Science Careers Blog

September 2010

September 30, 2010

Dr. Grant Swinger

Do you know Dr. Grant Swinger? Sure you do -- everybody knows Dr. Grant Swinger of the Center for the Absorption of Federal Funds. Or, anyway, they did in the mid-1960s.

In this week's Taken for Granted column, which will be published online this afternoon (I'll post a link here when one is available), Beryl Lieff Benderly reminds the world of Dr. Swinger, the (presumably) fictional creation of Dan S. Greenberg, who wrote for science back then and has since written several important books skewering the world of academic science.

Also, in his first contribution to Science, he seems to have predicted, in 1964, the Internet, the World Wide Web, Google, PubMed, and who knows what else:

Let's Hold a Conference: Herewith, an Imaginary Dialogue Between the Collector and his Quarry

This is amazing stuff, most of it just as relevant today as it was when it was published more than 40 years ago.

Herewith, a guide to Dr. Grant Swinger's appearances in Science Magazine. You may need a Science subscription, or an institutional site license, to access these articles:

1965: Herewith, a Conversation with the Mythical Grant Swinger, Head of Breakthrough Institute

Questions and Answers with Grant Swinger

Grant Swinger: Reflections on Six Years of Progress

Atlantic Community: G. Swinger Takes Part in Discussions

Academic Protocol: From the G. Swinger Manual

Young scientists are always being told that they should explore career opportunities beyond the academic bench.  Well, someone who seems to have taken that idea to the outer limits has just been named one of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius" awards for her work in that second career.  Novelist and short story writer Yiyun Li was born in China and earned her bachelor's degree in cell biology at Peking University in 1996.  She then came to the US to pursue graduate work in immunology at the University of Iowa, receiving an MS in that field in 2000

Li, however, says that she had always wanted to be a writer rather than a researcher, despite being a self-described "math genius" in her youth.  Her parents, though, strongly discouraged her literary aspirations as too dangerous in the political atmosphere of China.   Her opportunity came in America, at University of Iowa, which, in addition to its science departments, is home to perhaps the nation's most celebrated creative writing program.  In 2005, Li received her Masters of Fine Arts in writing.  Now an assistant professor of English at the University of California, Davis, and writing in her second language, she has published in New Yorker (the prestige equivalent of, say, a single-author article in Science) other major literary publications and authored several books.

Li certainly has looked much farther afield for opportunities than most scientists will. She must have enormous talent and drive to have achieved such astonishing success in so short a period.  But the lesson incessantly repeated  by career advisers applies nonetheless.  Keeping eyes open for opportunities, even unusual ones, and paying attention to your own values and inclinations, even if they don't exactly match other people's, can lead to excellent outcomes.

In the nick of time, at 4:30 PM on Thursday, the United States House of Representatives officially recognized National Postdoc Appreciation Week, which began on Monday and occurs during the week of the third Monday in September.  The National Postdoctoral Association led the successful drive for passage of House Resolution 1545, which salutes the "accomplishments and contributions" of postdocs to the nation's research effort, notes "the career development and other professional needs of postdocs in every field of study," and "encourages the improvement of [their] career and training opportunities."

Such high-level attention surely raises the profile, respect, and morale of postdocs.  Now, if only someone would propose and Congress would propose and pass legislation to raise postdocs' incomes and actual career prospects! 

September 22, 2010

The real purpose of tenure?

We often hear that the tenure system is essential to defend academic freedom.  But, as an article in yesterday's Harvard Crimson reveals, the inalienable right of faculty members (or at least those officially recognized as having produced the requisite number of adequately impactful publications within a 6-year period) to advance knowledge by uttering opinions contrary to prevailing scholarly or political orthodoxy is not the only thing being protected.

The reporters set out to determine the likelihood that psychology professor Joel Hauser will be stripped of his tenured position for research misconduct. The American Association of University Professors considers falsifying research a justified reason for revoking tenure, they note.  But those who think Hauser deserves to join the ragged band of miscreants banished from their prestigious posts for violating the norms of science "should not hold their breath" until that happens, the authors write.  Apparently that dire fate awaits only those not yet anointed by a tenure committee.

