So there's this careers course thing I'm going to this week as part of some graduate school requirement, and I've been asked to prepare a curriculum vitae for it. I'm probably going to include something like

because, after all, I think I've written up some pretty nice physics over time on the site.

I'm wondering, though, what people's attitude towards this is. So: if you're a professional physicist, is your participation on the site on your CV? If yes, then what did you include and how does it look like? If 'depends', then what sorts of CV use-cases do you include it in for and for which ones do you leave it out? If not, and you have a brag-about-able profile, what made you leave it out?

  • $\begingroup$ tags suggestions welcome $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 18 '14 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ This seems to quite off topic, no? $\endgroup$ – MBN May 19 '14 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ I think having a good understanding of how this site sits within the professional community is not a bad thing to shoot for. Compare, for example with how MO sits within its community: we're different, for sure, but how so? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 19 '14 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, but somehow what you plan to put in your CV doesn't seems on topic here! $\endgroup$ – MBN May 19 '14 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ Have it on my CV under 'other interests' ;) $\endgroup$ – Danu May 19 '14 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, @MBN, if in any way this reads as uninvited sharing of information. It is in fact a question! I would ask you to concentrate on the sentences that end in "?". $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 19 '14 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ I for one would like to see some other answers than the one given - whether they agree or not - just so we have a survey with more than one respondent. I'd answer myself, but I haven't updated my CV since I learned about this site. $\endgroup$ – user10851 May 19 '14 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty: I can see the questions, but you are asking whether other people write something specific on their CV or not, and in which cases and what they thing about it. So that you can make a decision for yourself. The meta site is for discussions about the workings and polices of the main site. I still don't see how this question is not off topic!!! $\endgroup$ – MBN May 20 '14 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ @MBN: I'm not sure what the on-topic requirements are for meta. But I am personally quite interested to hear peoples opinion on this. $\endgroup$ – JeffDror May 20 '14 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ Not on my CV. But I don't think I qualify for a brag-about-able profile. Even still, I wouldn't. PhysicsSE isn't what I'd call a career achievement or experience. It is an internet QA forum. My answers and/or questions are screened by votes but noone removes incorrect posts and our peer-review, fact-checking process is appreciated rather than expected. Furthermore, I do this in my free time, when I want a break from real work. Majority of the posts on here are not research level and not all that impressive on a CV. I could go on, but suffice to say I do this for the love of physics, not my CV. $\endgroup$ – Jim May 20 '14 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ My view is that meta is for questions about the main site and the community that surrounds it, and since the activity level is low, we can be less strict in our interpretation of that scope than we are on the main site. So I consider this sufficiently on topic. $\endgroup$ – David Z May 21 '14 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ Just out of curiosity - did you end up including it? $\endgroup$ – Floris Oct 6 '14 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris I did but I'm not very happy with it (as well as other aspects of the CV, which I also haven't gotten round to fixing). I'll post here if I update it to something I like. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Oct 6 '14 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ You might interest with this: Why are contributions to the education of the broader public not valued much within academia? $\endgroup$ – Ooker Nov 16 '15 at 14:27

In the software industry, a high-reputation Stack Overflow profile is seen as a sign of competence, because you have to use the same technical knowledge and research skills required by your job to answer questions there. But in academia, people - at least, the people who make up the majority (though perhaps not the entirety) of tenure and grant review committees, funding agencies, and research directors - tend to see anything that's not actual research as a distraction from research. For that reason participation on this site doesn't play the same role to a professional physicist as participation on Stack Overflow does to a professional developer. Participation in Physics SE is probably best framed as a service activity, like other kinds of community outreach or volunteer work (not that you would put non-physics-related volunteer work on your CV), rather than as a demonstration of your knowledge of physics.

