As an academic researcher in a theoretical field at a public institution, I am sensitive to the social value of my work (my own contribution to society). I do some teaching, whose contribution to society is easy to identify, but not much. Try to increase that aspect of my job, I have listed some things I can do (some of which I already do, some of which I don’t):
- Engage in collaborations with industrial partners (favoring transfer of knowledge to practical applications).
- Orientate one’s research goals to match an area of societal importance (green gas reduction, nuclear waste storage, you name it).
- Communicate science to a wide public, whether it is my own research or the knowledge of my field in general (popular science). This includes writing articles in magazines, writing a blog, developing educational software, …
- Get involved in education science: contribute to my national society of physics and chemistry teachers, for example. Offer some software for high-school and university teachers to demonstrate concepts.
- Register as an expert with the nearest court of law.
What other suggestions do you have to improve one’s social value? (Or should I stop worrying and love the bomb?) I mean, in the short term. I know that I (and my colleagues) contribute to the advancement of mankind in the very long term, but sometimes it doesn't help feel useful.
Instead of thinking increasing my own social value (reputation), I think the other way round. The society is supporting me in carrying out the research (in theoretical field), in innumerable dimensions; from the public transport systems to research grants. I think of the ways that I can, at least in part, repay the tax-payers of my nation.
Some of the activities that I do, that I think, will be useful to the society include,
- helping fellow research scholars in other fields or disciplines in areas where I have expertise. It can vary from a simple installation of a software or help in filling a grant application to active discussion in improving their research or interpreting their results (that helps me too, indirectly).
- popularize the field among school/college students and common people, so that better ignited minds take up the field for their career.
- actively participate in various professional and amateur associations/societies/forums related to my field or where I can make some contributions.
- provide support to enthusiastic people who wish to take up a career in the field or a related field, by helping them in a project or connecting them with a better experienced person. As a researcher, sometimes I have better contacts.
- provide administrative assistance to the needy persons in my institution where I have better exposure/access, like filing an application form or submitting various fees etc.
In short, the various activities that I involve myself in, improves my social value, as far as I have experienced. The more I try to give, the more I get in return.
If you are active in the society and if they feel you are really worth, the society reaches you for help or assistance and they value your suggestions.