Their investigation of past academic scandals in Cambridge, the student reporters continue, found that "tenured Harvard faculty have kept their jobs, whereas junior faculty resigned from their positions."

Some of Harvard's "peer institutions," specifically MIT and Columbia, have axed tenured faculty for research violations, the article continues. But it appears that, at least at Harvard, tenure protects professors' right to say anything they want, even if they know it's false, and to retain their high-paid lifetime sinecures while doing so.  Now, that's what I call academic freedom.

"Students should think more broadly about what a PhD could prepare them for. We should start selling a PhD as higher level education but not one that necessarily points you down a tunnel...We should not see moving out of academia as a failure. We need to see it as a stepping stone, a way of moving forward to something else."

-Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, quoted in Times Higher Education in 'Postdoctoral scientists urged to spread their wings'. Click the link to read the full article and a rather lively discussion in the comments section about that statement.
Among the many things postdocs need more of (such as money in their paychecks and opportunities to launch their careers), respect and appreciation rank high.  To this end, U.S. Representative Cliif Stearns (R-Florida) is sponsoring a House resolution granting official recognition to National Postdoc Appreciation Week, observed the third week in September.  Spearheaded by the National Postdoctoral Association, the resolution needs 25 Congressional co-sponsors as soon as possible to move to the floor for a timely vote.  NPA is urging everyone who supports the idea to contact their House representative right now and encourage them to become co-sponsors of House Resolution 1545.  The NPA website even provides tips and resources for what to do.

Legal tender and well-paying job offers would be better than cost-free "appreciation" of postdocs' under-recognized efforts. But raising postdocs' national profile certainly can't hurt, and could conceivably help get some concrete improvement.  Co-sponsoring this resolution is a painless move for legislators, as it requires no expenditure but may do some good.

So call or write your House representative right away.  It will only take you a few minutes, and it could help raise awareness nationally of postdocs' important contribution.

How do pharmaceutical companies get reputable academic medical researchers from fine universities to flog their products to the nation's doctors?  By providing the hired brains something they value even more than the high fees the companies pay for "consulting:" A feeling of importance that comes from associating with elite colleagues.  

And how do the companies get the physicians who hear the paid experts' talks to accept their recommendations?  By manipulating the symbols of academic expertise and authority as well as the doctors' unease at the fact that specialized medical knowledge is now too copious and complex for practitioners outside a given subfield to readily understand.

And why do universities permit faculty members to accept positions "consulting" with pharma firms that use them as glorified salesmen -- known in the trade as "key opinion leaders"? Because top officials at elite universities are also earning handsome fees and elaborate flattery from pharma companies, often on corporate boards.

These are only some of the amazing and disturbing revelations in a fascinating, eye-opening and exceedingly important essay by University of Minnesota bioethicist Carl Elliott in today's Chronicle of Higher Education.  Elliott also describes an astounding 1970s study in which researchers outfitted a distinguished-looked gray-haired actor with a white coat, a prestigious fake title, an impressive fictional CV, and a lecture on a supposedly arcane medical subject that actually consisted of total gibberish.  An audience of doctors bought the invented "Dr. Myron Fox" and his presentation as the real thing, and even praised it as "stimulating" and "accurate."

When it comes to manipulating the image of authority, academics' vanity and venality, and doctors' inability to keep up in detail with more than a small fraction of the medical literature, the pharma firms are still, as it were, crazy like Dr. Fox.  Read Elliott's essay and weep.  Or better yet, read it and demand that universities do something to stop the outrages it describes.

In August, the number of job ads posted online, overall and in science-related categories, declined a little after healthy gains the previous month. And  in July -- the last month for which detailed unemployment data is available -- the aforementioned healthy increase in job ads, and a modest decline in the number of unemployed job-seekers, indicate a slight improvement in the employment market.

