Science Careers Blog

April 2010

In the blog EmploymentDigest today, career coach Peter Fisher offers a number of tips related to body language in a job interview. Fisher's basic message is that in order to build rapport, interviewees should take their cues from the interviewer.

By the time you get to an interview, you've already made a good impression with your networking, résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn page, and so on; otherwise you would never have made it this far. Your task now is to seal the deal, and a good performance in the interview will go a long way towards doing that.

Fisher stresses building rapport with the interviewer, which means making the interviewer feel comfortable with you. He recommends letting the interviewer initiate the handshake, for example. and watching how the interviewer sits and stands and modeling your behavior on the interviewer. Read the post for details and examples.

There's an exception to Fisher's "let the interviewer lead" principle: The interviewee should always be prepared to initiate eye contact, Fisher says. Looking the interviewer in the eye at the beginning of the interview is vital. "Avoiding the other person's eyes sends out the wrong signals and can give the impression of 'shiftiness', dishonesty, having something to hide, or lacking in confidence," Fisher says.

Don't worry about acting cool, whatever that means, Fisher advises. Act like the person they want to hire. You can go back to being cool once you're on the job.

University of Arizona president Robert Shelton sent a memo today to the campus community saying that Arizona's new immigration law, SB 1070, has already caused students from outside Arizona to reverse plans to attend the institution. In the memo, reported by a Tucson television station, Shelton noted,
We have already begun to feel an impact from SB 1070. The families of a number of out-of-state students (to date all of them honors students) have told us that they are changing their plans and will be sending their children to universities in other states. This should sadden anyone who cares about attracting the best and brightest students to Arizona.
Shelton also expressed concerns about the school's international community:
I cannot state more firmly that the health and safety of our international students, faculty, and professional staff are priorities of the highest order for us, and we are going to do everything possible to help each of them understand the law and its impact. We intend to put in place whatever procedures are necessary to ensure their safety and free movement on campus and in our community.
The bill, signed into law by Arizona's governor last Friday, "Requires officials and agencies to reasonably attempt to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a legitimate contact where reasonable suspicion exists regarding the immigration status of the person." People stopped by authorities need to show a valid driver's license, tribal identification, or other federal, state, or local government-issued identification. Those arrested can be held until their citizenship is verified by the federal government.

The retirement of older workers opens up jobs for new workers entering the labor force. But according to a new survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), many older Americans plan to continue working beyond the retirement age. This year, fully one-third (33%) of American workers expect to retire after age 65, up from a quarter (24%) 5 years ago.

EBRI, which conducts its retirement confidence survey annually, says that most reasons for delaying retirement can be traced to the recession. About 3 in 10 (29%) of those who said they have delayed retirement blame the poor economy; another 22% point to changes in their employment situation. Sixteen percent say they cannot afford to retire and 12% cite the need to make up for investment losses (12%).

Nonetheless, EBRI found more Americans very confident they will be able cover their basic needs in retirement -- 29%, up from 25% last year. Yet, the findings suggest that many Americans have a way to go to make that happen.  About 7 in 10 (69%) workers say they have saved for retirement, down a little from 72% last year. But many American workers do not have much saved. More than half of Americans (54%) say the value of their home and pension (defined benefit) plans is less than $25,000. Some 27% say they have less than $1,000 in savings, 7% more than the number who said that last year.

EBRI conducted the survey of 1153 respondents -- 902 workers and 205 retirees -- age 25 and over in January 2010. The sample used random digit dialing, plus a supplementary sample of mobile phone exchanges, and was weighted to reflect a cross-section of the U.S. population.

Most of the networking advice on Science Careers helps expand connections and contacts outside your regular circles, which often means with people at other companies, institutions, or organizations.  This week on his blog, career coach and author Rod Colón recommends that you also pay attention to networks at your current employer. He provides a 10-item test to gauge the effectiveness of your internal networking.

As Dave Jensen pointed out in a 2009 Tooling Up column, "networking is about information exchange -- providing information  about yourself and collecting information about other professionals, professional opportunities, and so on." Thus, even if you are not in the immediate job market, learning about developments in your organization can give you an advantage in finding and competing for career advancement opportunities where you're now working.

Many scientists work in academic, industrial, or government settings where the workforce consists of collections of teams organized into departments. But most of your work takes place in one lab or department, which makes it easy to become isolated from the rest of the organization. Even small companies and organizations often collaborate with others; for example, a small biotech company may work closely on projects with a larger pharmaceutical firm, or with one or more academic institutions. To take Colon's networking test you may need to define "organization" broadly.

Some of Colon's test items look into how well you know people in your organization and how well they know you ...
- Do you know people at all levels of the organization? Do they know your name and what you do?
- Do you know all the people whose work intersects yours in any way?
- Do you know and talk with others about tools to get the job done today and trends that will impact your job in the future?

Several of Colón's questions stress participation in face-to-face encounters with colleagues, for example ...
-  Do you take every opportunity to meet in order to define and discuss complex problems, shifting priorities, areas of responsibility?
- Are you involved in any cross-functional efforts or interdepartmental activities (e.g., temporary assignments, committees, task forces, special projects, volunteer activities)?
- Do you drop by to see people even when you don't need anything?

And some of Colón's suggestions require bureaucratic survival skills that often come in handy in any organization ...
- Are you plugged into the grapevine? Do you find out what's up before your boss tells you?
- Do you know people who have jobs you might like to have some day?

A long time ago -- 9 years and one month to be precise -- I wrote an article for Science Careers profiling Tom Murphy, then a postdoc in physics at the University of Washington in Seattle. Murphy was then on a quest to locate a needle in a haystack -- or, less metaphorically, to bounce lasers off a mirror on the surface of the moon and then detect the reflected light.

"It's like winning the lottery and then being told there's an equally remote chance the money will make it to your bank account," he told me back then. Murphy wasn't -- isn't -- motivated merely by the challenge. The idea is to use the reflected light as a very sensitive test of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. The technique is called Lunar Laser Ranging. Today, Murphy and his team have popped into the news for "locat[ing] a long lost Soviet reflector on the moon," according to a UCSD press release

Murphy, who is now a professor at the University of California San Diego, has been bouncing light off moon-based reflectors for years. He and his group "routinely use the three hardy reflectors placed on the moon by the Apollo 11, 14 and 15 missions," Murphy said, quoted in that press release, "and occasionally the Soviet-landed Lunokhod 2 reflector--though it does not work well enough to use when illuminated by sunlight. But we yearned to find Lunokhod 1."

That's because "Lunokhod 1, by virtue of its location, would provide the best leverage for understanding the liquid lunar core, and for producing an accurate estimate of the position of the center of the moon -- which is of paramount importance in mapping out the orbit and putting Einstein's gravity to a test," Murphy said.

The story was covered as a ScienceShot on ScienceNow.

Seven months after Yale graduate student Annie Le's body was found in the basement of the Yale laboratory building where she worked, a Yale postdoc has been murdered, this one outside his home in nearby Branford, Connecticut.

According to the Yale Daily News and several local news outlets, Vajinder Toor, a physician scientist and a first-year postdoctoral fellow studying infectious diseases at Yale's School of Medicine, was shot "several times" in a parking lot outside his Branford, Connecticut, apartment at about 8 o'clock this morning.  Reports say the shooter also tried to shoot Toor's wife, but -- according to a neighbor -- missed as she hid behind a car.

In an e-mail sent to the Yale community, Yale Police Department Chief James Perrotti wrote that the Branford Police have a suspect in custody. According to news reports, the suspect had worked with Toor at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in New York.

Here's an unlikely alternative career for a scientist: Playing safety in the National Football League. Recent Rhodes Scholar and former Florida State Uiversity (FSU) standout Myron Rolle may just make it happen.  This weekend the Tennesse Titans chose Rolle in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL draft making him the 207th overall pick.

As we reported in January 2009, at FSU, in Tallahassee, Rolle excelled in the classroom and lab and on the playing field, completing his undergraduate work in 2 1/2 years with a 3.75 GPA.  At FSU, he conducted research on metabolic characteristics of human mesenchymal stem cells, for which he received Florida State's 2008 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award.

