Dr. Heidi Seibold

👣 Why leaving academia helped me do more for science

Published over 1 year ago • 3 min read

In May 2021 I left academia. I am finally ready to tell my story why I did and why I belief that I can do more for science from where I am now.

From an outsiders perspective I had a fabulous career in science. I did my PhD in Zurich in a bit more than 3 years, got an E14 full time postdoc position right after, did an interim professorship, two more postdocs and then a junior group leadership. I was 30 and on track to professorship.

Side note: a lot of my success was privilege and luck (e.g. a super supportive PhD supervisor and great people around me who helped me along this journey).

But then I started to wonder: Do I even want to be a professor?

Most professors I know...

  • ...are stressed out all the time
  • ...don't have the time to be good teachers
  • the game that I am trying to change (publishing lots of papers, increasing H-Index, ...)

That's not me! I don't want that!

🤷But what now?! 🙈

That question hit me during the winter holidays 2020/2021. I had a really hard time in beginning of 2021. As an extrovert, I was not dealing well with the COVID situation and felt lonely in home office. I had so many tasks on my TODO-list. I was about to hire a PhD student while wondering whether I should quit my current career. So I started having panic attacks and massive doubts in my current path.

Luckily, my institution had a good support system in place and I was able to get a session with a psychologist really quickly. In four amazing sessions in which I switched between crying and laughing (she was very funny), I figured out that I had to quit. I was not ready to give up my mental health for a career in academia and my gut feeling told me that I could reach my goals of improving research quality elsewhere.

After a 1-year-interlude at a company, I think I've finally found the right place for myself: Self-employment. As a freelancer / entrepreneur I decide, what the metrics are that make my work worthy. I get to decide that I am not gonna work with toxic people, that I want to change the way we do research instead of doing research myself, that my worth is not based on impact factors or other silly metrics.

I get to work on open science full time, no regrets!

I am convinced that I can serve the research community so much better this way. And friends, I have so much energy to finally make open science the norm! Not being part of the academic systems helps me, both mentally and organizationally.

This newsletter is a nice example: I want to share what I learned and so I just do it. No need to discuss this, no need to feel guilty about not writing a paper just now. I am so grateful that you are reading it and hope that you can do something useful with the things I am sharing. Every week I get to send out infos and thoughts and I love it.

Another example:

Does this post resonate with you? Do you have similar doubts as I did? Then please get in touch with me! I am happy to help in any way I can 🫶

It feels really weird to publish my story on the internet. With all my vulnerabilities. But if it helps only one person to struggle less, it will be worth it.

All the best,


P.S. You know someone who needs to hear my story? Please forward! ♥️


Heidi Seibold, MUCBOOK Clubhouse, Elsenheimerstr. 48, Munich, 81375
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Dr. Heidi Seibold

All things open and reproducible data science.

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