January 29, 2013
January 22, 2013
January 11, 2013
October 29, 2012
September 10, 2012
July 16, 2012
Yesterday, on the last day of the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) in Dublin, Pauline Mattsson of the Karolinksa Institutet in Stockholm in Sweden, David Feltz of Euroscience in Strasbourg, France, and Niki Vermeulen of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, presented some preliminary data from the survey.
Here are some of the main results that are emerging:
July 15, 2012
But here in Dublin at ESOF 2012 I have seen several speakers use examples drawn from family life to convey a scientific message or concept. I found the strategy effective at driving home a point and helping the audience remember it. It also helped me relate to the speaker on a deeper level and made me want to listen closer.
July 14, 2012
July 11, 2012
The opening keynote address was given by Jules Hoffmann, a professor of immunology at the University of Strasbourg and research director at the French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. Hoffmann, who has dedicated his career to understanding the mechanisms underlying antimicrobial defenses in the fruit fly Drosophila, won a share of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his contribution to "discovering the sensors of innate immunity."
There are three points I would like to convey from Hoffmann's talk, From Insects to Mammals: Reflections on a European Journey Through Basic Research on Immune Defenses:
July 5, 2012
Chemistry World's Chemistry World Science Writing Competition 2012 is open to students and early career scientists anywhere in the world. You can enter in one (or both) of two categories: writing and multimedia. As you would expect, you must write or talk about the chemical sciences. The deadline is midnight UK time, 31 August.
Winners in each category will see their entry published on Chemistry World and receive a £300 cash prize. Runners-up--one in each category--will receive a £100 cash prize.
The winners will be announced during an evening reception in London at The Chemistry Centre on 10 October. Twenty shortlisted entrants will be invited to join the reception (but overnight accommodations will be reimbursed only if you are traveling to London from more that 2.5 hours away).
More information can be found on the competition's Web site. The FAQ also offers sound advice on science writing and multimedia communication.
June 11, 2012
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.
March 22, 2012
Travel grants from various organizations are being made available for early-career scientists wishing to come to ESOF2012. To apply for some of these grants, you need to register with ESOF. Currently, Euroscience, the Swiss Embassy in Ireland, and the Swedish Research Council are for example offering the joint Early-Stage Researcher travel grants. (The deadline is 10 May 2012.)
Other organizations are offering travel grants. You can keep track of these through news announcements on the ESOF Web site or through their Twitter feed (@ESOFHub). Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), for example, is invites early-career researchers in Belgium to apply, and the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (DASTI) will soon open a call for early-career researchers based in Denmark.
March 12, 2012
Spanish scientists abroad are invited to record their own answers to a series of questions including:
- "How do you think the research, development, and innovation in Spain compares to the country where you work? What do you think is failing here [In Spain]?"
- "Do you believe that you are more valued as an investigator in another country than in your own?"
- "Do you see what is currently occurring as a brain drain, or it is less serious than this?"
- "What real possibilities do you believe you would have to continue developing your research career in Spain?"
Information on how to contribute a video can be found on the FJI/Precarios Web site.
Together with the Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies, the researchers' association Investigación Digna, and the trade union CCOO, FJI/Precarios also recently released a petition against the funding cuts and hiring freeze announced for 2012.
February 29, 2012
February 3, 2012
January 31, 2012
January 26, 2012
January 4, 2012
The days when you could make a reliable living doing methyl-ethyl-butyl-futile work in the United States or Western Europe are gone .... There's still a lot of that work that needs to be done, but it is getting done somewhere else, and as long as "somewhere else" operates more cheaply and reasonably on time, that situation will not change.Lowe advises medicinal chemists to strive to be all but ordinary if they want to survive in today's tough job market.