Rolle passed on the 2009 NFL draft, choosing instead to accept a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University in the U.K., where he studied medical anthropology but worked out daily to stay in condition. Last summer, the U.S. Department of the Interior recruited Rolle to help design a health, fitness, and diabetes awareness program for American Indian youth.

Rolle's story may make great copy, but the fact he has options other than football led some NFL scouts to question his commitment to the game. Rolle helped answer those questions in the NFL Scouting Combine, a group skills competition for rookie prospects in February and March, where even with the one-year layoff he was competitive in the workouts.

At the combine, Rolle told Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports he saw no conflict between his academic and athletic pursuits. "You learn discipline, you learn time management," Rolle told Farrar. "You learn structure, you learn organization, and as a football player those are obviously valuable assets and traits you can use to be great ...."

Last month, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of National Institutes of Health, put on a two-day workshop to help postdocs make the transition to independent researchers. NIGMS now has videos from the workshop available for viewing on its Web site.

Each of the 17 sessions from the 11-12 March event is in a separate video. Topics range from general career advice ("Making the Right Career Choice") to specific tips on how to move on in your research career ("Establishing a Lab") or survive in the process ("How to Have a Life"). Presenters include leaders in career development for scientists such as Isiah Warner of Louisiana State University and Jo Handelsman of Yale University as well as Peter Agre, former president of AAAS (publisher of Science Careers), and former Science Careers columnist Jeremy Boss of Emory University.

NIGMS also offers a list of career resources including a booklet of recent Science Careers articles on job searching.

The recent book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, has become a "must read" bestseller among scientists and non-scientists (Science, vol. 327, 26 February 2010 p. 1081).  When I read this book and heard Skloot speak at length about the "HeLa experience," it led me to think about the role these cells had on my own career and the subsequent lessons I learned related to them.   

When HeLa cells became available in the 1950s, I was an undergraduate biology major in need of a project for my honors thesis.  My older brother, a medical student in the Baltimore area, alerted me that I could obtain a unique immortal line of cancer cells, the HeLa cells, to use as a basis for my project.  I got caught up in the excitement among researchers and in the lay press about the fact that this cell line was the successful culmination of decades of effort to keep cancer cells alive outside of the body.  In Skloot's words, "cell culture was going to save the world from disease and make man immortal."

April 21, 2010

Prepping Your References

At this week, Susan Adams provides tips on how to get your references to provide glowing accounts of your performance. As we pointed out last October, more employers today use the reference-checking process to learn all they can about potential hires, so you should not leave references to chance.

The first rule, Adams says, is to list as a reference people you know for certain will say positive things about you. Adams quotes a human-resources manager who says "Hiring managers expect a rave," so anything less than a completely favorable report will raise questions. And references should spell out specific examples of your contributions and not just generalities. A career coach told Adams that some prospects send their references bullet-point lists of their accomplishments, which references can then read back to employers.

A related tip: Use what you've learned about the employer to brief your references. Another career coach interviewed by Adams recommends asking the hiring manager in the interview to describe the strengths of the previous person in this job. You can then ask your references to describe your attributes in similar terms.

Still another suggestion: Get references representing different types of relationships with previous employers. This "360-degree set," as it is called in the article, should include a supervisor, a colleague, and, if you had supervisory responsibilities, someone who reported to you.

Adams also addresses the sensitive topic of references at an employer you left under less-than-ideal circumstances. You run the risk of tainting your references if you leave a company with guns blazing, Adams says. So when you're heading out, keep your mouth shut. Calm down, let some time pass, then go back and find someone who can give you a good word.

PRO/UAW, the union representing postdocs on the University on California's ten campuses, won official recognition in August 2008.  Nearly 2 years later, the two sides in the postdocs' contract negotiation remain stuck, despite regular meetings that have produced agreement on a number of issues. Now, in a very unusual step, the Committee on Education and Labor of the U.S. House of Representatives has announced a hearing focused on these talks.

Entitled "Understanding Problems in First Contract Negotiations: Post-Doctoral Scholar Bargaining at the University of California," the event will take place at a not-yet-determined location in Berkeley on 30 April.  Details of which committee members will attend and who will testify are not yet available, according to committee spokesperson Andra Belknap.  The committee's chairman, California Democrat George Miller, whose 7th District starts minutes away (by car or subway) from the UC-Berkeley campus, will almost certainly preside.
Less clear is the specific impetus for this unusual high-level Congressional probe into a particular union negotiation.  First pacts between unions and employers can, according to labor experts, be  hard to fashion, and the current fiscal constraints on California's universities haven't helped speed the process.  Miller may have a purely intellectual interest in an issue at the intersection of his committee's concerns.  But the fact that his district, where housing is less pricey than Berkeley, probably  contains many more lower-paid union members than top-echelon administrators is another likely motivation.  At any rate, it's likely to be e a publicity coup for the union.  Stay tuned for further developments.

In a January Mind Matters column, Irene Levine argued that in the science lab, gossip has some positive aspects but needs to be handled very carefully. Not long after, I got a response from Richard Weiner, a writer and PR specialist who has written 23 books and made an informal study of the topic of gossip. He even has a blog devoted to the subject:

Weiner is a fascinating guy. He has written for many high-profile publications, including the New York Times. He broadcast the first radio description of an actual childbirth. William Safire described him,  in one of his language columns in the New York Times magazine, as "the media maven." He received the Gold Anvil Award for lifetime achievement in the PR field, from the Public Relations Society of America, the field's highest honor.

Remember the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon, when Christmas-shopping moms got in fistfights in the aisles of K-Mart, fighting over stuffed dolls? Richard Weiner, Inc., was the PR firm. In my estimation that makes Weiner the Babe Ruth, or maybe the Michael Jordan, of public relations.

Weiner wrote to take issue with our claim that lab gossipers should "proceed with caution."

Mary Elizabeth Bradford, a recruiter turned career adviser, published a good explanation last Thursday of the hidden job market on her Career Artisan blog. The hidden job market is made up of unfilled positions that have not yet been advertised and in some cases may not even formally exist. Tooling Up columnist Dave Jensen and contributor Brooke Allen have discussed ways that scientists can learn about these jobs and make a case for getting hired into them.

Understanding the hidden job market means first understanding the recruiting and hiring processes of companies and organizations. Bradford gives a succinct description of these processes, illustrating that posting an open position on a job board comes much later in the process than most people realize. Hiring managers often talk to trusted colleagues or get recommendations from current staff before writing and posting an ad. Furthermore, Bradford adds, the managers may first post the opportunity on an industry association Web site before opening it up to the general public.

Tapping into the hidden job market, Bradford says, means tapping into this pre-announcement process. Networking, she explains, is one part of the overall task -- but it's not a substitute for hunting down the names of decision makers and discovering an enterprise's unadvertised needs. Bradford says that task requires that you understand your target market, research companies in your target market, design your marketing materials for that market, then send those materials to the people making the decision to hire.

Ostensibly, Bradford's career counseling services will help job hunters with this task. We submit that, for scientists at least, reading Dave Jensen's and Brooke Allen's articles, and the other articles in Science Careers, is just as good, even if it's not as customized as what Bradford offers.

Following strong earning reports this week from technology leaders Intel, Google, and Advanced Micro Devices comes news of increased hiring at some of these enterprises and throughout the industry.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google said this week that it hired 786 new employees in the first three months of 2010. Intel reported plans for its first substantial hiring spree in 5 years, adding 1000 to 2000 new workers this year. In February, Cisco Systems said it plans to hire 2000 to 3000 new staff.

Smaller companies, particularly those active in social networking, are also adding employees. The mini-blogging platform Twitter says it has added 125 employees since May 2009. Professional networking service LinkedIn says it has added 154 new staff so far this year, and anticipates another 300 hires., a technology industry job board, says it now lists 62,000 positions nationwide, up from 51,000 a year ago. Dice told the Journal this was the first year-over-year increase since 2007.