This July performance is consistent with a steady upward trend, lasting about 14 months, in the strength of the job market for scientists. That, anyway, is our interpretation of the numbers from the Conference Board, released earlier this month.

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

Online job ads

In August, the number of online job ads posted in July in the science-related categories we track declined by 42,600, or 2.8%, month over month. 

Taking a longer view reveals progress. In all the categories we track, 220,200 more job ads were posted in August 2010 than were posted a year earlier, an increase of nearly 18%. Keep reading to learn how the numbers break down by category.

In percentage terms, the best performing category last month was the one most relevant to Science Careers readers: life, physical, and social science, which showed a 3.1% increase in the number of posted ads -- 2800 more ads in August in this category than a month before. Compared to August 2009, the increase was 21,800 job ads, or about 30%, indicating that the market for scientists is much stronger than it was a year ago.

The only other category to show a month-over-month increase in the number of job ads posted online was the education, training, and library, which added about 700 ads, or 0.8%. 

The category health-care practitioners and technical had its second straight bad month, falling 5.5% following a 3.1% dip the month before.  

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 Job market competitiveness

The Conference Board computes a job-market competitiveness measure, the ratio of online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market for various categories. But because the most up-to-date unemployment data, taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics' reports, are a month older than the numbers for online job ads, the ratios calculated below are from July 2010, so they're a month older than the numbers for online job ads described above. We report the ratio of job seekers to job ads in each category, so a lower number means better opportunities. 

In July, in the number of job ads in all categories dipped, as did the number of ads in science-related categories. But the new Conference Board report reveals that these gains were more than offset by a reduction in the the number of unemployed job-seekers. The result: over all science-related categories, the ratio of job seekers to job ads improved a little declining from 0.7 to 0.6 job seekers per online employment ad, reversing the increase of the previous month. That means that in all these categories there are approximately 2 job seekers for every 3 ads, slightly better than in June.

The best performance was in the category where the job prospects are the worst: education, training, and library.  But things improved dramatically for job seekers in this category, from 4.3 job seekers per ad to 3.6 job-seekers per ad in the course of just one month. This remains by far the worst category we track -- it's the only science-related category in which the ratio of job-seekers to ads is more than 1 -- but it's now only slightly worse than the job market as a whole, in which the ratio of job-seekers to online job ads is 3.4. 

Another category that made a notable move in July is computer and mathematical science, which saw the ratio of job seekers to online ads decline from 0.4 to 0.3. With 3 ads for every job seeker, that starts to look like a pretty tight market; then again, this is the category where job ads are the most likely to be posted online.

All the other categories saw the ratio either increase slightly (life, physical, and social science; architecture and engineering) or decrease slightly (health care practitioners and technical).

Except for education, training, and library (which includes science-related jobs but also jobs with nothing to do with science), the ratio of job-seekers to ads in the science-related categories we track remains far better than the average across the whole economy. In July, the average for these science-related categories was 0.6 job seekers per online job ad. For the economy as a whole, the ratio was 3.4, which is slightly better than June's 3.5. It may seem like a very tough job market, but over all in these science-related categories the odds of landing a job are more than 5 times better than the odds the average job seeker is faced with.

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Jim Austin Tweets as @SciCareerEditor

September 14, 2010

Language barriers in science

Today's The Daily Scan uncovered a real gem: A YouTube animation of a hypothetical conversation between an investigator and a biostatistician.

Judging by the comments on the video on Genome Web and on You Tube, it resonated with several viewers. (I just thought it was really, really funny.) It highlights well the language barriers across scientific disciplines. 

September 14, 2010

The Power of No

Frances Oldham Kelsey is one of the most important health scientists you've probably never heard of.  Unless you're old enough to remember the Kennedy presidency, you may not know that Kelsey, a Ph.D. pharmacologist and physician, saved countless Americans (certainly tens of thousands) from atrocious, and needless, deformities and disability and helped set the modern standard for drug safety.  Tomorrow, reports the Washington Post, the 96-year-old Kelsey will receive a new award in drug safety excellence, named in her honor, that from now on will be awarded annually by the Food and Drug Administration.

