Committee Service: An Unpleasant Necessity Of Academic Life

Committee service is one of those time-consuming chores that are part of virtually every academic scientist's life. While many researchers regard committee work as distasteful drudgery, others relish their service. Experienced scientists say that service on internal and external committees, when performed with a strategic eye, can help advance one's career. They also note that there are ways to make serving less onerous and to make committee deliberations more efficient. Of course, not every

Robert Finn
Jan 4, 1998

Committee service is one of those time-consuming chores that are part of virtually every academic scientist's life. While many researchers regard committee work as distasteful drudgery, others relish their service. Experienced scientists say that service on internal and external committees, when performed with a strategic eye, can help advance one's career. They also note that there are ways to make serving less onerous and to make committee deliberations more efficient.

Of course, not every scientist is willing to serve on committees. Richard Feynman, the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist at the California Institute of Technology, was notorious for avoiding committee work throughout his career.

This clearly placed the burden of additional service on his colleagues, recalls David L. Goodstein, Caltech's vice provost and the Frank J. Giloon Distinguished Teaching and Service Professor. However, "in Feynman's case nobody would complain. . . . Feynman was much more than a Nobel...

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