Some tech companies are still shedding jobs, however, particularly those that are going through mergers. Hewlett-Packard's CEO says it had 304,000 employees last October, down from 321,000 a year earlier; H-P is in the process of absorbing Electronic Data Systems. The only jobs H-P has plans to fill are in its sales force. Oracle is cutting jobs as it integrates Sun Microsystems into its enterprise, but Oracle's CEO said in January that the company still plans to hire about 2000 people this year.

These reports support the data we've highlighted recently from The Conference Board on the job market for scientists, engineers, and related workers. For computer scientists and mathematicians, the number of posted job ads has increased in five of the last six months. Moreover, for each unemployed computer scientist or mathematician looking for work, there are 2.7 job ads -- far better than in the workforce at large, where nearly four unemployed workers are looking for work for every online job ad.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week released a report showing demand for H-1B skilled temporary worker visas is well below the levels experienced in recent years.

H-1B visas enable American employers to hire foreign workers in jobs that require advanced scientific or technical skills, such as engineers, scientists, and computer programmers. The law caps the number of visas issued at 65,000 per year, with another 20,000 positions reserved for applicants with a master's degree or higher. The latest application season began on 1 April 2010, and after one week, USCIS received 13,500 regular H-1B applications, plus another 5,600 requests for advanced-degree visas.

These numbers don't come close to the demand in previous years. Last year at this time, USCIS had about 32,500 applications for regular visas, about half of the 65,000 limit, while just about all of the 20,000 advanced-degree visas were taken up. Yet even those rates were considered slow compared to 2008 and 2007, where almost all H-1B visas were snapped up by this time.

The H1-B program has both vocal supporters and critics. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and trade groups like the Technology Policy Institute favor lifting the caps on H-1B visas, in order to bring more of the world's scientific and technical talent to the U.S.

But reports of enterprises and institutions abusing these visas have tarnished the H-1Bs. In 2008, Indian technology outsourcing companies grabbed one of every six visas issued. And last year the Department of Justice filed criminal conspiracy and mail fraud charges against 13 defendants for filing false statements and documents related to H-1B visas. As a result, some of the H-1B program's supporters in Congress have started distancing themselves from it.

Our columnist Beryl Lieff Benderly has also documented how postdocs with H-1B visas working on American campuses are more liable to be exploited, with lower salaries and fewer publications.

UPDATE 1: Amy Smorodin, v.p. of Technology Policy Institute wrote in to clarify that "the Technology Policy Institute isn't a trade group ‑ we are an independent, non‑partisan think tank".

UPDATE 2: ComputerWorld today reports on federal extortion charges levied against two employees of a Chicago-area IT consulting company that allegedly threatened retaliation against an H-1B visa holder who filed complaints with the Department of Labor about being owed back wages. The threats were allegedly delivered in unannounced late-night visits, with forced entry to the visa holder's home. The report says the victim used audio and video devices to record later conversations, which were given to investigators. The defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Many of the Open Science advocates I talked to for last week's story, Scientists Embrace Openness, pointed me to their active community on FriendFeed. In particular, Steve Koch of the University of New Mexico suggested that I start a discussion there after the story came out. I did, and the result (pasted below, lightly edited) was a fascinating, wide-ranging conversation on topics related to Open Science, some of which we hadn't had space to cover in the original story. Highlights include discussions about Open Notebook Science tools (OpenWetWare, Google Docs, BenchFly), the opinions of "mainstream" and young scientists about Open Science, and the obstacles to doing medical research in an open way. We even compared notes on getting "scooped" in science and journalism.

If you'd like to leave your own comments, you can do so on this blog or in the original FriendFeed thread.

Chelsea Wald to Chelsea's feed, Science Commons, Open Notebook Science Solubility Project, Science 2.0
Hi, everyone! Today I'm here discussing my ScienceCareers story, "Scientists Embrace Openness," about the career implications of Open Notebook Science, Open Data, and general science openness: Let me know what you want to talk about...
April 9 
Michael R. Bernstein, Paul Bacchus, Mike Chelen and 31 other people liked this

Hi Chelsea, great article, what led you to write it? - Andrew Lang

Thanks, Andrew! Jim Austin [@SciCareerEditor on Twitter], the editor of ScienceCareers, assigned me this article. (There are two main ways to get work as a freelance writer: pitch or get assignments.) I'm not sure what exactly led him to the topic, but I know that a conversation with Brian Krueger played a role. I knew very little about the topic, but Jim intuited that it would be a good fit for me as a writer. It turned out to be a really fun story to report and write. - Chelsea Wald

Anthony Salvagno asked me in an email: "How long did it take from first concept to publishing?" I sent my first email interview request on Feb 11, so the story took me about two months to write. (This, of course, doesn't count the time Jim spent coming up with the idea.) I wasn't working on the story full-time, though. Depending on my other projects, some weeks I worked intensively; others, hardly at all. It helped that the Pacific Northwest Science Commons Symposium took place soon after I got this assignment; I attended virtually (when the video stream was working) and got something of a crash course. - Chelsea Wald

HI, Chelsea. I very much enjoyed the article and will be adding it to my ONS delicious tag arsenal! What I appreciated about the read was its focus on practitioners -- in the class where I discuss ONS as a practice (I am not a scientist, but train young scientists to write), there is always at least one student who writes an elegantly argued, pro-ONS piece, and having an essay that is about people rather than focusing on the ideal itself works nicely to help that student feel less isolated. - Mickey Schafer

Hi, Mickey. Yes, I was tasked with writing an article on the practical challenges associated with openness, especially for early-career scientists. I quickly came to appreciate that ONS practitioners have to go to fairly heroic lengths in order to make their notebooks open, and I wanted to emphasize that. I also came to appreciate that those same ONS practitioners realize that it's simply not practical for most scientists to do the same -- at least with the current state of technology (not to mention the standard measures of academic success). I don't know why, but I expected a more rigid ideological stance, and I was totally wrong. By the way, it's really cool that you're discussing ONS in a scientific writing class. I bet others here (and I) would be interested in hearing more about it. Do a lot of students write essays arguing against it? - Chelsea Wald

Mickey - what you are doing with your class sounds very interesting - are your students willing to share some of their essays? - Jean-Claude Bradley

Hi folks. Thought I would join in here and say that I started developing an interest in Open Science perhaps 6 months ago. I've been monitoring it, but not too closely, since then. A couple of Twitter posts, perhaps channeled from FriendFeed, got me off my butt and made me decide it was time. Though I don't remember what it said, one of those posts was from Brian Krueger. I contacted him and he got me started. I handed this off to Chelsea and she took it from there, very skillfully. - Jim Austin

Jim - thanks for the feedback on how it came about - I hope your interest in Open Science continues! - Jean-Claude Bradley

I'll definitely continue to keep an eye on it. I think it connects to a couple of other big issues right now -- importantly, data sharing and trying to achieve a more integrative science, especially medical science. There's a lot riding on that, it seems to me, and a lot of people these days are talking about, and working on, integrating research resources. - Jim Austin

Hi Chelsea, thanks for referring me to this discussion! I think the Koch and Bradley labs are great examples of the younger generation of scientists embracing available technologies and trying to improve the research process by taking a new approach, which should be applauded. I really like Jean-Claude's idea of trying an open project out on the side to get started- it's a nice way for people to test the waters with minimal risk. I think it's essential that open access resources extend beyond notebooks to training materials as well, which was my goal in starting BenchFly- allowing people to document and share how they perform techniques in their labs. Technology affords us a tremendous opportunity to democratize science by providing expert instruction to anyone with an internet connection. - Alan Marnett

Mickey - do you see any trends in your students' opinion of ONS? Is it generally for or against? Any year-to-year trends? - Alan Marnett

Hey Chelsea and Jim and everyone, sorry I'm getting to the party late. Yesterday you mentioned a conversation between you and Koch about parallels between Journalism and ONS. Could you go into more detail? I would like to hear your take on it and figure out if there are any ways the we (the ONS community) could help you attain more openness. Of course, like JCB says, starting small is a great way to get involved. - Anthony Salvagno