It was as a relatively new employee at that agency that, 50 years ago, Kelsey refused, adamantly, repeatedly and essentially singlehandedly to approve the drug thalidomide, then widely used in Europe as a sleeping pill and against morning sickness in pregnancy, for use in the United States.  She refused because the science supporting the application looked fishy to her, and because she knew from earlier work that substances could cross the placental barrier in much higher amounts than was widely believed.  She refused despite intense pressure from the manufacturer and despite the fact that the drug was popular in Europe. 

Because she refused, the number of Americans born with the characteristic missing or severely malformed limbs numbered in the dozens rather than, as overseas, in the thousands.  Because she refused, the methods used to test drugs changed forever.  

Going staunchly against convention was nothing new to Kelsey.  She had earned her bachelors and masters degrees in pharmacology at a time when, for a woman, doing such a thing verged on freakish.  She was allowed to enter a Ph.D. program because the gender of her given name was ambiguous.  She did not clarify the matter until after she was accepted.  She was one of very few women doing medical studies. And she went on to an "alternative career" that changed history, salvaged countless lives, and cemented a whole near career path for scientists.

Kelsey also received an earlier award, in 1962, from President Kennedy, an event that made national headlines because she was only the second woman to be so honored. The Gold Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service was and is the highest award a federal civil servant can receive.  Today, of course, fine female scientists and civil servants are nothing unusual.  But Kelsey's brand of courage and resolve remains rare.

A first-year medical student I mentor recently asked me:  "What's the point in buying textbooks? Sure, I could pull it from a shelf in the library - or save time and just Google it. But wouldn't I learn more from a Google search or a Medline search than by reading all those pages?"

This seems to be the current thinking of students in general. Our medical book store recently removed a large portion of its shelves of books and replaced it with a bigger area for computer hardware and software; the store's manager tells me that textbook sales have declined by 10-15% in each of the past several years. The medical library has replaced a major portion of its text reference section with computer carrels. Fewer new textbooks are being published, and new editions of standard texts are appearing less frequently. And the financial news tells us of the loss of profitability and financial difficulties faced by publishers.

September 8, 2010

Cinema Science Festival

If you're a big fan of the big screen and happen to be near the French city of Bordeaux between 30 November and 5 December this year, you may want to attend the Cinémascience film festival that will be taking place there and then.

In its third year, the Cinémascience festival is organized by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) with the aim of making science accessible to the public. The week-long event features new and old fiction movies shot all over the world that relate, in some ways, to science and research; the connection can sometimes be remote. The screening is followed by a discussion involving the public, researchers in the field, and members of the film crew.

Read this past Science article by Martin Enserink on Cinémascience and other science film festivals around the world (Subscription required).

Looking for entree into the world of science policy?  Interested in international affairs as well as science?  Want to spend a year In Washington, DC, applying your physical science knowledge to the foreign policy issues facing the nation, while also making valuable career contacts?  

If so, the American Institute of Physics- State Department Science Fellowship may be just the opportunity you seek.  Former fellows have worked at State in a wide range of areas, including information technology, environment, trade, and nuclear security.  U.S. citizens eligible for security clearance, who have a Ph.D. or equivalent experience in physics or a related field, and who, at the time of application, belong to a scientific society affiliated with AIP, are eligible to apply. The 1-year post pays $70,000 plus health insurance and allowances for relocation and professional travel.  Applications are due November 1.

September 7, 2010

Seeking the Alternative

This week, GenomeWeb's The Daily Scan featured two blog posts on alternative careers: Februa at Almost a PhD wrote about her discouragement at an incredibly vague career seminar on alternative careers, and the Prodigal Academic followed up with a great post highlighting some specific alternative careers.

