May 30, 2012
- Use direct messages or Twitter "mentions" to reach out to prominent scientists. Many of them won't respond to phone calls or e-mails, but they're more than happy to strike up a conversation on Twitter. --Jamie Vernon, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow - @JLVernonPhD
- Listen to people's complaints and criticisms on Twitter. It's a often more polite environment than the comment sections of blogs, and the public appreciates knowing that you're taking their criticisms seriously. --Danielle Brigada, manager of social media at the National Wildlife Federation - @starfocus
- Tweeting in real time can be an interesting way to cover an event. If you do a real-time tweeting experiment and something doesn't work, scientists following you might be able to help diagnose the problem. --Matt Hartings, chemistry professor at American University - @sciencegeist
- Tweeting about your research and its implications can help shift the public's image of what a scientist is and about the value of scientific research and evidence. --John Ohab, public affairs specialist at the Naval Research Laboratory - @johnohab
- If you think your work has been misrepresented in the media, use Twitter to set the record straight or respond to criticism. --Maria-José Viñas, science writer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - @mjvinas
Seven writers square off on the issue, several of whom--Ron Hira, Norm Matloff, and Hal Salzman--will be familiar to many Science Careers readers. These three are widely respected as scholars of STEM labor force issues--in stark contrast to the figures from business and industry who regularly argue for increasing the current supply of cheap, highly skilled scientific and technical labor.
Hira, Matloff, and Salzman, two other writers (one of whom US News misleadingly counts as favoring the overall "stapling" proposal) present cogent, well-documented arguments against any such blanket action. They show that no shortage of able STEM graduates exists in the United States and why the proposal would harm both the already overcrowded U.S. STEM labor force and the nation's ability to attract talented Americans to STEM fields.
The writers who strongly favor the proposal are a politician and a representative of a small-business lobby.
But you needn't take my word for any of this. You can find all the articles here.
What's important from our point of view is this: "Fortunately, because the researcher was wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and working in front of a sliding blast shield, only minor injuries resulted from the explosion," the alert states.
Dangerous accidents are a reality of scientific experimentation, but it's great to report this kind of news for a change.
May 25, 2012
The Singapore NRF Fellowships offer tenure-track faculty positions that come with a salary package equivalent to that of a local assistant professor and a research grant of up to $2.4 million over 5 years. These are individual fellowships, so researchers get to choose the host institution; NRF Fellows will be able to lead their own teams at the institution of their choice, as long as it's in Singapore. Shortlisted candidates will be invited in January to visit local research organizations for a week, before the final interview, so they may discuss support for their research and choose potential host institutions.
Now in its sixth round, the Fellowship scheme welcomes research proposals in computer science, all branches of engineering, medicine, life sciences, and natural/physical sciences. To apply you must have a Ph.D. and postdoctoral experience. Scientists of all nationalities are eligible.
More information about the scheme and how to apply can be found on the NRF Web site.
Deadline for application: 15 August 2012. The announcement of short-listed candidates will be no later than 30 November 2012.
May 24, 2012
Unlike at comparable institutions in the U.S., where hiring is highly competitive, at IIT Kanpur, one in three faculty slots goes unfilled, writes Inside Higher Ed's Kaustuv Basu. This faculty shortage reportedly limits the courses and research projects the institution can undertake.
Low salaries and high levels of bureaucracy are major factors that discourage many Indian Ph.D.s from returning to become professors in their home country. The office, tentatively slated for Washington, D.C., or New York City, would have access to private funds to boost the salaries offered to new hires at the government-supported IIT.
Plans to establish the office are not yet definite, and whether it could succeed at its mission is even less clear. However, given the current debate over high-skill immigration in the United States, it's interesting to speculate on what might happen if the office does succeed in attracting talent to IIT. Who would fill the positions that homeward-bound Indians vacate? What effect might their departure have on the brutally tight faculty job market here in the United States? If expanded faculties allow more extensive offerings at the IITs, would fewer Indians come here as students, postdocs or professors in the first place?
Should the office actually come into existence, I suspect that many people in both countries will be watching with great interest.
May 24, 2012
May 17, 2012
Last year I was part of a group of female scientists that spoke with several girls high schools about science as a career. One of the discussion points the students raised was the career not supporting women having families. I came away asking myself, how have we done this? How is it high school students are questioning if the career is possible. Also over the past few years I have seen many graduates leave science at the end of a PhD, not because they don't enjoy the science but because they don't like the career. It is a very sad thing, both for the people who are not following their interest into science and for the career to miss out on what they could have contributed.