Professors reviewing CVs do look for some amount of service activities, but in many cases they do so only grudgingly, as a concession to the requirements of running a department and/or pressure from university administrators. (And something analogous applies to those in a non-academic environment.) This tends to be somewhat correlated with age, so that e.g. younger professors are a little more likely to look favorably on things like having a blog or contributing to Physics SE. As a graduate student, I don't think it can really hurt you that much to include it, but at later stages of your career (if you go for a career in academia) I think it's important to make it clear that this is not something that consumes a lot of your time, otherwise it probably could hurt your prospects.

As for what exactly to include: I'd put something a little more substantial than what you've quoted. A brief paragraph (2, maybe 3 sentences) that explains what Physics SE is and/or what you do here is probably going to be useful. (I don't have easy access to my own CV at the moment otherwise I'd give you an example, though I doubt that example would be any better than what you'd come up with on your own.) But again, don't play up the amount of time you've invested in the site; better to frame it as something that you use as a resource to improve your education.

I'm sure this has also been pondered extensively on Academia so you could check there for more thoughts, not specific to physics.

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    $\begingroup$ You conflate "professional physicist" with "someone who practices physics in academia" which is a generalization that many professional physicists not in academia won't thank you for. $\endgroup$ – Floris May 21 '14 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Floris I'll clarify that, but I believe the point still stands. Professional non-academic physicists still need to appease grant reviewers, funding agencies, and supervisors, all of whom tend to view participation in this site as a distraction from research. $\endgroup$ – David Z May 21 '14 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ David - thanks for clarifying the wording. I agree with you. $\endgroup$ – Floris May 21 '14 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ A quick question on your answer (which is great by the way, thank you). Without wanting to be too subjective, is it the case that this is the opinion of putting Physics SE on one's CV in the US (where I see you are located) or in general? For example, I am aware that the CV in the US, England and France, say, are very different. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Flint72 May 21 '14 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ This could be a US-centric perspective which doesn't apply to other countries, but I don't think so. The physics community is very much international, and attitudes toward CVs (or whatever you call the document you present as part of a job application which lists your accomplishments) seem to be fairly similar worldwide. $\endgroup$ – David Z May 21 '14 at 10:38
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZ That depends on what you count as 'similar'. In this regard I think you're probably right, but there can be huge regional variations on certain aspects of CVs. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 22 '14 at 16:19

Speaking as a professional physicist not in academia, I would say that what you do here is seen more as a hobby (extracurricular interest) than a professional achievement. That said - when you are applying for a job, people are likely to Google you. If your profile links to your real name, your activity on PSE is likely to show up in search results. In your case, your profile is the second hit:

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That means the cat is firmly out of the bag - even if you don't include it on your CV.

That said:

  1. When I look at a resume, I assume that the things people mention are the things they find impressive: that tells me a lot about their thought processes.
  2. Someone with a very high reputation probably spends a lot of time on this site: you might wonder whether this would distract that person from their "real job" - are they refreshing the question list every five minutes while at work to distract them from their task at hand? A constant need for "upvotes" is considered by some an unhealthy addiction (of which I am guilty).
  3. A highly upvoted answer on this site does not carry the same weight as a highly cited peer reviewed publication

With all that said - if you have written some answers you are particularly proud of, you might link to them from a blog; then point to this blog to give people an indication of (a) your "informal" communication style (how you write when you are not writing for a peer reviewed journal) - this is an EXTREMELY important skill; and (b) your willingness to "give back" to your community - again, something that is highly appreciated by most employers.

Bottom line - everything you do online becomes a visible part of your record of achievements. Make sure that it projects the right perception of who you are - and why you would be a valuable member of whatever organization you would like to be hired by.

Good luck.

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    $\begingroup$ Sure, that works for you people with unique names. I'm not even the only physicist with my name :( Plus there is a popular musician, a cartoonist, some lawyers, doctors, the list goes on. No, if you're like me and can safely assume you won't have an internet presence ever, don't worry about the cat being out of the bag $\endgroup$ – Jim May 21 '14 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Jim you should learn how Tom Riddle handles this case. Instead of using the name Tom Riddle, he uses the nickname Voldemort to easily get to the top of Google. $\endgroup$ – Ooker Nov 16 '15 at 13:56

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