Medicinal chemists have to offer their employers something that cannot be had more cheaply in Shanghai or Bangalore. New techniques, proficiency with new equipment, ideas that have not become commodified yet: Those seem to be the only form of insurance, and even then, they are not always enough.With the pharmaceuticals industry increasingly shifting away from medicinal chemistry and toward biotechnology to create new drugs, Lowe also sees room for medicinal chemists to develop new skills at the interface between the two disciplines:
There are plenty of interfaces between small-molecule chemistry and biologics: drug-protein conjugates, aptamers, chemically stabilized proteins and oligonucleotides, carbohydrates, modified enzymes, and more. These things are going to need the synthetic organic expertise that we can bring.Tough times are ahead, but medicinal chemists should take heart in their adaptability, Lowe adds.
Medicinal chemists do not specialize as much as biologists do .... We should be using this to our advantage, expanding the limits of our science, helping to drive these areas of study, and making them our own. No one else is better placed to do it.You can read the full article here.
We interviewed Lowe, among other experts, in our recent Science Careers articles assessing the state of the pharma industry and giving job search advice.
November 14, 2011
In the field of aging research, this challenge has been made a little easier by the release of the FUTURAGE Road Map, which is to constitute the European research agenda for aging over the next decade. Funded by the European Union, the FUTURAGE two-year consultation gathers the opinions of the field's research leaders, medical professionals, policy makers, industry, and older people across Europe to identify seven priority research themes illustrated by specific research questions.
The seven priority themes are:
- healthy aging for more life in years;
- maintaining and regaining mental capacity;
- inclusion and participation in the community and in the labour market;
- guaranteeing the quality and sustainability of social protection systems;
- aging well at home and in community environments;
- unequal aging and age-related inequalities;
- biogerontology: from mechanisms to interventions.
Earlier this year Science Careers ran a monthly series with a Focus on Aging for advice on how to develop a career in one of the many fields pertaining to aging research.
November 3, 2011
October 31, 2011
September 30, 2011
Another surprising finding concerned doctoral candidates' perceptions of gender bias in academia. According to Science Insider:In the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, 90% or more of doctoral students receive some form of scholarship or salary for their work. But in several other countries, 20% to 30% don't receive anything, and in Austria that percentage can rise to 46%. "We did not expect the lack of funding to be so extensive," says Karoline Holländer, a former president of Eurodoc and a co-author of the report. "Many doctoral candidates have to find other sources of income to live on."
You can read the whole Science Insider article here.Surprisingly, more men than women said they were at a disadvantage in academia because of their gender. In Finland, for instance, 78% of men felt that their sex was "very much" a disadvantage, whereas only 37% of women did. "We have no explanation for this," says Holländer, who adds that the next round of the survey, to be conducted in 3 to 5 years, may ask further questions on the topic.
- Most early-career researchers in Norway (91%), Croatia and the Netherlands (89%), Sweden (76%), and Slovenia (73%) are given a short-term employment contract while they work toward their Ph.D.s. Other countries had relatively high percentages of doctoral researchers with no employment contracts of any kind: Austria (25%), Spain (24%), Portugal (18.5%), Finland and Germany (17%), and France and Slovenia (12%).
- Fewer than one in 10 Ph.D. candidates were aware of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers, which outlines the roles, responsibilities, and rights of researchers and their employers. The exceptions are Spain (23% knew of them), France (14%) and Portugal (12%).
- Most respondents in all the countries surveyed reported having access to training courses during their doctorate programs, but a significant proportion of respondents in Portugal (38%), Germany (37%), Slovenia (32%), Croatia (23%), and Austria (21%) reported not receiving any kind of formal training.
- In all of the countries surveyed, the majority of doctoral researchers found their supervisor supportive or very supportive.
- Whether doctoral candidates can put a contract on hold and get paid while on paternity/maternity leave differs widely across countries.
- Nonetheless, many doctoral researchers feel pressured to postpone taking parental leave; Spain (18.3%), Germany (30%), and France (34.2%) showed the fewest respondents who felt such pressure.
September 13, 2011
September 7, 2011
September 6, 2011
August 31, 2011
August 11, 2011
August 10, 2011
August 10, 2011
August 9, 2011
August 3, 2011
August 3, 2011
August 2, 2011
The Careers blog for postgraduates points to additional sources of information about dyslexia.
