-doc. An average PhD candidate wants their own unique project; they don’t want to continue someone else’s project. So the academic world is a rapid succession of short-lived projects1

# Tunnel Vision

Source: Mimetic by Brian Timar, see also mimetic

“Graduate programs select for intensely competitive individuals with highly specific skills, often with negligible market value outside of universities. A strong desire for publications on esoteric topics is inherited from senior postdocs and professors, making tunnel vision especially acute.”

# Incentive Structure

Academia feels more pure, more playful, than industry? More of a ‘ constructionist’ approach, freedom to ask your own questions

Can we create the energy of DARPA outside of government funding? A modern day Xerox Parc or Bell Labs? A research institutions perhaps?

More on incentives

# Research at Microsoft

Session w/ Jim Pinkelman, Ph.D. Been at MS for 19 years, 11 years in Microsoft Research

Most of MS research is not necessarily driven by a technical challenge that a product group faces. Very driven by research interests of new hires.


  1. Advance the state-of-the-art in CS
  2. Rapidly transfer technologies to Microsoft products and services
  3. Incubate disruptive technologies and new business

95% of internal research is peer-reviewed + published

1990 memo


MSR sub-groups

  1. MSR Labs: Long term basic research
  2. MSR NExT: New experiences and technologies

  1. From Stephen Fay: “I don’t really understand where this claim comes from. In physics there are many huge international collaborations spanning decades (e.g. large radio arrays in poles+south africa+Canada, LIGO + LISA, CERN, James Webb, building quantum computers is going to take large collaborations even if research goes underground). I can’t really speak to other fields but it would be nice to have a bit more context to this claim.” I’ve now clarified this critique to mostly target computer science/theoretical fields. I think any research field with sufficient barrier entry/requirements for access to infrastructure/hardware/physical resources does necessarily require pooling of resources on an institutional and often multi-year/decade long timespan ↩︎