Februa's experience highlights just how little information scientists get about the variety of career paths they can pursue away from the bench. Over the years, Science Careers highlighted several of these alternative/nontraditional careers in our articles, which almost always include stories from Actual People doing those jobs. Following on from what the bloggers above and their commenters have suggested, here are some alternative careers we've highlighted over the years, in no particular order: 

All funding agencies -- NIH, NSF, ESF, and so on -- have program officers behind the scenes making decisions about grant applications. Read about some of them in Working as a Program Officer.

Perhaps a teacher along the way inspired you to pursue a career in science. Why not try teaching? See, for example, Scientists as Schoolteachers, Community College Faculty: Must Love to Teach, and Careers in Teaching. (See also Teaching Science to Nonscience Majors, and Teach the Students You Have).

Did you love writing for your university paper or otherwise really love news? Consider a career in science writing. See Starting a Career in Science Writing, which includes Some Thoughts on Becoming a Science Writer, Science Journalism Degrees: Do They Make a Difference? See also my recent blog post on becoming a science writer.

When you send in a manuscript to a journal, there are editors on the other end who determine its worth. Book publishers and societies with publishing arms also employ science editors. See Careers in Science Editing: Feature Index

Similarly, many scientists have found rewarding work in public relations at agencies and scientific organizations. Read about them in Getting the Message Across: Scientists in Public Relations.

Medical writing includes many different types of jobs, from working in biotech companies to regulatory agencies. This collection -- Careers in Medical Writing: Opening Doors -- covers some of these diverse jobs. We also revisited this topic more recently in Working as a Medical Writer.

Do you love talking to people about science? Consider a career in science outreach: Read Transitioning from Researcher to Outreacher and Making Schools Better in New York City.

Science museums are a great place to be around science. Read more in Careers in Zoos and Museums, An Astrophysicist at La Città della Scienza, Darwin's Legacy: Rich Collections, Deep Expertise, and Darwin's Legacy: Keeping Order.

In most countries, science is funded by national governments, and that means politicians are making decisions about how much money science gets. Contribute your expertise through a career in science policy. Read more in A Matter of Policy and Finding Your Way Into Policy Careers in Europe.

If the intellectual property end of things interests you, you might consider a career as a patent attorney. Read In Person: Peter Brown, Patent Attorney Pending and Careers in Patent Law.

Regulatory science offers opportunities for life scientists to get involved in shepherding drugs to market. Read more in our recent article All in the Details: Careers in Regulatory Science. For an industry perspective, see Tooling Up: The Regulatory Affairs Career Track.

Universities have many types of jobs for Ph.D.s away from the bench:

Most research universities will have an technology transfer department responsible for working out how to commercialize its researchers' discoveries. Read more in Transferring Skills to Tech Transfer.

Read about one researcher's job in a university diversity office to make a difference in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in The Passion of the Science: A Nontraditional Pathway.

If you like to help others understand what their true career passions are, consider a career as a career advisor. Read more in It Isn't Just the Ambiance.

People in staff development work on everything from curriculum to course materials. Read more in A Developing Career.

Research administration
offers scientists a chance to help others find research funding, develop research proposals, and coordinate dispersal of funds. Read more in University Research Administration: Benefits, Not Bureaucracy.

Read more about careers within university settings in Alternative Career Routes in the Ivory Tower

The Prodigal Academic did a great job of describing some of the jobs in industry. Dave Jensen, our Tooling Up columnist, has written about some specific industry job types in the last year: The Medical Writing and Corporate Intelligence Career Tracks, The Applications Scientist Career Track, The Project Management Career Track, and The Biomanufacturing Career Track.

As the Prodigal Academic mentioned, sales is an important career sector. Read articles about scientists in these jobs in Careers in Sales and After-sales Service

Perhaps you have an outside interest that you're really passionate about. Read about a coffee roaster, a comedian, an artist, and more folks who left science altogether in And Now for Something Completely Different. See also The Itinerant Artist and Finding the Way Back to a First (Career) Love.