In the last decade in Australia institutions and the Research Councils have begun to turn things around with a few significant policy shifts. For example, the ROPE system (Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence) allows researches applying for grants to discuss their research outputs as relative to the opportunities they have had to undertake research. The tide here has also changed on the idea that if you intend to have kids you are not serious about your career. I feel that my work takes me more seriously because I remain actively engaged in contributing. I know that, if I do well, I am part of my group doing well, and I feel they support me 100%. I don't think I could ask for more. But departments/institutions gain from supporting women in these years - why train someone else to leave when you can have productive people who are good at what they do staying productive.
In between having my 2 children I decided I wanted to stay in a research-only role in the near future. Not because I think tenure and family are prohibitive, but I decided I didn't want that career just yet (I am a much better researcher than I am an educator). Waiting to start having a family was risky and what I learned from my experiences was that I couldn't force my life to fit career expectations established by another generation at a time when the career was different. I want my career to fit my expectations and my life. Anything can happen to anyone at anytime, not just kids. I would say to anyone who thinks having a family is bad for their science, to look at their CV and ignore the past year, 2 years or even seven years, and ask themselves if not having that section of their CV means they would no longer be a good scientist or that the science they did before is no longer good. It doesn't! I feel it is possible to find another way to achieve a long career in science and academia, and policies here in Australia, do make a difference. Both attitudes and opportunities are changing.
Science Careers is a great resource and place to find inspiration, and does make a difference for many people in the early stages of their career. I wrote the essay late at night (on my iPhone), while up with my 4month old because I was reading the Science Careers app while he as feeding. I was inspired to speak up about my recent post-doctoral experiences and how they have changed how I approach my career in science.
May 14, 2012
Nobody believed a young program manager like Bongiovanni could win a research grant from a prestigious foundation, but she applied anyway. Now she's preparing to begin her study and is even traveling to Uganda to look into organizing a pilot project there.
Bongiovanni's brainwave occurred when, during a meeting, neonatologist Tom Hansen, MD, mentioned a test for respiratory distress that can kill premature babies that was used early in his career, but which has now been superseded in the United States by high-tech monitoring methods. In the "old days," Hansen said, doctors tested babies for the conditions by mixing alcohol with fluid obtained by amniocentesis. If the mixture was bubbly, the baby's lungs were healthy. If not, the baby was in respiratory distress.
"My idea was to revamp the old test so that it can be used with oral fluid from a newborn's mouth," the article quotes Bongiovanni. "I thought to myself that this could be really useful in poor countries." Thanks to her gumption in applying for a Gates Grand Challenges grant, she now has the chance to find out. And if she's right, countless babies may survive infancy who otherwise wouldn't.
It's wonderful that something so cheap and simple might do so much good. And it's possibly even more wonderful that someone of low academic status, whose colleagues "expressed doubt" (to put it mildly, I'll bet) that she could succeed in attracting funding, will actually have the chance to put her elegant insight to the test. Who knows what brilliant ideas are hatching among people "not qualified" to receive funding? Here's hoping that Bongiovanni was right; not only about her chances of winning the grant, but about saving babies as well.
May 11, 2012
After spending "a number of hours" with Yiannikouros, Phifer finds him not only technically well qualified but also "engaging, communicative, and fun to talk with"--all qualities needed to help him convince errant lab chiefs to change their ways. "It is clearly a challenge to get principal investigators to 'buy in' to structured safety behavior," Phifer writes, "but it looks like Yannikouros has the tools to do that at UCLA."
That's good news, and also ought to be an example to other institutions.
May 8, 2012
Now retired from a career that included work in nuclear energy and integrated circuits, Meredith remains an active volunteer at IEEE and a member of the board of the IEEE Foundation. His presentation was aimed at engineers but the ideas he outlined will serve anyone with advanced scientific or technical training who seeks a successful industrial career.
Din was working with the bacterium Neisseria meningiditis, a biosafety level 2 pathogen that can trigger fatal meningococcal disease. It's not clear yet how Din became infected with N. meningiditis, nor is it known whether appropriate safety measures were in place and being followed. A preliminary internal investigation found no problems with the biosafety hood under which Din was studying the bacterium.
The lab remains closed while local and federal investigators from the VA, the Department of Public Health, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration carry out further inspections. Stay tuned for more details as they come available.
