October 28, 2010
October 24, 2010
October 22, 2010
Hat tip: Dr. Shock MD PhD
October 22, 2010
Altogether, 427 early-career researchers won a total of about €580 million that they will use to establish independent labs in Europe. Launched in 2007, the Starting Grants offer researchers of any nationality and age, and with between 2 and 12 years post-Ph.D. experience, as much as €2million over 5 years to build a research team anywhere in Europe.
On average, this year's ERC awardees are 36 years old. A little more than a quarter of them (26.5% compared to 23% last year) are women. Host institutions are in 21 countries, with the United Kingdom (79), France (71), and Germany (67) attracting the most grantees. Looking at research areas, 45.7% of the winning proposals are in physical sciences and engineering, 35.8% in life sciences, and 22.2% in social sciences and humanities.
A total of 2873 scientists applied for the grant this year, a 14% increase over last year but far below the more than 9,000 applications drawn by the first ERC call. With the ERC budget for the grants rising 40% this year, this year's success rate reached 15%. The budget for these grants is expected to continue to rise.
You can browse the list of winners by country or research domain (social sciences and humanities, / life sciences, / physical sciences and engineering). More statistics can also be found here. The deadline for applications in physical sciences and engineering has already closed, but life scientists may apply until 9 November 2010, and social scientists and humanists have until 24 November.
Twenty years ago, while serving as a faculty pre-med advisor at Harvard College, I was assigned a candidate for medical school admission: a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, an outstanding student, a basketball player, personable, and impressive in every way. He was a "dream" candidate with one exception: He had been born deaf. Our efforts to gain his admission to medical school were a nightmare. Despite personal communications to medical school deans and admission directors, as well as letters from his professors attesting to his abilities, all doors were closed. He entered a Ph.D. program in pathology at the University of Pennsylvania and, following postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), now does exciting research in the field of congenital deafness.
Recently, I was reminded of this experience when I sat down for a mentoring session with a second year medical student here in Madison. "I'll need to see your lips," the student cautioned me as we began our conversation, "I'm congenitally deaf."
October 21, 2010
I own an iPhone, so I gave it a try. I didn't apply for any jobs, so I can't report on the status updates, but I can report on the search capability. First, it's very easy to use -- easier and less confusing than the USAJobs Web site. Search results appear almost instantly, and there are lots of them, though the total number is not reported. Searching on the word "editor" yielded 102 positions, mostly technical writing/editing positions including dozens at Navy field offices nationwide. Searching on "microbiologist" yielded 34 results, all from the Army, the Navy, or the Food and Drug Administration. Searching on "physicist" yielded 108 jobs -- again, many of them at U.S. Navy field offices. You can refine your search based on salary, grade, location, and 9 other criteria. And once a list of jobs is displayed, you can click on a button to display them on a map. A nifty feature.
The app seems pretty robust, though it did crash on me once. Users rate it 3 starts out of 5. Commonly reported flaws include crashing and problems signing in. (I didn't try signing in.)
If you're interested in government employment, this could be a useful tool.
October 20, 2010
October 19, 2010
October 18, 2010
He did so largely outside of the academic world and, as the Washington Post reports, lived a life strongly touched by chaos. Reportedly, he was once turned down for an academic post because he would not confine himself to a single subject. His career, he said, quoted in the New York Times, followed "a very crooked line." In this respect, it provides an example for others trying to find their way.
October 14, 2010
And in August -- the last month for which detailed unemployment data is available -- an increase in the number of unemployed people looking for work, coupled with a decline in the number of online job ads, resulted in an uptick in the ratio of job-seekers to online job ads, overall and in all science-related categories combined. That means that, in terms of competitiveness, the job market got slightly worse for job seekers.
This August performance is consistent with a steady upward trend, lasting about 15 months so far, 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 September, the number of online job ads posted in the science-related categories we track declined by 5300 compared to August, a much better performance than last month's 42,600 decline. In percentage terms, this decline is very small, just 0.4% month over month.
