I had an idea. Follow me, here:
For academic careers, writing is like investing in stocks. Outreach and translational research are like investing in bonds.
Stocks and writing: Get lots while you’re young. You need to write prolifically enough to get tenure, and gain the national or international reputation you need for those outside letters. Spread your name, become known in your field. Start early. Because the return is uncertain, put a lot of writing out there in the world (and buy stocks). Stocks are a good investment when you have a long timeline until retirement; you have time to weather the ups-and-downs of the market and can have a higher tolerance for risk, in exchange for possibly higher returns.
Bonds and outreach/translation: These are more effective when you’re older. When you’re more experienced in your field, you have more experience and a reputation that you can leverage for influence. Research-wise, you’ve got a better idea of what works and what’s worth developing further, as well as potential pitfalls and objections. You also know people who can help spread your ideas. You may have more time to devote to making the world a better place. When you’re closer to retirement, you also want the safety and security of bonds: potentially lower return, but steady.
In financial investing, as in an academic career, you’ll need a balance and variety throughout your life. You might want to be doing both of these things (and more!) at all times, but in varying ratios. Diversify and rebalance your portfolio and life.
This idea: off the wall, or right on target? Tell me, Grumpeteers.