The Science Careers outreach program has a bunch of materials you might find interesting, too. Check out these slides, this booklet, and this handout on alternative careers (perhaps suggest to your department that they use this at the next alternative careers event ...).

This is not an exhaustive list, but it hits the major categories of so-called alternative careers that aren't really discipline-specific. Please feel free to offer more suggestions below in the comments. Best of luck!

"The past four decades have seen a failure of the social contract in faculty employment," states a new report  issued by the American Association of University Professors.  Forty years ago, the overwhelming majority of faculty members were on the tenure track, including those whose duties concentrated heavily on teaching rather than research.  Today, however, "almost 70 percent of faculty are employed off the tenure track," to the detriment of themselves, their students, and career prospects in academe, the report continues. "This historic change" affects both those non-tenurable faculty members who do the great bulk of the teaching at most institutions and those who concentrate on research. "Some of these appointments, particularly in science and medicine, are research intensive or research only, and the faculty in these appointments often work under extremely troubling conditions," the report notes. 

In short, in contrast to decades past, tenure "has ceased to be the norm," the report goes on.  "Particularly at large research universities,...the tenure system has been warped to the purpose of creating a multitier faculty....Tenure was not designed as a merit badge for research intensive faculty or as a fence to exclude those with teaching intensive commitments," but as a protection for the academic freedom and economic stability of all college and university teachers, the report declares.  These changes have "turned the professoriate into an irrational economic choice, denying the overwhelming majority of individuals the opportunity to consider college teaching as a career." This is "deeply unfair, both to teachers and their students."

The solution?  "Conversion to tenure is the best way to stabilize the faculty," the report asserts.  "The best practice for institutions of all types is to convert the status of contingent appointments to appointments eligible for tenure with only minor changes in job description."  [Italics in original]. At a number of institutions, the process of giving contingent faculty more security and better working conditions is already underway, to at least a limited extent, the report indicates.  Though not identical to traditional tenure, and often "less than ideal in one respect or another," a number of such arrangements have at least improved working conditions.

But, since institutions have long used contingent appointments to cut costs -- and have done so by exploiting the oversupply of Ph.D.s that they themselves have knowingly created -- it is unclear how far such reforms will go in an era of intense financial pressures on higher education.  At least the AAUP raises the question in an articulate and informed manner.  It will, one hopes, begin a vigorous discussion in academe.

Some months back, Science Careers focused on the challenges facing dual-career academic couples looking for work.  On Wednesday, the American Association of University Professors issued a report, entitled Recommendations on Partner Accommodation and Dual Career Appointments (2010), that highlights the great complexity of the issues involved.  

On the one hand, providing career opportunities for the partners of first hires "can be an important part any work/life balance initiatives" at universities, the report states.  On the other hand, providing positions for partners in an era of crowded job markets and tight budgets "may present other difficulties that must be anticipated."  These include collective bargaining agreements or anti-discrimination measures that specify particular steps that must be followed in advertising and filling positions, resentment in departments that feel pressured to accept a partner, and the unfairness of replacing "a long-serving contingent faculty member" with a trailing spouse.  

A tenure-track post for the partner "is often the most satisfactory solution from the candidate's point of view," the report notes. Yet, hiring decisions -- including those made to accommodate a partner -- should all be "part of a process driven by considerations of merit," it adds.  And while dealing with the needs of couples, universities should simultaneously "take every care to ensure that faculty members appointed as part of a dual-career arrangement are treated as separate individuals valuable in their own right.".

Perhaps their most significant recommendation for universities that offer to accommodate partners of faculty hires: "a clearly worded policy that covers all full-time appointments," preferably posted on a publicly accessible website.

From the applicant's standpoint, two important points emerge.  The report advises that, in order to "avoid intrusive and possibly illegal inquiries" about personal life, universities should leave it to the candidate to open discussions of partner accommodations.  So applicants would be wise to inform themselves in advance about each university's policies before raising the issue.  Finally, the report hints at a potential danger.  Universities should not use an inquiry about potential accommodation "as an excuse to eliminate the candidate from consideration for the position."