Hi, Anthony. The party's going on all day. It's more like an open house, I guess. The back story is this: When I was reporting this story, Steve suggested that I ask his students (including you) questions about working in an open lab. We tossed around the idea of doing it on FriendFeed, so that others could listen in and participate. I liked this idea but became concerned that it could tip off other (read: competitor) journalists who could then scoop me. Sound familiar? I didn't get around to asking Jim for his take on it because soon after that I had my first, pretty painful experience with a "scooping." (In this case, it doesn't mean that someone stole my idea, just that she got around to publishing a story about it first -- in this case, she beat me by about a week. This happens often in journalism, as in science.) Still smarting from that, I decided to go for a more traditional, closed approach. (more coming) - Chelsea Wald

Do you think you might experiment with live reporting? By this I mean you "publish" information as you receive it in an informal method. Scientists can preprint articles in something like Nature Precedings and get early feedback. Then you could publish your formal written report when it is all done using the information you had previously compiled. - Anthony Salvagno

Also, how likely would it be for journalists to collaborate on a project? Maybe have more names attached to one article like we do for journal articles. - Anthony Salvagno

Because I was reporting the ONS story at the same time, I a) became more sympathetic to the concerns of scientists with respect to being open, and b) began to wonder whether there was a place in journalism for an "open notebook" approach. What would it look like? Would sources agree to participate in it? Would editors agree to it? Would it help establish a priority so that scooping would be less likely, or would it make it much more likely? I know I'm not the first person to ask these questions, but I haven't yet heard a serious discussion of it in the journalism world (not that there hasn't been one; I just haven't heard it yet). - Chelsea Wald

Gosh, this is getting (even more) interesting. Keep it going !! - Graham Steel

Anthony, here's an example of a rough-draft article that has left some journalists mystified recently: (Note that the writer is a Science Careers contributor.) I have not discussed this project with anyone in the know. - Chelsea Wald

As for collaboration, it happens sometimes within news organizations, but it would be hard to see how that would work across organizations. In science, if you find out that someone at another institution is working on the same thing, one response is to turn your competitor into a collaborator and publish together. But could that work in journalism? Doubtful. The usual response is to try to get to print as fast as you can. - Chelsea Wald

Chelsea, Thanks for pointing out Beryl's article. Beryl is, as Chelsea notes, a long-time contributor to Science Careers. She has written a monthly column for -- not sure -- maybe 5 years? And she writes on many of those same topics for us. As you may know, Scientific American is now owned by Brits -- the publishers of Nature -- so I suppose that represents a kind of sharing. ;-) - Jim Austin

Hi, Chelsea. I also really enjoyed the human element your article brought to the process, across all levels from tenured to faculty down to graduate students. I'm also intrigued by your parallels in the journalism world. While ONS has led me to new collaborations, it's often been something I've had to approach very cautiously with most collaborators. How do others address this? - Carl Boettiger

There are some really important differences between journalism and science -- but there are also some parallels. As may of you are probably aware, there's a parallel discussion going on about journalism, openness, and business models. - Jim Austin

Hi, Carl! Glad you found this. Many people told me that they had to close off projects due to collaborators. That, or drop the project altogether. Maybe others will weigh in on specific examples. - Chelsea Wald

Yes, Jim's right that we shouldn't forget about major differences between journalism and science. In the article, Jonathan says: "Given that taxpayers are paying for our work, I think that the default should be to be open unless you can prove that it's a bad idea." Taxpayers are NOT paying for my work. Journalism is a public service, but it also has to make money. - Chelsea Wald

I will just add to Chelsea's comment: Non-profit models of journalism exist, but even they need revenue -- which means inventing new ways to ensure objectivity. What happens to National Public Radio when there's a Republican Congress? (A: They lose funding.) So you can see that there are interesting parallels and differences. It's all research, even if the methods, and the nature of the knowledge, are different. - Jim Austin

But in journalism, value typically equates to exclusivity, especially today. If you want to generate revenue, you have to be able to offer something that people can't get for free. I think that's a major difference. - Jim Austin

Now, I'd like to ask a question of the scientists here. One of my preoccupations these days is with translational research -- trying to accelerate the rate at which basic-science breakthroughs become real-world therapies. If you're not biomedical, then consider the obvious parallels, like materials for electronics. Does running an open lab take you completely out of that game? Is an open laboratory only for the non-applied? - Jim Austin

Hi Chelsea. As I said on Jon Eisen's thread yesterday, I was very impressed with this article. As a patient advocate and non scientist (very interested in science) as I blogged about here , I personally would like to work more openly and am of the view that your article and this discussion has had a positive effect/impact, so thank you !! - Graham Steel

Thanks, Graham. You bring up some interesting questions about tools in your post. I use google docs all the time, and my understanding is that many ONS researchers do, too. Does anyone care to discuss collaboration/ONS tools? - Chelsea Wald

Chelsea, ask Bora Zivkovic about "Open Notebook" journalism: - Martin Fenner

@ Chelsea, Jean-Claude, -- sorry for the late reply -- I am on a grading frenzy and wasn't supposed to be checking in at FF at all until next week! The essays in questions are blog posts replying to Michael Neilson's "Future of Science" essay and an HHMI article titled something like "So you wanted a revolution" (both can be found linked here: that blog has remained private according to student wishes. This year, one student wrote a passionately worded and rather elegant post about ONS (she's on her way to med school). She gave me permission to make it public, but I don't know how to make a single blog post public and keep the rest private. If/when I get my blog started, her post will find its way there. - Mickey Schafer

@ Alan -- same apology as above! I have only held this discussion 2 times, so there are no trends to report. Last year, there was more open skepticism, but there were also more argumentative personalities who knew each other well. It will be interesting to watch over time. This year, a couple of students remarked it might have been better to have this conversation before they had finished their research. No student has yet ever heard of it, so also did not know any practitioners. - Mickey Schafer

Thanks for checking back in, Mickey! - Chelsea Wald

@Jim -- "What happens to National Public Radio when there's a Republican Congress? (A: They lose funding.)" -- this is about the scariest thing I've heard in a while. I live and breathe NPR. They had an interesting discussion last week, I think it was, about the fate of CNN. Given the importance of "branding" to attract a particular audience, CNN is losing ground to Fox and MSNBC alike. They quipped the same could be true of NPR -- at least NPR has public supporters paying out of their pockets. - Mickey Schafer

@Mickey, I didn't mean they would be totally unfunded, NPR is notable for having a relatively stable revenue base, and an independent news apparatus. I was thinking of 2005 when, accused of having a liberal bias, their funding -- about $400 million at the time from the CPB (including both NPR and PBS) -- came under threat from Congress. NPR works hard and successfully (as far as I can tell) to divorce editorial decisions from private-sector (including nonprofit private-sector) contributions. It's a good model. - Jim Austin

Hi, Martin. Thanks for pointing me to that post (I'm familiar with Bora and his work, but I hadn't seen this). I'm noticing, however, that "traditional media" don't get mentioned until step 4 of his model. I suppose that means it wouldn't work if someone gets assigned a story, as I did in this case; unless, of course, the publication agreed to it. - Chelsea Wald

@Chelsea: "...unless of course the publication agreed to it." I would welcome an intelligent proposal, as long as it was on topic (that is, about Science Careers). I'm always eager to try new things. - Jim Austin

Wow, cool! You all heard it here first! - Chelsea Wald

Very interesting. I let Bora respond to that. - Martin Fenner

Talk about coming to the party late... This is a really good discussion. I thought the article gave a good perspective on the topic. In your research, did you get a feel for how mainstream researchers feel about the topic, Chelsea? I know my quote came off as quite skeptical, but in my work with LabSpaces, I've found most researchers to be unwilling to talk openly and publically about their current research secrets. When I first launched the site, the University of Iowa legal department contacted me and told me to put a disclaimer on there that any public dissemination of ideas/data could make obtaining patents nearly impossible. - Brian Krueger - LabSpaces