Taking a longer view reveals progress. In all the categories we track, 219,700 more job ads were posted in August 2010 than were posted a year earlier, an increase of about 18%. Keep reading to learn how the numbers break down by category.
In percentage terms, the best performing category last month was architecture and engineering, which showed a 5.4% increase in the number of posted ads -- 9200 more ads in September than in August. Compared to September 2009, the increase was an impressive 57%.
Also having a good month was computer and mathematical science, which added 15,200 ads, an increase of 2.7%. Year over year, this is a 46% increase in the number of online ads.
It was a down month in the category of greatest interest to most Science Careers readers: life, physical, and social science. Ads in this category declined 5.2%, or 4800. That's 25% higher than a year earlier.
The category health-care practitioners and technical had its third straight bad month, with online job ads falling 4.8%. This is the only category where the number of ads this month is smaller than it was a year earlier, and the difference is substantial, about 14.6%.
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 August 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 opportunity.
In August, in the number of job ads in all categories dipped, as did the number of ads in science-related categories. The new Conference Board report reveals that these gains were accompanied by an increase in the the number of unemployed job seekers. The result: Combining all science-related categories, the ratio of job seekers to job ads got a little worse, climbing back to 0.7 job seekers per online employment ad after one month at 0.6. In all these categories, there were, in August, approximately 2 job seekers for every 3 ads.
In August, as measured by changes in this ratio, the best performance was in the category Science Careers readers care most about, life, physical, and social science. Here, an increase in the number of job ads (remember, these numbers are from August, not September, when the number of ads declined), coupled to a decline in the number of unemployed people looking for work, resulted in a ratio of 0.7 job seekers per job add, fully two tenths better than July's 0.9.
In contrast, education, training, and library had a very bad month in August thanks to a huge increase -- 32% month over month -- in the number of unemployed people seeking work. This took the ratio of job seekers per ad all the way back up to 4.7, from 3.6 a month before.
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.
There was no change in the ratio of job seekers to job ads in any of the other science-related categories.
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 0.7 job seekers per online job ad. For the economy as a whole, the ratio was 3.5, which is slightly worse than July's 3.4. It may seem like a very tough job market, but over all in these science-related categories the odds of landing a job were nearly 5 times better in August than the odds the average job seeker encountered.
Jim Austin Tweets as @SciCareerEditor
October 12, 2010
Scientists Dealing with a Troubled Colleague
I would like to interview scientists or science trainees who have encountered a troubled colleague. For example, the colleague may have been depressed, had marital problems, abused substances, had an anger-management problem, etc., that interfered with productivity and/or office morale. When faced with such a situation, what did you do? Did you tell someone else? If so, when? What happened as a consequence? How do you strike the right balance between being a colleague and a friend? If you have been the troubled colleague, I would love to hear your experience, too. Contact: Irene S. Levine, irene-at-irenelevine-dot-com .
October 12, 2010
When I talk about applying online, I'm not talking about registering on a Web site then uploading a cover letter and CV in pdf or Word formats. I'm talking about a Web app where you fill in several pages of forms and answer multiple-choice questions. It took me a couple of hours to complete the application.
My conclusion: I agree completely with my online acquaintance. The process was disheartening. Even though I'm not looking for work, there's always a little thrill that comes from new possibilities. But by the time I was finished, I knew I didn't want to work for that organization. Here's why.
Looking for a job is a stressful and difficult business, but it has its rewards. It encourages you to think hard about your capabilities and to reinvent yourself. You're called upon to present yourself at your honest best, which can lead you to look at yourself in new ways. When applying for a particular job, you have to think hard about how you might fit the position, an exercise that allows you to see how useful your skills could be in a new context. It's a creative process. It can all be very encouraging, and it can make you more productive and employable.
