In a recent ironic tweet, MichaelStal wrote “Got a solution. Need a problem where my solution is applicable”.
I’m afraid that this tweet describes a very common approach in research: the invention of research problems that nobody else (maybe except for our own niche research community) cares about. Often (unfortunately I’ve succumbed to this temptation many times myself) we just decide to tackle a certain topic because it’s fun or, even worse, because we believe we can achieve a publishable result in a short period of time.
It’s true that not all research lines should aim at immediate practical applications (nor that all research problems should come from the industry) but in a field like mine (software engineering in a broad sense) if what you do does not benefit any practitioner in a “short” timeframe, well, then maybe should start reconsidering what you work on or you may wake up someday realizing that you just wasted your (professional) life 🙂
Initiatives like this one are a step in the right direction but I think it’s even simpler than this. Just look around and count how many people from the industry is applying or at least interested in what you’ve been doing (regardless the number of citations you got from your peers) and then think about it.