You can read the entire entry here.
July 29, 2011
July 28, 2011
July 26, 2011
July 25, 2011
July 20, 2011
July 19, 2011
July 18, 2011
July 14, 2011
July 8, 2011
July 4, 2011
- Graduates find extra-curricular activities to be the best way to develop their competencies outside of their degree.
- STEM graduates feel least confident in their leadership and self-evaluation abilities.
- Applicants' confidence in all competencies drops during a stressful situation, such as job interviews.
- A lack of experience concerns graduates most when they're looking for a job.
- About three quarters of STEM graduates take the opinions of their friends, family, or lecturers into consideration when choosing a career.
- Personal fulfillment is the most important aspect influencing STEM graduates when choosing their first job.
June 21, 2011
June 20, 2011
June 14, 2011
June 13, 2011
June 3, 2011
May 31, 2011
The conference will feature a 'Young researchers' and PhD workshop - research on innovative solutions for the elderly' (YR-RISE reloaded) on the first day. Early-career scientists investigating technical solutions for older adults are invited to submit an abstract for a poster or a short oral presentation. The workshop is organized along 5 different tracks: computing and serious games; social inclusion, mobility, and networking; ambient assistance and robotics; neurotechnologies; and all other research topics. You have until 30 June 2011 to submit your abstract.
May 27, 2011
May 12, 2011
April 28, 2011
April 27, 2011
April 15, 2011
April 8, 2011
April 6, 2011
April 5, 2011
March 29, 2011
March 11, 2011
March 9, 2011
March 7, 2011
March 2, 2011
I was intrigued and more than willing to try out 'Power of Research' for myself even though, admittedly, I'm not much of a game player. My verdict a few days in: Overall, the game does a great job of introducing players to the world of research, but there are some career, technical, and scientific aspects that I think should be improved.
February 25, 2011
February 10, 2011
January 28, 2011
You may read the whole article on PickTheBrain.com."Remember that ideas alone don't bring success - Ideas are important, but they're only valuable after they've been implemented. One average idea that's been put into action is more valuable than a dozen brilliant ideas that you're saving for 'some other day' or the 'right opportunity'."
January 11, 2011
January 5, 2011
Developing a thick skin is essential for meetings in the Daley Lab, says Lensch... Without the personal comfort level the group has acquired by spending time together socially, the level of honesty they express in their meetings would be difficult, says Lensch. When you know your lab mates well, 'they're not going to take it personally' when you criticize their data, he says. 'They've seen you in the morning in a bathrobe.'
December 22, 2010
December 15, 2010
December 8, 2010
December 6, 2010
As we highlighted in a recent Science Careers article, most researchers have to make judgments in their day-to-day practice of research that have ethical implications. While falsification/fabrication of data, and plagiarism, are largely seen as unforgivable scientific sins, junior researchers are routinely confronted with decisions about how they carry out and report research that could either be seen as appropriate, questionable, or unethical depending on where they draw the line.
In an Inside Higher Ed column published last Friday, Professor of Education and Law at Lehigh University Perry A. Zirkel analyzes a possible case of self-plagiarism after stumbling across two research articles that were published in different journals the same year and shared one author, together with big chunks of text. "Yet neither article cited the other," Zirkel writes.
In his discussion of the case, Zirkel makes an important distinction between self-plagiarism and text recycling. I would like to pass it along here as food for thought.
"Exploring relevant writings... I found that the issue of self-plagiarism is better understood in terms of specific parsing within the more general concept of plagiarism," Zirkel writes. In particular, "as Scanlon has explained, ... self-plagiarism poses the problem of imposture, not theft. Here, imposture refers to padding, churning, over-crediting, or, in Bird's words, 'implying that the author is more productive than is actually the case.'"