Dave Jensen has often encouraged job applicants to customize their applications to match particular openings, and I concur. This may mean rejiggering a CV or resume, but mostly this work happens in the cover letter. The cover letter is where you put on your best face. It's an opportunity for reinvention, to reintroduce yourself to the world (OK, strictly speaking, to reinvent yourself for a particular employer). And a cover letter, of course, is not a work of fiction: It's a genuine rethinking of your capabilities, an honest attempt to bridge the gap between the work you've done before and the work you'd like to do. It's a creative act.
As I worked my way through this online application, I kept wondering: When do I get to the point where I submit my cover letter? When will I have the opportunity to make my best case, to present myself on my terms?
That opportunity never came. There was no cover letter. First, I filled in some personal information. Then I described my educational experience, and then my work experience, via a series of multiple-choice questions and online forms. The core of the application was a series of very specific questions aimed at discovering whether I had ever done precisely the kind of work the new position would require me to do. The cumulative effect was skeptical and severe. When I was done I felt I had been raked over coals.
Have you ever had an interview with the interviewer didn't seem to respect you -- who seemed suspicious about all of your claims and challenged everything you said? Just replace the human being on the other side of the desk with a Web app, and that'll give you an idea of what it felt like. I was being called on to justify myself, not on my terms as I would have done in a cover letter, but on theirs. To a Web app.
Hey, I get it. I can see the advantages for the employer. It's probably a rather efficient way of screening out applicants who don't have the necessary education or experience, and they probably get lots of those. It may also screen out people who don't really want the job. There's something to be said for hiring motivated, job-seekers, but read on.
What they don't seem to realize -- or perhaps they just don't care -- is that they do not hold all the cards. Job-seekers have some say in the matter. Just as employers decide who they want to hire, job-seekers decide where they want to work. Smart, creative scientists have opinions and options. If you use an alienating online job app, the desperate will still apply, and perhaps take the job if offered. But those with alternatives and self-respect will look elsewhere for work. This organization is likely to lose its best candidates.
Furthermore, the application process sets the tone for all that follows. I understood clearly from this exercise that if I were to go to work for that organization, I would be expected to stay in line, to do exactly what I was told to do. I understood -- or at least inferred -- that creative work would be discouraged. I doubt that's a message they want to send to their future employees.
This online job app sent me a very clear message: We do not respect you or your experience. We are going to dictate the terms here. If you have a problem with this, work elsewhere.
Which is precisely what I intend to do, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.
October 11, 2010
Before the laureate trios' research, economic theory apparently assumed that the market for workers functions rather like the ones for wheat or oil you learned about in Economics 101, where buyers and sellers easily find each other and agree on a price based on supply and demand.
October 8, 2010
Over all, employment was down 92,000. That's a meaningful number, but the losses were on the government-employment side, where 77,000 temporary census workers finished their assignments, and local governments continued to shed workers to deal with budget shortfalls. Public-sector job losses totaled 159,000.
The news in the private sector is a little better. There, employment increased by 64,000, numerically about half the number of new jobs the economy needed to create to employ the new adults entering the workforce, although it's more than offset, of course, by those public-sector job losses.
So, while the unemployment rate remained the same at 9.6%, U.S. employment lost some a little ground last month, but not too much.
The health care sector had a decent month, adding 24,000 jobs. Employment services added 28,000 jobs, most of them in the temporary-employment industry. Manufacturing was flat, and jobs in the construction sector trended down modestly.
September, in other words, was another lost month for U.S. employment. But there is some reason for hope: In recent months our analysis of online employment ads, which is based on data from the Conference Board, clearly indicates that companies are starting to hire again, even if that trend hasn't yet born fruit in the BLS statistics. We don't have September numbers yet, but they should be available soon, and when they are, we'll report them.
October 6, 2010
ScienceInsider is reporting that NIH has announced a 5-year, $60 million pilot project to fund recent Ph.D.s for their first faculty posts. All they have to do is find an institution willing to sponsor them.
NIH Director Francis Collins announced the new program -- dubbed the Early Independence Award Program, in a Nature Commentary.