Its a common sentiment Brian expresses, but I think it is becoming less common. When everyone holds their cards to their chest, they don't learn as fast that their great idea was tried and rejected by 4 people before they happened upon it. Most of the secrets are really neither that secret nor patentable. This is one of the areas I'm most hopeful open science will illuminate. - Mr. Gunn

Hi, Brian. You were here in spirit. ;) My sense is that most researchers would say that Open Notebook Science is fine...for other scientists. You know, everyone I talked to was pretty realistic and probably wouldn't disagree with you: The entire scientific enterprise is not suddenly going to go open. By the way, I'm fascinated by your interaction with the legal department. Any of the scientists here have similar experiences? - Chelsea Wald

Jim, I recently wrote about some of the obstacles of doing medical research online here: Some issues are patient privacy, recruitment and reporting bias when clinical trial results would be openly available in an ongoing study, and commercial interests of pharma companies that sponsor trials. - Martin Fenner

Drug companies are starting to be more open as well: Is open innovation the way forward for big pharma? - Martin Fenner

For this story, I emailed with Sriram Kosuri of OpenWetWare. His comments didn't make it into the story, so I thought I'd add them here (a luxury I don't normally have!): Q: How many users does OWW have? Of those, how many are actually posting bona fide Open Notebooks, as opposed to, say, just hosting lab websites? If you don't have exact numbers, can you estimate? What kind of growth are you seeing? Are there any other Open Science/Open Notebook Science trends that you're seeing that might be of interest to our readers? A. You can get a feel for the general statistics here: (7423 registered users: which is a gross overestimate of the actual every day users, as is any site like this) and here, which gives a better view of daily activity as well as notebooks specific activities: Another good place to look to see what people are editing at any given time is here: Q. Many Open Notebook scientists are telling me that OWW is a good (and even necessary) place to start with an Open Notebook, but that it's not sufficient. They're also using, for example, google spreadsheets. Are you planning to roll out any features in the near future (say, the next year or so) that will make OWW a more comprehensive solution for ONS? Is that even a goal for OWW? A. We have been trying to be pretty responsive to the needs of the ON contingent on OWW. We think that people using such notebooks tend to contribute to more knowledge available to the public related to the actual process of doing science, both indirectly by people being exposed to those notebooks, and directly by having more users directly contributing to OWW. I think the biggest notebook user group comes from the iGEM competition that is held every year. Since these teams are mostly composed of undergraduates for a mostly friendly competition, they don't mind having their stuff up in public, and secondly, need online collaboration tools to keep a team together to work towards a shared goal. By being a part of the community, especially a group that is learning about biology, they sometimes have a better incentive to contribute to protocols and other information on the site so that it is easier to find and digest. In terms of actual tools that will help, I think there are a lot coming from the outside that we are thinking of incorporating, but we don't have a massive team, and we are mostly at the mercy of our volunteer community. So we help where we can (setting up the lab notebook feature for example was something requested by the community, and most of the revisions were spearheaded by folks using the service). Q. Any other thoughts about OWW and ONS? A.I think on our front, we are engaging many in the ONS community that have been really pioneering stuff by providing them with as many tools as we can. I think in terms of thought leaders, Cameron Neylon really helped us along the way, though I have a feeling you've already have been engaging him. - Chelsea Wald

Sorry for the lousy formatting there. Any help on how to make it better? - Chelsea Wald

That's the longest comment I've ever seen on FF. Formatting aside, how did you manage to do this ?? Cool !! - Graham Steel

Haha! I didn't know it wasn't supposed to be possible. Cut and paste, baby! - Chelsea Wald

Dang and thanks again !! Right. I need to lie down so off to watch Apparently, it's meant to be rather good. Next? - Graham Steel

@Martin, Thanks for the links to your posts. I will read them with interest. - Jim Austin

@Chelsea, I don't know if you've spoken to Koch about this, but we have a patent for our optical tweezer technique. I don't know all the specifics of it because I'm just a slave in the lab (just kidding) but I know we are open and we have this (as an example of people other than medical sciences). - Anthony Salvagno

As for tools I'm really big into Google Docs. My notebook is on OWW and I hate making tables in html and css and starting using google docs as soon as I discovered they existed. I also use Evernote to quickly get pictures from my pc on the web. Because of friendfeed's ability to add rss feeds (among other things) I can create groups here that contain possible related posts from all my web work. I can then simply link or frame that group into my OWW if I need to gather information from various places. I also just got a droid and have been using apps to help me control everything. - Anthony Salvagno

Examples of what I'm talking about: and and - Anthony Salvagno

I'm providing a bunch of links of pages in my notebook that have integration from different sources. I also have protocol pages not in my notebook and upload video protocols to youtube and embed them in right on the page with the protocol (see here: I've been meaning to switch to BenchFly but I ran into a snafu. Alan has been working on the issues very diligently trying to fix the problem and we've found a workaround for now (thanks Alan!). - Anthony Salvagno

Also if you'll note posting lots of comments could be another way for you to format one really long comment. Sorry if I pissed anyone off. - Anthony Salvagno

One more note... this thread kicks ass! It's so awesome I want to curse more, but I'll hold back. - Anthony Salvagno

@Mickey would it be possible to send me the student essay that hasn't been posted? I could post it on my blog and give you and said student full credit. Another alternative would be to post the essay here on ff as a series of comments with the thread being the title of the essay. What do you think? - Anthony Salvagno

Thanks for these contributions, Anthony. I'm sure people will find it useful to see the tools of ONS in practice. I also have to say that I use google spreadsheets for my personal and business finances, and it's reassuring to know that scientists trust them enough to keep their precious data safe! - Chelsea Wald

Anthony, I enjoy seeing how you embed google spreadsheets into your notebook; I've been frustrated by formatting tables in html and this looks very promising! I've been using OWW's rss reader ( to display articles I've recently added to my library in my notebook, would be interested to see more about how you're using both rss and other apps. - Carl Boettiger

@Carl I really have no good way for handling RSS as I don't use them that much. I don't like how OWW handles RSS. I've actually been trying to figure out a good way to port my notebook as an RSS feed so it goes to friendfeed or yahoo's program that I haven't been able to use yet. The few feeds I do link to get funneled into friendfeed. As for other apps... I've been using Picasa (Google) to upload images or Flikr, I've also been working with Jack Zerby from to get better acquainted with handling RSS feeds for scientific use. Flavors is a nice website that contains a bunch of web sources (youtube, blogger, etc), but doesn't have much for RSS sorting. I use Youtube, Google Docs, I tried to get Google Calendar for the lab but no one uses it, Blogger, Friendfeed. I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff too. Ever since I discovered how to iframe things I've been able to embed just about anything on the internet into my notebook which has been super useful. You could email me if you wanna talk more about all this. - Anthony Salvagno

One more note about RSS feed from wiki (OWW): I learned recently that there is a mediawiki extension that enables you to export your work as an RSS (see I've emailed Bill asking to implement it but I think he's disappeared. Sorry for digressing off topic. - Anthony Salvagno

Excellent article! And great thread here. Don't know if you saw the video from this panel on Open Science at Columbia about a year ago: As for open journalism - that is tough, but definitely worth a thought. Some newspapeprs (famously Greensboro News & Record as a very early adopter of the practice) now put their article drafts online first, open up for comments, edit according to corrections/suggestions from the readers, and then publish the improved version in the paper edition. Carrboro Citizen has an interesting model - they have a student site (UNC students of a particular journalism class) called Carrboro Commons from which the Citizen editors pick most interesting articles, edit them and publish in the paper: - Bora Zivkovic

