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Academics’ career trajectories follow diverse paths, and understanding them is challenging. Animal metaphors, notably the contrast between hedgehogs and foxes, have helped to distinguish patterns but need reappraisal as universities change. Reflecting on prominent sociologists’ careers, the argument is developed that academic trajectories differ according to whether work is blue skies or applied, and how it relates to innovation and consolidation. Four types of academic animals are identified: bears, beavers, jackdaws and eagles. Ann Oakley’s career is used to illustrate how individuals’ trajectories may move between these. For researchers anticipating how their academic futures may unfold, role models framed in these terms offer alternative scenarios.
- academic careers
- animal metaphors
- research innovation and consolidation
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