Text recycling is a grayer area, Zirkel says. "The blurry boundary for text recycling as an ethical matter appears to be not only the amount but also the nature of the material duplicated without attribution,"Zirkel adds. "For example, repeating significant parts of the literature review or the methodology is far less shady than is doing the same for the core, i.e., the results, of the study." Zirkel refers to codes of conduct and journal guidelines that prohibit publishing old data as new and advocate transparency.
Zirkel's column also highlights how difficult it can be to pinpoint actual sins and enforce sanctions. Putting the issues under the microscope, as Zirkel does, is an essential step in helping the scientific community put an end to questionable practices.
November 25, 2010
November 23, 2010
"First, choose young scientists who show originality in their thinking and almost have a maverick mind. They have to be bright, hardworking and [able to] work in a team."
Assuming you work in labs led by PIs with the same philosophy as Waldmann, boldness and competence should be rewarded.
The full interview was published last Wednesday in The Washington Post."Then, as the administrator, give them the resources and a large amount of independence. Show enthusiasm and support for their activities."
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.
October 4, 2010
September 8, 2010
August 26, 2010
A recent article in The Scientist highlights the difficulties professors face if they wish to continue running a lab beyond the retirement age imposed by many European countries: "When a recently retired colleague warned [former Karolinska Institutet professor Jan-Åke] Gustafsson, who was quickly approaching Sweden's upper mandatory retirement age of 67, that emeritus professors aren't taken seriously in Sweden, he began to realize it was all too true. Emeritus colleagues received fewer and shorter grants and were more segregated from their departments," the article states.
For many well-established professors, the only way to keep their research going at full speed, if at all, is to start all over again overseas. Of course, you're much more marketable and can land much more prestigious positions if you've got a life-long career's worth of achievements on your CV. But the advice that the later-career professors offer for starting over at a new institution strike me as applicable to scientists at the beginning of their careers. Here's some of their advice:
Research your options
"'Start early, at around 60, to really think about what you want to do,' says Gustafsson... Gustafsson talked with colleagues about the pros and cons of becoming an emeritus professor before making his decision, and once he was sure, began his search for a new institution several years before reaching retirement age."
"Careful planning will allow you to avoid the worst aspect of moving - the loss of productivity, says Gustafsson. 'Organize the move efficiently, starting with the administrative details, a year before,' he says."
Don't burn any bridges
"As [former University of Helsinki, Finland Albert] de la Chapelle dissolved his lab in preparation for the move, able to only bring a few junior faculty members with him, he was faced with seven dependent doctoral candidates still at Helsinki. 'We had to really scramble to get their lives organized and get them co-mentors in Finland,' says de la Chapelle... But it was worth it: Today, those graduate students remain his key ties back to the university, he says."
Forced retirement is one reason why you may have to unwillingly leave your institution, at least in Europe, but in these days of economic recession even tenured professors have been made redundant. This makes it all the more important to keep your career-development skills well-honed all along the way for when you might need them.
You can read the full article on The Scientist's Web site.
August 19, 2010
Monica J. Harris, a social psychologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, made a compelling case in yesterday's issue of Inside Higher Ed that the number of Ph.D. students should be reduced.
Harris, who has been the committee chair or co-chair for 13 Ph.D. students in her 23 years of professorship, has become increasingly concerned in the recent years about the dire career prospects for young scientists in academia, she writes in the opinion piece.
"Population growth of that magnitude is a Malthusian melt-down in the making and simply isn't sustainable. We're not creating enough academic jobs to absorb all those Ph.D.s, and in today's economy, applied jobs are disappearing as well."
Until recently, the way Harris dealt with the poor academic job market was by warning prospective graduate students against the difficulties ahead as they came to her office seeking to take the first step toward a tenure-track position, she says. But seeing a staggering number of strong applicants compete in recent faculty searches at her institution got her wondering
"what would come of the countless others in the pool who had decent, even impressive, vitas but simply couldn't vault to the top of a short list? And would the students I train be able to compete at such a level? At this stage of my career, I'm publishing steadily but not spectacularly. I feel I can offer students excellent training in research methodology and theory, but I am no longer confident that will be enough to propel them to the top of a short list for the kinds of jobs they came into graduate school wanting."
