The end of Brain’s Idea

This will be the very last blog post of Brain’s Idea. Ever since my first blog post on 26 January 2012 to nearly six years later now, it has been great fun writing about science, psychology, and the brain.

Looking back

The readership of Brain’s Idea grew year on year. I averaged about 1000 views per month during the first three years. In 2015 and 2016 I saw big increases in my readership, particularly around the topic of Psychology’s replication crisis, see here, here, and here. In 2016 more than 2000 views per month were generated. Everything else I have ever written in my life pales against these numbers.


My most successful blog posts over the years were:

  1. The real reason why new pop music is so incredibly bad
  2. The biological basis of orchestra seating
  3. The mysterious appeal of too loud music
  4. Psychological principles as guidelines for effective PowerPoint presentations
  5. Why do we like sad music?

I am actually surprised that nearly all of the most read posts are music related. Many thanks to the readers of Brain’s Idea for reminding me that my PhD topic is interesting, relevant, and worth investigating.

Looking ahead

By now, I have left academia. In February of this year I successfully defended my PhD in Nijmegen (The Netherlands). Many people encouraged me to pursue a career in science and I even had concrete offers for post-doc positions. However, I turned those down and turned away from academia. Why? I think a colleague of mine put it very well when he said ‘I want to be a scientist. I just don’t want to live like a scientist.’ I was good at academic science. But academic science was not good for me. So, I left.

My arduous path to this conclusion has been eloquently put into words by my PhD supervisor Roel Willems during the laudatio of my PhD defense:

[…] Also outside of Nijmegen you made your mark. In the particular niche of science called music cognition, you quickly introduced yourself, made contact with international colleagues without the help of supervisors who could introduce you.

Your presence did not go unnoticed, and I was reminded of this last summer when on a conference I started talking to a colleague from Leipzig that I hadn’t met before. I told him I worked in Nijmegen and his honest and immediate answer was: ‘Ah, Nijmegen, do you know Richard Kunert?’ Just as Erasmus became an ambassador for Rotterdam, Richard you had become an ambassador for Nijmegen. Would you ever have figured?

Your project continued, data got analyzed, manuscripts got written. With it came your doubts and disappointments. You felt like you played by the rulesof science, but that someone had changed the rules without telling you.

The elusive practices of peer-review, the habit of story-telling aver data, coupled with an ongoing replicatin crisis, made you rethink your future as an academic. With your characteristic determination you decided to leave academia. Even if that meant giving up a plan, a dream as you said, which you had been pursuing ever since your bachelor’s time in Glasgow.

During your defense many have expressed their praise for your intellectual achievements, and I will do so agian here. You have done a fantastic PhD project, and all the praise you get is well-deserved. But your choice to give up on your initial plan when you found out that the academic world was not your place, wins you more than praise. I find it really remarkable that you choose for what felt like the best thing to do, to change your initial plan, even if the outcome is unknown.

Strange as it might sound, this brings us back to Erasmus. Regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of his time. More than 500 years ago Erasmus started a doctoral project in Paris. He never finished it. He didn’t like the way theology – his subject matter – was taught and dropped out early. He too felt that academia as it was, was not the way he wanted it to be, albeit for different reasons than the replication crisis of peer review. He too sensed that his proper place was elsewhere. […]

Rich Data

I might have left Brain’s Idea but I haven’t left blogging. My new data science blog is called Rich Data. You should check it out: . See you there.

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