The August employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS) are in. The result: Pretty much No Change from one month earlier. Though it could be worse, that's not good news.

The U.S. economy lost 54,000 jobs from July to August 2010, including the loss of 114,000 temporary census jobs. Overall, governments shed 121,000 jobs -- just 7000 non-census jobs -- a pretty good result compared to the July, when state and local governments in a state of fiscal crisis shed 58,000 jobs in addition to the 143,000 temporary census jobs that ended that month. Meanwhile, the private sector gained 67,000 jobs.

A closer look at the report yields little of obvious interest: Most sectors either gained a few jobs or lost a few. One exception, perhaps, is the number of part-time workers who would rather be working full time, which increased by 331,000 over the month.

Since the size of the workforce increases by at least several tens of thousands every month, a flat month means employment is losing ground slowly. The economy has added 763,000 jobs since it's low in December 2009 -- but according to BLS statistics, the economy needs to add more than 7.5 million jobs just to get back to where it was at its peak in December 2007.

About 34% of regulatory affairs professionals are involved in comparative effectiveness research, health technology assessment, and reimbursement, compared with 25% just 2 years ago, according to a new survey released in August by the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS). The survey includes 3120 respondents from 55 countries around the world (81% from the United States, and most others from Europe and Canada).

According to RAPS, "Regulatory professionals play critical roles throughout the healthcare product lifecycle, from concept through product obsolescence. They provide strategic, tactical and operational direction and support for working within regulations to expedite the development and delivery of safe and effective healthcare products to people around the world." Science Careers published an article about careers in regulatory science in April ("All in the Details: Careers in Regulatory Science").

The new survey found that 72.6% of the respondents work in industry, with the remainder employed in academic institutions (2.3%), government (3.2%), independent research organizations (3.5%), consulting firms (13.1%), hospitals (1.3%), and law firms (0.4%). More than 68% of respondents work with multiple product types, including different types of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and materials, veterinary products, cosmetics, and foods.

An increasing number of respondents (compared to previous years' surveys) report taking part in the business side of their work, which includes activities such as business and corporate strategy, finance, management, personnel management, and legal activities. On average, respondents reported spending 18.2% of their time on business aspects of their job; this figure varies substantially by job level. At the more junior levels, the duties usually include smaller business-related issues, as opposed to overall business strategy and functions among higher-level managers. Given those figures, it's perhaps not surprising that the number of respondents holding MBAs has increased in recent years, and is now up to 12%.

Almost all the respondents (99%) have a university degree, and more than 60% have degree credentials beyond the baccalaureate level. More than 86% have degrees in life sciences, engineering, or clinical professions, reflecting the scientific and clinical focus of this work.

Base salaries for US-based professionals currently range from an average of $55,606 at the coordinator level to approximately $200,000 for vice presidents and CEOs. Most employees in this field have seen their salaries stay constant or slowly increase despite the recession. The exceptions to this are vice presidents and CEOs, whose base salaries have been stable, but total compensation has decreased due to a reduction in bonuses. Somewhat lower salaries are reported in academic and clinical settings, while the highest ones are found in industry and government positions.

Consultants, 55% of whom are self-employed, have experienced a 17% decline in base salary and 21% decrease in total earnings. The number of consultants has increased over time, and 30% are self-employed with less than 2 years of work experience. Taken together, these data suggest that an increasing number of people have recently become independent consultants, likely due to loss of work in the economic downturn.

The majority of the report's findings overall were true across national boundaries, with the main differences related to the level of interest in health technology assessment/comparative effectiveness research and reimbursement, which was less common in Latin America and the Middle East. Salary levels differed by country and varied with local standards of living. The factors influencing the salary, however, such as job experience and education, were largely the same regardless of geographic location.

The RAPS Scope of Practice & Compensation Study is available online from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

-by Yevgeniya Nusinovich