I know I'm very late to the party here (inconvenient time zones) but the question Chelsea raises about translational research is a very interesting one. For me its all about asking the question "how do we most efficiently maximise return on investment, in this research, for the investor?". Where the investor is the public and its not directly patentable stuff the answer is clear. Where something is directly patentable and the investor is a private citizen or company it might be the case that keeping it private is better (especially in a very large company with good internal communications). But for instance if you are doing early stage exploratory drug development with public money, today, you probably should keep it under wraps because if you don't and can't patent then in the current environment no-one will be prepared to run with it into clinical trials. Maybe (hopefully) this will change in the future and I bet there are cases where it isn't true. What would be really interesting would be good case studies that really show where the edges are...both legal, financial, and social - Cameron Neylon

Jim and Chelsea, it would be great if discussions like this were linked from the article. Either by allowing comments (as in the PLoS journals and now Nature), or by showing links to blogs, Friendfeed, etc. that talk about the article. - Martin Fenner

+1 Martin. - Graham Steel

@Bora Thanks for the ideas on open journalism. I guess I might try an experiment in the near future here. - Chelsea Wald

@Cameron Thanks for joining! You bring up some great points. Does anyone paying attention to this thread know of some case studies that could help shed light on those "edges"? - Chelsea Wald

Martin and Graham: I agree. I don't know whether something like that is in the works, but I'll make sure that the suggestion gets passed on. - Chelsea Wald

There is a Research Information Network funded study going on in the UK at the moment that is looking at researcher perceptions in this space but I don't know of any solid social science studies of outcomes (as opposed to opinions and perceptions) at the moment. The example I give isn't hypothetical tho - I am involved in a research consortium seeking funding to do such development. If we get it I'll look at the situation but it seems likely that my part of the project won't be able to be open for the reasons I describe. No point doing this if we prevent it going into human trials because we can't patent. - Cameron Neylon

Great discussion! Concerning embedded Google spreadsheets, my students do use them in our notebooks but I try to discourage their use in general - or at least make sure that there is a link to the spreadsheet nearby in the page. The problem is that when we create an archive of the notebook and all associated data files, embedded content still appears live in the archived version while links to Spreadsheets get converted to links to frozen Excel sheets. You also can't view the formula and web services called directly from embedded Google Spreadsheets, which is critical for data provenance. For more details see: - Jean-Claude Bradley

On Open journalism, two quotes from : (1) "The Nieman Lab's Josh Benton noted that this "cult of rewriting" is grossly inefficient: what added value do journalists bring to the table when all they're doing is rewriting one another's work? Such journalists are at best aggregators and curators, much like bloggers: only a few traditional media hubs have the resources to do original reporting, and they often end up coming back to blogs as sources." (2) "The result is a constant reshuffling and repackaging of content, with very few assurances that it's accurate - just as in 18th century New York." --> What if we developed a habit of linking to the raw data? Yet the problems start earlier - journalists all too often "forget" to link to the appropriate source. Case in point: . - Daniel Mietchen

The previous comment (and this one too) was submitted from - will try embedding FF threads into OWW as another way of archiving. Jean-Claude's comments above on Google Docs may apply, though. - Daniel Mietchen

@Anthony -- yes, I think either sending to you or posting here would be possible. The teacher-y side of me wants her to be protected, as an undergrad with all that status or lack thereof implies -- I have students getting butts kicked by PIs who've just decided after 2 years to take an interest in their work, 3 weeks before graduating -- turns out there is a strong prejudice against the premeds in many labs that I didn't know about -- very disturbing to me. - Mickey Schafer

An interview has just been posted at NatureJobs with Harmit Malik of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, who won the 2010 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. The interview was conducted by Virginia Gewin.

There's much that's interesting about what Malik says but what's most refreshing is the seriousness with which he approaches the training of his protégés. Consistent with the people interviewed for our Audacity series, Malik believes it's important to be bold, to take scientific risks. But he also believes in sheltering his people from those risks:
I encourage my students to be very creative in their efforts to push paradigms beyond what we know. To do that, I encourage them to take risks. In exchange, I provide the safety net to make sure it won't hurt their careers.
Most impressive, however, is what he regards as his career-defining moment. Was it winning a scientific prize? Getting published in a top-tier journal? A prestigious faculty appointment? No. His career-defining moment was watching his first postdoc succeed:
I was still unclear on how the field would view our work when the first postdoc from my lab started exploring the job market. It was daunting. But when she started getting awards and fantastic job interviews, I was quite relieved. I remember thinking: 'We're training people who will do well. We're not destroying someone's career.'
On Twitter: @SciCareerEditor

In numerous Science Careers articles and blog posts, we've recommended LinkedIn as a tool for making and maintaining contacts. LinkedIn is a social network with professional orientation -- much more than Facebook, which is more about personal connections. By extending your circle of contacts out several layers, LinkedIn can multiply the impact of your one-on-one personal network to uncover job opportunities. Moreover, LinkedIn's profiles capture details of work histories that let job-hunters describe their accomplishments and talents. LinkedIn also allows colleagues add recommendations and testimonials to your profile.

In his blog last week, Chris Hoyt -- a corporate recruiter for AT&T in Dallas, Texas, who writes under the nom de blog RecruiterGuy -- shared his take on some of the uses and misuses of LinkedIn he's encountered. Hoyt says he's a fan of LinkedIn, but he unloads on lazy job-seekers who think finding his LinkedIn page is all they need to get a job at his company.

Hoyt cites as an example the job seeker who started a LinkedIn message with "Dear Respected Madam" (Hoyt is male) and a compliment on a speech at an event Hoyt says he never attended. Hoyt also tells about several requests for résumé help, and frequent messages with variations on the "Please look at my résumé do you have any jobs?" theme.

All it takes to get his attention, Hoyt says, is honesty and professionalism. "Please understand that I'll go the distance in helping job seekers to find a match for their skills -- if they're honestly trying.  If they've taken the time to construct a full sentence when sending me a solicitation... If they've taken a look at what's posted on the job boards or the career portal of my employer."

In the blog post Hoyt reproduces a real example of an effective LinkedIn message from someone who was seeking a management position. Hoyt notes how the writer described the kind of work he wanted and the strengths he could bring to AT&T. His tone was conversational but confident and courteous.

Using this example, Hoyt offers advice to job-seekers sending e-mail or LinkedIn messages:

If you're engaging a recruiter or manager about employment, try and remember that it's a person on the other end of the e-mail.  Remind yourself that just because your message is being delivered in writing doesn't mean that it's your brightest move to use the same tone or shorthand that you'd use when messaging a friend or college buddy.  Step up your game and spend a whopping 5 minutes to craft a message that is similar to what you'd say in person to the recruiter.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) today released its annual faculty compensation report for 2009-10, and it had little good news for American academics or those hoping to join their ranks. AAUP's findings show the recession is cutting deep into campus finances at both public or private institutions, from community colleges to doctoral degree-granting universities.

Faculty members don't take a vow of poverty, and they aren't starving. Average annual salaries range from $59,400 at schools giving associate degrees to $91,060 for faculty at institutions granting doctoral degrees. But this year, the average salary increase amounted to just 1.2%, which didn't approach the rate of inflation: 2.1% as of February 2010.

Even the meager 1.2% average increase may be an overstatement. The 1200 campuses taking part in the survey reported their contracted salaries, not what faculty members were actually paid. Left out of the calculations were unpaid furloughs imposed on public institutions in some states (including Arizona and Georgia). Also, the survey covered full-time faculty only, not part-time or adjunct faculty who usually are paid less.

Even using the reported numbers, nearly a third (32%) of the reporting institutions cut faculty salaries from last year. Slightly more (35%) either held salaries at the same level as last year or granted increases less than the rate of inflation. As a result, faculty salaries at two-thirds (67%) of the institutions failed to keep up with the cost of living.  Four-year colleges and associate-degree granting schools were the hardest hit; there, about four in 10 schools cut salaries compared to about a quarter of universities granting masters, professional, or doctoral degrees.

The survey found wide differences between salaries paid to men and women on college and university faculties. Male faculty members received an average of $87,206, compared to $70,600 for their female counterparts. Higher salaries for men were found at all levels of degree-granting institutions and at all faculty ranks, from full professor to instructor.