Harris has decided that her "full disclosure" strategy is no longer adequate. A few weeks ago, she decided not to accept any more Ph.D. students until the job market shows signs of recovery. Meanwhile, she plans to take on honors undergraduates in spite of their greater need for supervision, collaborate with other colleagues who have Ph.D. students, and move her scholarship in new directions.
"Knowing that prospective students apply to graduate school of their own free will, with hope in their hearts and stardust in their eyes, doesn't absolve faculty of some portion of responsibility for the current crisis. ... I think I will sleep better knowing that I am no longer contributing to an academic job market that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a Ponzi scheme on the verge of falling apart."
Harris's opinion piece was met with readers' comments that ranged from the very critical to the very supportive.
I applaud Harris's ethical approach and her sense of professional responsibility. But in the course of the articles I have written for Science Careers, I've met countless young scientists who made satisfying careers for themselves in academia and in all kinds of alternative sectors. Some of them had a Ph.D. supervisor far less nurturing than Harris. Others started out in research in obscure or obsolete areas, entered the hottest of the research fields, or set their hearts on career alternatives no less competitive than academic science.
The job market is tough and probably always will be. The best solution, I think, is not deliberate population control but full disclosure. Make sure prospective Ph.D. candidates know the odds of succeeding in academia and are aware of the range of career alternatives open to them if they should fail in, or decide not to pursue, an academic career.
But let them make the choice, because we cannot know ahead of time who will fail, who will find their dream job at a research university, who will solve our energy problems or cure some horrific disease, or who will end up happy in a career they had never heard of when embarking on a Ph.D. Whether or not one stays in academia, one develops many valuable and marketable skills while training to be a researcher. And sometimes you have to go through the process to know what you want to do in life.
July 29, 2010
July 28, 2010
It's important to remember that even the magical sorting hat had a difficult time deciding whether to assign Harry to Gryffindor or Slytherin -- precisely due to the idiosyncratic blend of personal attributes that eventually made him great.
July 14, 2010
July 13, 2010
- Reflecting on Your Preferences
- Researching Your Options
Once you know what you want, you have to match it with what you find out is out there. "The first person many of us think of turning to when we want to talk about our careers is our PI, and you may have a productive conversation with your PI about your career, but it may also be that they really have a specific career in mind for you and so they don't want to have an open and honest and frank conversation with you... It may also be that they don't know a lot about other career options" outside of research, Blaser said. Searching Science Careers and other careers Web sites, reading books, talking to career service professionals, looking at job ads in journals, and networking are all good approaches to mapping the career landscape.
- Conducting Informational Interviews
- Making the Transition
Training expectations and career paths are different in academia and other sectors, so this is something that you need to find out. Assess the skills you already have and figure out what other skills you will need to get into your new field of choice. Volunteering, doing an internship, getting a fellowship, gaining additional training, and taking a part-time or temporary job will all help you get in.
- Talking to Your Supervisor
Some day you'll have to walk in and tell your supervisor that you don't want to stay in academia. "They've invested in you; you've invested in them," Weibl said. This is a "difficult conversation that you must have at some point with your adviser." It can help to realize that "this is about you, not about them", and that you are not the only person who has these doubts about whether or not to become an academic scientist. "It's not unusual for your adviser to actually surprise you with a very positive and supportive response, but you're going to have to talk to that person, and you're going to have to own that decision," Weibl added.
It may not feel like it at the time, but take this as a time of opportunity. "We have this plan maybe when we start grad school that we are going to be this great researcher, we're going to become an academic, get tenure. But things might go differently, and that' s not necessarily a failure," Blaser said. "It's a time to re-evaluate and figure out where you want to go."
