Academia is like a middle age fortress under siege, set in stone by traditions and habits, and ever so hard to get into. Whether academic life is a good choice for you or not is one question. But even if you want to be a Principal Investigator (PI), only between 0.45% and ~20% of PhD students end up in a tenure track position or similar. So you might think your odds are not great.
Well, now there is a tool to actually calculate those odds. Lucas Carey (Pompeu Fabra University) and his coworkers used machine learning to extract a set of laws that determines your chances of becoming a PI. This was achieved by looking at the careers and publication records of over 25,000 scientists in the PubMed biomedical literature database. They found that access to PI positions is highly predictable based on publication records and other parameters such as gender.
The study was recently published in Current Biology and a web-based tool, named PIPredictor, allows anyone to calculate their likelihood of becoming a PI. Any PI wannabe, should indicate their name, gender and a list of publication. The tool is free, but requires your publications to be referenced in PubMed.
A fun tool indeed! But beyond the amusing aspect of this study, the predictability achieved here is a reminder of the rigidity of academic institutions. In particular, the conservative approach to recruiting by many universities and research agencies. Lets (naïvely) hope this will be changes with the newer generations of academics.