Other forms of compensation were also cut, the survey showed.  Some 13% of surveyed institutions, including one-fifth of colleges giving bachelors degrees, cut employer contributions to faculty members' retirement accounts.

AAUP's report highlighted the key role benefits pay in the compensation packages of faculty members. Even with the cuts in employer contributions, schools paid the equivalent of about 10% of their faculty's salaries into retirement accounts.  In another retirement expense -- one required by law -- institutions paid 5-7% of faculty salaries for Social Security. Amounts paid for medical/dental insurance ranged from 18% of salaries at associate degree-granting colleges to 10% at doctoral degree institutions. The AAUP report also gave anecdotal evidence of other benefit cuts, notably sabbatical leave and meeting attendance.

Science Careers reviewed the grim academic job market earlier this year and about a year ago. Our most recent monthly compilation of data from The Conference Board on posted job ads found indications of an improving job market, with one exception -- jobs for education, training, and library staff (at all levels), where the number of unemployed job-seekers exceeded the number posted opportunities by more than 5 to 1.

If you didn't get enough Cinderella from Butler University's improbable rise to college basketball success, take a look Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT's) ride to the NCAA hockey's championship this weekend in Detroit, Michigan. Like Butler, RIT's  championship aspirations fell short, losing to a superior University of Wisconsin team -- the tournament's no. 3 seed -- 8-1 in the national semifinals, which are known as the Frozen Four.

Until 5 years ago, RIT, in Rochester, New York, played hockey in Division III. This year, RIT won the Division I Atlantic Hockey Association championship. While that gained an invitation to the NCAA hockey tournament, RIT was seeded  15th of the 16 teams in the tournament. Like Butler, RIT upset some of the tournament favorites and skated its way into the Frozen Four with a 2-1 victory over favored Denver University and a 6-2 pounding of University of New Hampshire to win the regional final. 

RIT's roster is hardly a typical collection of college jocks. Like Butler, RIT has a small athletic program and plays in a small conference. RIT offers no athletic scholarships. One-third of the 24-man squad is majoring in science or engineering. Three are majoring in biomedical science, including sophomore defenseman Chris Haltigin, who has a 3.75 GPA. Another three players are in RIT's packaging science program, which combines materials science, economics, and business. Forward and co-captain Sean Murphy, a civil engineering student, was an academic all-American last year.

One advantage a school like RIT has over colleges with elite athletic programs is NOT being elite. RIT's coach Wayne Wilson told the New York Times that many pro hockey prospects leave their big-name college teams after 1 or 2 years, but RIT's team members play together for 4 years, where they gain experience and teamwork. While RIT's squad may not get the pro contracts, they are more likely to finish their degrees in solid academic disciplines that complement the great memories of their near-championship season.

Full disclosure: I attended printing technology classes at RIT in 1990.

This week, CTSciNet, the Clinical and Translational Science Network, teamed up with Science Translational Medicine for a podcast on fostering a translational medicine workforce.

The podcast features an interview with Garret FitzGerald, director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. FitzGerald and colleague Carsten Skarke write in a Perspective, published this week in Science Translational Medicine, that expertise in translational medicine and therapeutics is scarce in academia, industry, and regulatory bodies.

"To facilitate the translation of more personalized therapeutics, we require investigators facile with model systems, informatics, principles of drug action, quantitative signatures of drug exposure, and both mechanism-based and unbiased readouts of drug effects," they write. The article goes on to describe how such expertise could be developed.

In the podcast interview, FitzGerald further discusses translational medicine and therapeutics as a specific subset of clinical and translational science, where deficits exit in the workforce, and how researchers can direct their training to prepare themselves for a career in translational science.

Find more online:

It probably happens all across the country every year, but few take notice. At Stanford the milestone was commemorated by an article in today's Stanford Report, the university's daily news vehicle.

At the beginning of 2010, Stanford had 1754 postdocs -- more than ever before. Postdocs at Stanford now outnumber every undergraduate class. That's worth repeating and pondering: At Stanford, postdocs now outnumber freshmen.

It's not just a new record. It's the product of a remarkable spike in Stanford's postdoc population: 10% in just 6 months, says Ranja Sanford, Stanford's assistant dean for postdoctoral affairs, in the article. There has been a steady upward trend in the number of postdocs on campus, Sanford says, and then a sudden leap that she attributes to the bad economy. The number of Stanford postdocs has increased by 37% since 2000.

The article provides an interesting snapshot of the postdoc population at a major research university because unlike most universities Stanford keeps careful tabs on their postdocs:
  •  About 40% of all Stanford postdocs are women.
  • The biggest group -- 601 -- is from the United States. 242 have Chinese passports. "Rounding out the top five countries on the list are Korea (98), India (86) and Canada (70)," the article by Kathleen Sullivan says. 306 are from the European Union, nearly four dozen are  from Russia or Eastern Europe, 33 are from the Middle East, and 32 are from Latin and South America. "More than two dozen postdoctoral scholars are the sole representatives of their countries on campus, including Jamaica, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe," Sullivan writes.
  •  2/3 of Stanford postdocs are at the medical school. About 200 are in engineering. Of the balance, 80% are in biology, chemistry, physics, and applied physics. The rest are distributed among 10 departments including history, linguistics, philosophy, East Asian studies, psychology and sociology. 
On Twitter: @SciCareerEditor

A new InfoBrief from the U.S. National Science Foundation says that between 2004 and 2008 the number of jobs in science and engineering (S&E) increased by 13.7% compared to 5.5% for all occupations and 4.9% for non-S&E occupations -- an annual growth rate of 3.3%. Interestingly, all the job growth in science and engineering occurred in higher-level non-management jobs; technician, programmer, and S&E management jobs fared especially poorly, declining by 0.2%.

The fastest growth was seen in jobs related to science and engineering but outside of S&E proper (and also outside the health professions) -- a group that roughly maps onto what are commonly called alternative, or non-traditional, science careers. Jobs in this category grew by 16.8% over the period. Other fast-growing areas were social science (16.2%), life science (16.0%), and mathematical and computer science (15.9%).

Tweeting @SciCareerEditor

In Friday's New York Times, Steven Greenhouse describes how unpaid internships may get companies offering these opportunities in legal hot water. The story tells about students not only working gratis at some of these jobs when the law says they should be paid, but also doing tasks that could hardly be called an educational experience.

Greenhouse cites evidence that the number of unpaid internships is growing, along with the eagerness of students to get their names and faces in front of potential employers. But three states -- Oregon, California, and New York -- have begun investigations of unpaid internships, which may violate minimum wage rules. And the U.S. Department of Labor is increasing its enforcement of internships that may break federal wage and hour laws.

The Labor Department has six criteria that must be met for companies to hire unpaid trainees:

- The training must be similar to that given in an academic institution or vocational training school

- The training benefits the trainees

- The training cannot displace regular employees and trainees must be closely supervised

- The company that provides the training gains no immediate advantage from the trainee's activity

- Trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the training experience

- Both employer and trainee understand that trainees are not entitled to compensation for the time spent in training

If any of those standards are not met, the Labor Department says, then the trainee is considered an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and due at least the minimum wage.

Oregon, one of the states investigating unpaid internships, found cases where unpaid interns displaced regular workers and were not working in an educational environment. Greenhouse says an investigation of unpaid internships at a solar-panel manufacturer in Oregon led to two interns receiving $3,350 in back wages.

Greenhouse also described menial work experiences of interns that come nowhere close to anyone's definition of "educational". In one case, a New York University (NYU) film student who hoped to get training in animation did an unpaid internship for a production company in Manhattan. However, she was assigned to the company's facilities department and ordered to wipe off doorknobs to prevent the spread of the swine flu virus. In another case, a law firm in New York -- a company that would have a problem claiming ignorance of the law -- hired an NYU student for the summer, withheld the promised $10.00 an hour wage, and required the intern to make coffee and sweep out bathrooms.

