After a few years as a researcher you will find your idealism waning and your general energy in life diminishing. You can revive your spirit by entering the race to be come a big-shot.
The best way is to find a gold mine of paper generation and exploit it as fast as possible. Once you have sucked the mine dry, articulate publicly a high principle that “it is not sufficient to merely <insert your method> to become a good researcher”. You can use this principle to good effect when you become an editor.
Classical examples that have been used successfully in the past are:
- Apply neural networks to everything in the known universe (a more up-to-date name for this activity is “deep learning“).
- Bound the VC dimension of every known function class.
- Kernelise any known linear statistical estimator. (There are actually still a few nuggets left in this mine).
- Apply variational inference or expectation propagation to every possible probabilistic model in the exponential family.
- Take every problem expressible in terms of a linear program, and extend it to semi-definite programming, second order cone programming, etc.
- Find a closely related but little known field (such as economics or game theory), move in and make a killing.
- Apply support vector machines to everything in the known universe.
- Apply Bayes’ rule to everything in the known universe.
- For theoreticians, re-do every classical piece of analysis with the latest model of machinery (in 2002 it was Rademacher averages. update: still true in 2007).