July 9, 2010
One of the sessions organized by Science Careers this week at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) in Turin, Italy aimed to give young scientists a leg up in the increasingly competitive race for funds. The workshop offered advice from three different perspectives -- a national research council, an international funding organization, and a winner of a Starting Grant from the European Research Council -- which I summarize below:
- Identifying a Grant Program
Identify existing funding programs well in advance. "For each step in your career, there is a program that fits. Look carefully, and find the right one," said Markus Behnke, a program officer in the Chemistry and Process Engineering Division of the German Research Foundation (DFG) in Bonn.
Make sure you check out the details: the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), for example, ` only funds basic biology research with a focus on interdisciplinary and international collaborations. "We are very different from national research councils, though we are not a foundation," said Guntram Bauer, Director of Fellowships at HFSP in Strasbourg, France. "So first learn about the organization and its philosophy," Bauer added. Even when looking at opportunities within the same body, "Carefully read the guidelines, because they all are different and [there is a] rapid program turnover."
You should "Tailor your proposal according to the specific objectives of the program," Bauer said. But only up to a point: "Read carefully the grant call and see if your idea fits that kind of call... If you have any doubt, call and ask questions. It could be the wrong grant," said Vittoria Colizza, an ERC Starting Grant winner who leads the Computational Epidemiology Lab at the Institute for Scientific Interchange (ISI Foundation) in Turin, Italy.
- Finding a Good Research Idea
How much is expected of you depends on your career stage, but ultimately what you need is a good idea. Yet be aware that "to have a good idea is not good enough. You have to have it clear in your mind," Colizza said.
For many funding bodies, good also means bold. ERC grants in particular require an ambitious project, which "by definition is risky and tricky," Colizza said. This means that you also need to prove your ability to seeing it through: "Say out aloud what is the problem, what are the risks, and how you think you are going to cope with them," she added.
To get one of the ERC Starting Grants, which target young researchers aiming to become independent, you also need to develop a broader vision. At this point in their careers, "many have a vision limited to the day after. This cannot work. Think about the papers you'll be writing in the next 5 years," Colizza SAID.
- Finding a Host Institution
The host institution is especially important if you're applying for an individual fellowship: You have to demonstrate that this is really the right place for you, Behnke said. So explain your reasons for picking your host (to learn a new technique or follow a new research direction, for example) and how this fits into your career plans (your host may agree to you running a small team within the lab). This implies discussing the project with your host before hand and going to visit them to check out the equipment, Behnke added.
- Positioning Yourself
Know yourself and your competitors in the field, especially for an ERC Starting Grant. You should be able to say, "'Yes, there are several groups who do that in this way. I can do it in that way'," Colizza said. Also explain what it is going to bring to the community and demonstrate your ability and willingness to collaborate, she added. "Show that don't want to play solo, that you are able to reach out."
If you are working in an interdisciplinary field, be prepared "to prove that you are the right person" for the project, said Colizza, who is a physicist studying the epidemiology of infectious diseases. Time and again she had to make the case to reviewers for why, even though she was not a biomedical doctor, not a biologist, and not a biostatistician, she could do the research. Demonstrate that you've got the training and are bringing something new and innovative, she said.
- Demonstrating Your Other Skills
To get an ERC Starting Grant in particular, you also need to demonstrate your ability to manage a research group. "If you are able to do very good science, this is not enough to get a grant. [You need] to convince [reviewers] that you are able to succeed in the project. This is science plus managing science," Colizza said. If you have supervised a few students in the past, assisted younger researchers, or taught classes, "all this helps," she added. "If you are still junior and nobody gives you enough independence, try to find some space because it gives you experience" that you can then add in into your application.
- Crafting Your Summary
Arguably, one of the most important bits in your application is the proposal's summary. "You can be a winner immediately if you convince people" in your summary, DFG's Behnke said. "Some say it's only the summary that's carefully analyzed by reviewers."
So, what makes a good summary? Make it understandable to people who may not be experts in your field, Behnke explained. Keep it as short as possible. Regarding content, in a DFG application, for example, you will be expected to show that you can fill in a knowledge gap, and you also need to lay out your preliminary work, working hypotheses, and approaches to finding a solution. You should also define your research's key points and milestones, Behnke added.