The laws get fuzzy, Greenhouse says, when not-for-profit organizations offer internships. In some cases, it is difficult to tell where volunteer work for charities ends and unpaid internships begin. Another gray area involves course credits. In California and some other states, unpaid student interns can receive college credits for the experience. But the U.S. Labor Department says companies still need to meet the six criteria for unpaid internships, even if students also receive course credits.

Science students have more opportunities for landing paid internships. As we mentioned in our blog post last week on internships, many science-related student internships offer real money for the experience thanks to research grants or other training funds. And as noted earlier in March, paying interns in a well-designed internship program can pay off handsomely for employers as well.

A new academy honoring outstanding early-career scientists from around the world has just been launched under the auspices of the InterAcademy Panel for International Issues (IAP). In an editorial published this week in Science (subscription required), 6 founding members of the Global Young Academy (GYA) present the new organization. 

Members to the GYA will all be scientists in their mid-thirties, nominated by senior scientists in their country and selected by international peer-review. The GYA will be capped at 200 members and membership will be for just 4 years to prevent the aging of the organization's membership. Currently, the GYA counts more than 100 young scientists from 40 different countries.   

One central aim of the GYA is to spur creation of national young scientist academies that "encourage and empower their members to engage in interdisciplinary research, communicate science to society, and provide advice on national science policies, especially those affecting young scientists," the founding members write in the Editorial. Importantly, the GYA also aims to foster scientific exchange and collaborations between talented young scientists from the developed and developing world.  

But the organization's main motivation is to put more focus on the accomplishments of younger scientists, countering what the editorial writers perceive to be a bias towards older, established scientists. "Senior scientists receive most of the resources available for scientific research, and younger scientists rarely receive societal recognition for their work. This situation is growing worse as life expectancies and retirement ages increase, along with the average age for attaining scientific independence." Perhaps as a consequence, they say, "science is typically not a top career choice." The Global Young Academy is a means of providing some recognition for the best young scientists globally.

In a post on, posted yesterday, columnist Bill Bartman gives advice to budding employers on the five traits he believes make for great hires. While intended for employers, his advice offers insights into the thinking behind hiring decision, particularly in small businesses or quickly changing industries, that could be helpful to job seekers.

Bartman, who claims to have made a fortune buying and selling bad loans, says his companies have hired almost 10,000 people over the years; he doesn't say how many years or companies. He also says that his employee turnover rates were far lower than industry averages. Why? Presumably because he hired well. Here's what he suggests new bosses look for in their new hires ...

- Aptitude. Experience is nice, says Bartman, but if you want to turn your industry on its head or start an entirely new line of business, experience can be more of a disadvantage. Instead of people who claim to know their way around the industry, he says, look for raw talent and skills you can build on, like the ability to build rapport quickly, and to handle rejection.

This emphasis on raw skills rather than years of experience can be important in fast-moving industries such as biotech, genomics, or green energy, where you often need to adjust to new circumstances and opportunities. It can also benefit recent graduates, while it works against the interests of mid-career job hunters.

- Attitude. Bartman tells about a FedEx driver who applied eight times for a job with one of his companies. Her persistence impressed Bartman, who later hired her. Bartman also tells about one of his employees who, when her car broke down, walked 15 miles to work. He was so impressed with her loyalty he bought her a new car. You may not have an opportunity to demonstrate this kind of motivation to an employer, but you can demonstrate in your resume, cover letter, and interview that you keep at a task to see that it gets done right, or go the extra mile for a customer.

- Intelligence. Here Bartman says he's talking about creativity rather than IQ. He advises new business owners to ask candidates about situations where they broke through time or budget constraints, or other barriers. These kinds of questions resemble behavioral interviewing, which we've discussed on this blog and in Science Careers articles.

 - Intensity. By intensity, Bartman means a sense of urgency and excitement about the work. This quality is one of those "intangibles" that employers look for in interviews, but it's difficult to describe or quantify. Bartman says he would tell candidates that working in his company would be the hardest job they ever had, but also the best. If Bartman saw that the statement rattled candidates, he wouldn't hire them.

- Integrity. Bartman looks for people's ability to deliver what they promise. "I also expect employees at any level," Bartman says, "to have the guts to deliver bad news rather than shade it or hide it." This trait likely would not come out in a resume or even in interviews, but it would in reference checks, which are becoming much more comprehensive and probing.

Bartman says these traits are not easy to train in new hires, so they need to be uncovered in the hiring process, which is not an easy task. "These are not traits that show up like a swallowed coin on an X-ray," Bartman says, so employers need to develop their sensors to pick up on them.

I've been lucky enough to stay employed throughout this long, deep recession. But when I read the bulk email this morning from the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and learned that the economy had added 162,000 jobs in March -- and, in a correction, 14,000 each in January and February -- I got a tiny taste of what it must feel like to learn that a war is over and our side won. Serious elation.

I realize, of course, that there's still a great deal of unemployment-related suffering out there, and that the suffering will continue for months or years to come. The unemployment rate didn't budge, after all, and 40,000+ of the jobs added in March are temporary census jobs.

Yet, with three straight months of added jobs, the third month with substantial gains, it feels like we've turned a corner. The gains were fairly uniform; even manufacturing added jobs, and construction held steady. Those are good signs. Add in March's up-tick in the number of online job ads in most STEM-related categories and there's good reason to be hopeful. With continued enlightened government policies, there's reason to expect the scientific job market to begin to grow again at a healthy pace. I've got my fingers crossed. 
The number of online opportunities in most science and engineering categories increased in March, while ads seeking health care professionals jumped substantially.  The ratio of job-seekers to online ads for most scientists and engineers in February -- the latest month  data are available -- remained about the same as January, with prospects for engineers and architects becoming more favorable for job-hunters but the outlook for education, training, and library staff getting worse.

The Conference Board, a private business and economic research institute, provides these data, which are tracked monthly by Science Careers.

Online job ads

In all the categories of scientists and engineers followed in the Science Careers index, the number of online job ads either increased in March or remained about the same as February. Postings for computer scientists and mathematicians increased 2700 in March, its fifth gain in 6 months beginning in October 2009. During that period the number of ads for these professionals has increased by about 100,000 per month, or 25%. Ads for engineers and architects jumped by 2100 in March to more than 137,000, its fourth increase in 5 months. The number of opportunities for life, physical, and social scientists showed little change from February, increasing by 800 to 80,000+.

March was a very good month if you're a health care practitioner or technician. The number of online ads for these positions 88,000, a jump of more than 16%, to 627,300 -- the single largest monthly percentage gain in any category since the Science Careers index began in July 2009. Postings for education, training, and library workers slipped by 1100 from February, its second straight decline.

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Job market competitiveness

The Conference Board computes a job-market competitiveness measure -- a ratio of online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market -- for these categories. However, the most up-to-date unemployment data, taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics' reports, are a month older than the numbers of online job ads, so the ratios calculated below are from February 2010, a month earlier than the statistics cited above.

The February ratios for most of the groups showed little change from January. Prospects for architects and engineers improved somewhat in February. This improvement happened more due to the number of unemployed people seeking these jobs shrinking by nearly 50,000. As a result, the ratio of job hunters to online jobs also fell from 1.8 in January to 1.5 in February.

For education, training, and library workers -- a category already plagued by very bad job-ad:to-seeker ratios -- job prospects deteriorated even further in February 2010.  The number of online job ads in that category fell by 3300 as ten times as many -- some 33,000 -- additional unemployed workers joined the competition. All told, the number of people in February looking for a job in education, training, or library work increased from 4.9 to 5.5 per online ad.

Two groups tracked by Science Careers continued to have more job ads in February 2010 than job-hunters: computer scientists and mathematicians, and health care practitioners and technicians. Each of these categories enjoyed about 2.7 job ads for each job seeker. The number of life, physical, and social scientists looking for work in February remained about the same as the number of posted ads.

For the U.S. overall, the number of online job ads decreased slightly in March 2010, by 29,500 to 3,927,000. In February, there were 3.8 unemployed workers for each posted opportunity, about the same as the 3.7 job hunters per ad recorded in January.

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