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If you read my previous blog post, “Becoming an Independent Researcher and getting published in ICLR with spotlight,” you will know how much I struggled to enter the world of machine learning research. However, you will also know my struggles ended on a positive note, “there is light around the corner,” or so I thought. Well, it is complicated. — Vancouver, Canada

A real story of having succeeded, to then have promises broken and dreams crushed, and feeling sorry for yourself when others have it worse.

In December 2019, I got published at ICLR 2020 as an Independent Researcher and received a Spotlight award for my publication. The goal, to get enough recognition to become a Research Software Engineer at a known industrial research group.

This publication went about as viral on Twitter as most researchers can hope for. I received many questions and wrote the blog post “Becoming an Independent Researcher and getting published in ICLR with spotlight,” which also went viral.


Picture of my computer with the HTML code for my distill.pub publication. Background is a window showing Tokyo, Japan.
Picture of my computer with the HTML code for my distill.pub publication. Background is a window showing Tokyo, Japan.
November 2018. Finishing my first publication, “Visualizing memorization in RNNs,” published in distill.pub. This was my first publication. I thought that and a Master's degree in Machine Learning would be enough to get a Research Software Engineer position; I was very wrong! — Tokyo, Japan

Why I became an Independent Researcher, why you should avoid it, and advice for those who make the difficult choice anyway.

In April 2019, I decided to become an independent researcher, to work on getting published at a major conference. Then in December 2019, after 7–8 months of work without funding, I did just that. I got published in ICLR; even better, I got a spotlight!

After posting my publication on Twitter, it went about as viral as a researcher, like me, can hope for. As a result, I have now received nearly 100 messages from others, asking for advice on how to publish as an independent researcher.

In this article, I want to give that advice. However, more importantly, I…

Andreas Madsen

Ph.D. Student at Mila, researching interpretability for Machine Learning because society needs it. Published in Distill, SEDL|NeurIPS, and ICLR (spotlight).

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