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5000 Hours of Effort

Posted on January 14, 2008

Learning how to be a researcher takes dedication, advises F. Xavier Castellanos (bio).


So in order to become an investigator, I forget where I saw this, but someone estimated that it takes 5,000 hours of effort to become an expert. That sounds about right. If you think of a 60-hour week, which is really what is the average for real productive work, then that's two years of full-time, nothing but learning and thinking and reading and writing. And so that's the minimum post-doctoral research training fellowship period, and every second of that two years needs to be used in a very effective way.

So part of the entry for this, almost always, is that someone has to be willing to invest that level of time. And even if you're 100% protected, as we like to talk about, there are a zillion things that just have to be done, require huge amounts of time, that it's just the price of getting to do the thinking that you're supposed to be doing. So dealing with IRBs takes a huge amount of our time, and yet it has to be done. If you don't do that, nothing else can happen.

So without the ability to have some period of time that is essentially completely dedicated to learning how to be a researcher, it's almost impossible to do that in a competitive way in the biomedical world.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.


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