I’ve encountered this problem myself. Years ago, after I completed my Ph.D. in physics, I began doing postdoctoral research studying cosmic voids, the vast regions of almost nothing that dominate the volume of the universe. A few collaborators and I were using voids to understand the evolution of the cosmos, and we were also fascinated by voids as objects themselves. However, as I was applying to jobs beyond that postdoc, I was told multiple times by senior (and well-meaning) scientists that I should focus on something else. Something more mainstream. Something safer. (Today, thanks to the dogged determination of my collaborators, cosmic void analysis is now a part of most major upcoming galaxy surveys.)
My experiences were not singular. I’ve met many junior scientists who were given similar advice, and senior scientists — now that I number among their ranks — confide that their top priority is in achieving deltas: a physics jargon word that they use here to refer to tiny, incremental advances of their current research. They quietly concede that the tenure system, designed to give academics the freedom to safely explore new directions, rarely serves that purpose.Paul Sutter, “Risk Aversion Is Ruining Science” at UnDark (April 27, 2022)
You may also wish to read: Theoretical physicist on why she stopped working on black hole information loss. Hossenfelder: …. no one can tell which solution is correct in the sense that it actually describes nature, and physicists will not agree on one anyway. Because if they did, they’d have to stop writing papers about it.