Dr. Heidi Seibold

Let's stop seeking for approval

Published 10 months ago • 3 min read

When discussing open science and reproducibility we often talk about incentives and how they stop us from producing quality science and steer us towards quantity. In this post I want to discuss our own need for approval in this context and what it does to us.

Sometimes I use this newsletter as a sort of a diary. I write about things that currently affect my life. This is one of those posts.

In a previous post I wrote about my path away from academia. The decision to leave academia was based on my own wishes, my strengths and hopes. Often enough, though, I don't act based on what I want, but on what I think people want me to do. I seek for approval.

This week, for example, I have been struggling. I want to start a network of trainers (the Digital Research Academy) and there are so many things in my head that I think people will expect from it. I was so stressed about it that I actually thought about quitting. I never doubted the idea. I doubted that people would approve of it. Now, after realizing that my approval-seeking is the issue, I can look back and see that most people did actually give me very positive feedback and that a lot of my doubts are not based on reality.

The art of being yourself | Caroline McHugh

This video spoke to me. Caroline mentions approval addiction and it's debilitating effects.

Approval seeking researchers

My guess is that a lot of researchers are the way I am. We are high achievers because we know how to work within the systems of school and university. We know what people expect from us and we want to deliver: good grades, good work, good everything. That is part of what got us this far.

But if we accept the definition of "good work" that others give us, we become victims of incentives. Me leaving academia was also a way of saying "I cannot seek this kind of approval anymore. These incentives do not work for me.". As an open scientist I knew that counting the number of papers and citations was pushing me towards a way of working that I don't agree with.

I see other open scientists who are fine with not fulfilling the expectations. They can stay in the system and stay sane. They just ignore the incentives or make up "tricks" to game the system (e.g. by publishing software and data papers). Sometimes they just do such good work – in their own way – that they become indispensable for their research institution.

I think people like that are good role models in research. We can learn from them to do what we think is right. And in order to truly do good work and progress research, we mustn't focus on quantity. We must focus on quality.

I want to learn to be more like that. I want to learn to stand by my own values and measures of success and care less about external approval.

How are you dealing with external validation and incentives? Would it help you to care less about other's approval? How would it change your work?

Disclaimer: I am aware that this post comes from a position of privilege. I don't want to discredit your experience and reality. I just want to share mine. I hope that it helps.

Some upcoming events

Application deadline: 17 July 2023

Several parts are open to the public (no application)

The summer school is targeted at PhD students of all scientific disciplines.

Open Research Summer School

Organized by the LMU Open Science Center.

When: 11. - 15. September 2023
Where: Ludwigstraße 25, Munich and via Zoom

Barcamp: Research Data Management in Mathematics

Organized by the Mathematical Research Data Initiative (MaRDI)

July 4th 2023 from 9am to 5pm


All the best,


P.S. If you're enjoying this newsletter, please consider supporting my work by leaving a tip.

Heidi Seibold, MUCBOOK Clubhouse, Elsenheimerstr. 48, Munich, 81375
Unsubscribe · Preferences · My newsletters are licensed under CC-BY 4.0

Dr. Heidi Seibold

All things open and reproducible data science.

Read more from Dr. Heidi Seibold

Guest post: Meet Dr Elisabeth Kugler, director of Zeeks – Art for Geeks. In this post she will share her career path and how her work connects with open science now that she is an entrepreneur. I am Dr Elisabeth Kugler, director of Zeeks – Art for Geeks – a company that transforms how people think about data. We achieve this by data analysis, visualization, and communication. And our speciality is image-based data and strategies. In this article, I aim to discuss Zeeks' perspective on open...

10 days ago • 2 min read

Making your research or code project FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and reproducible can feel like a chore. But if you have access to the right templates and resources, it can be quite the simple and rewarding task. Let's make it easy for ourselves to do the right thing! So today let me share some templates for setting up #FAIR and #reproducible projects. I asked folks on social media what suggestions they had and got so many that I was not able to put them all here...

about 1 month ago • 2 min read
Shrugging stick figure

I have volunteered for many initiatives and was always happy to do so. Recently I started to realize that being able to volunteer is a privileged position to be in. To be truly fair and allow all enthusiasts to join an initiative we have to rethink the way we do things. A constructive criticism. I've got to get this off my chest, you all! I've received yet another email asking whether I could speak at an event. For free. "Why for free?" you ask? It's an event from and for enthusiasts. I am a...

2 months ago • 3 min read
Share this post