May 4, 2012
"This unique safety partnership"--in the words of a university release--will extend to through the summer and will try to address, among other issues, the training problems caused by the high rate of arrivals and departures in academic labs. The program will also involve a "Joint Safety Team" composed of safety officers from every chemical engineering and chemical research group on the campus and will expose university people to Dow's best practices, with the goal of adapting them to academic research.
With industry widely recognized as enforcing much higher lab safety standards than academic institutions, this effort appears to hold real promise for improving safety practices at UMN, and perhaps even as a model for other institutions. We will never how many hideous incidents the program may prevent, but the students, postdocs, and researchers who improve their practices because of it might wish to consider a paraphrase of another advertising slogan long popular in days gone by: The lives they save may be their own.
May 2, 2012
MITx made big news and launched much speculation and rumination earlier this year when it announced that it would allow online students to earn certificates for courses they successfully complete online through the program, after paying a small fee. Many observers have wondered what this new credential might do to the value of taking on-campus courses at MIT and other institutions around the world. In response to an question posed online by this reporter (and maybe others), MIT's Anant Agarwal, who will direct edX, said that the first MITx course, which is currently ongoing, allows students to earn grades and a completion certificate. He implied, but did not state outright, that the same would be true for edX courses.
A major theme of today's news conference was that edX will provide researchers the opportunity to study the mechanism of learning in order to strengthen education for students on the two Cambridge campuses. Speakers also noted that many details still need to be worked out, including a financing model for the non-profit undertaking.
May 1, 2012
As James Sterling of KGI, and Carol Lynch and Sally Francis of CGS, explain in an article in the May issue of the CGS Grad Edge newsletter, affiliation with the PSM program does not constitute accreditation of curricula and programs, but rather recognition that they comply with a set of formal guidelines that have been developed by CGS.
Full-scale, separate accreditation of PSM programs, apart from the overall accreditation of the their home institutions, is not necessary, the article asserts. "The PSM is a professional degree but there is no single clearly-identified profession that graduates enter, and there is no single profession whose interests warrant licensure of PSM graduates or accreditation of this degree. Therefore, in contrast to many professions, there is no need for an independent accreditation organization. Similarly, there is no single type of risk that is presented to the customers of the employers of PSM graduates that could lead to a specific form of malpractice, the need for licensing, or the need for specific continuing education requirements for PSM graduates."
There does exist, however, "a perceived need to ensure that a new program [calling itself a PSM program] meets [the official guidelines] and that some form of re-affiliation review system be in place" to guarantee that existing programs continue to meet them as well. The new office at KGI will carry out these functions. It will also manage the www.sciencemasters.com website used as the central repository for information about PSM programs.
Hallmarks of PSM programs, which generally run two years, include close cooperation with advisers from industry, extensive mentored experience for students in industrial settings, and a curriculum that combines study of both a scientific discipline with study of business, management, regulatory affairs, or other topics relevant to a specific science-based industry. About 250 PSMs currently exist, up from 80 in 2006. In the academic year 2010-2011, 173 graduates received PSM degrees, and about 5500 students were enrolled in programs at the beginning of the current academic year.
In addition, the new office at KGI will continue efforts to increase awareness of the PSM degree and its benefits among both potential students and company human resources officials nationally, KGI president Sheldon Schuster told Science Careers in an interview.
May 1, 2012
Penn's stated goal has been to close the gap between the stipends that National Institutes of Health (NIH) NRSA postdoctoral fellows receive and what employee postdocs--most of whom are paid from research grants--receive.
According to a post by Steven J. Fluharty, Penn's Senior Vice Provost for Research, the university's minimum postdoctoral stipend from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 will be exactly the same as current NRSA stipend levels.
It must be mentioned that these stipends remain absurdly low relative to postdocs' skills and training. That's evidence of postdocs' commitment to science, and of a glut of expert labor that threatens to turn science into a low-wage profession: a dangerous and scary possibility. But it still represents significant progress.
Yet, it's troubling to note that despite their sacrifices--which most make in anticipation of an academic career--only a minority of these postdocs will ever attain a tenure-track faculty post at a college or university.
May 1, 2012
Some major points:
- Be specific and give examples. How, exactly, will you use the money or equipment or whatever? Clearly the judges already know you believe you're qualified and deserving, but exactly why should they agree?
- Make sure the people who write your recommendations actually know your work, not just your personality. The judges are sure you're a swell person, but that isn't why they're giving the award.
- Only list things on your CV that have actually happened. That paper under consideration at the International Journal of Really Prestigious Research might never see print or pixels.
But don't take it from me. Read her own specific and detailed advice here.