- Writing a Good Application
Give your C.V. a clear structure, and do not list articles that are 'in prep.' "Most people try to fill up the list with many, many publications, even if they are not written... Reviewers do not like it," Behnke said. "Add only the most relevant papers," he added, bearing in mind that reviewers have no time to figure out what is a poster and what is a peer-reviewed publication.
Be aware that many of the skills and strengths that are relevant in a grant application are "not something that you prove with a lot of publications," Colizza said. "You really need to write what you have been doing... [Reviewers] have to read it explicitly, not between the lines ... that you are proactive on carrying out your ideas," for example.
In your research proposal, when reviewing the state of the art in the field, "Make sure it is self-explanatory. Reviewers shouldn't have to read the literature to figure out the research," Behnke said. All the way through, be clear and precise: Detail what you aim to do and how, the timing, all the budget issues, and what you are going to do besides hiring staff, Colizza said. For example, when presenting the time line, break down your project into modules that build upon each other, Behnke added.
"All of this nicely, smoothly integrated and very, very clear, " Colizza said. This implies using simple language. "If you try to be a poet, you may hurt yourself. Just write plain and simple English. It can be really convincing," Bauer added.
- Giving (no more than) What You're Being Asked
Expect funding bodies to ask for different things. The Young Investigators' Grant program run by the HFSP, which targets teams of 2-4 members all within 5 years of starting their independent position, for example offers a fixed amount of money relative to the size of the team. At the HFSP, reviewers "don't discuss the budget, just the science," Bauer said. No need either to include preliminary data, as the research should be "hypothesis-driven," Bauer added. Make sure you write a new application for each body. And "if we see a grant with milestones, we know it is a cheap copy of an ERC grant."
- Dealing With Rejection
If you're nut successful, "Take it easy. Don't take it personally. This is about science," Behnke said. If you feel there has been some bias, "phone the agency. It may happen," Behnke said. Above all, "don't be discouraged." You can resubmit, and notes from reviewers can greatly help you improve your application. Also get in touch with the agency to discuss future directions, Bauer recommended.
APECS was born out of the involvement of young scientists in the 2007-2008 International Polar Year (IPY), a story told on Science Careers in April 2008. Among the goals of the polar year "was to expand the polar community," said David Carlson of the International Polar Year program office in the United Kingdom. "There was nothing in the system preventing young scientists to come with ideas and say, 'we want to be the next generation of polar scientists.'" And that's effectively what the founders of APECS did.
APECS started out with no budget but a lot of enthusiasm and the support of the IPY program office, Baeseman said. Its early members used free tools such as Google Groups and Skype to organize themselves and start creating an active community of young polar scientists. But "from the very beginning, we decided that it is great that young people get together... but we don't want to be by ourselves," Baeseman said. "We wanted to learn from senior researchers ... to continue the continuum of knowledge."
In 2008, APECS signed a memorandum of understanding with two large international polar organizations -- the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) -- that gave them recognition as the primary organization for young polar researchers. This "gave us institutional recognition, even though we were just was a Google Group and Web site," Baeseman said.
APECS soon started organizing career development activities at other organizations' meetings, inviting senior polar researchers to sit on discussion panels and share their experience. "And then we all go for a beer and it gets nice and lively," Baeseman said. APECS also runs discussion forums and technical workshops in which "we invite experts to come and give advice... Nothing that we do is by ourselves," she said. It is "always with senior researchers."
APECS runs a mentorship program with a database of senior scientists interested in mentoring younger researchers. This makes it easier to find the right connections if, say, you're a young scientist in Norway who wants to go and work in Germany, Baeseman said. "You know they are willing to support you," she said. The organization also hosts virtual poster sessions on their Web site, which they like to think of as "the Facebook of polar science," Baeseman said.
Today APECS is tied into several international organizations, gets involved in science policy, organizes its own conferences, and runs education and outreach activities. "When you're a grad student you're trained to do the science, you're not trained to be a scientist," Baeseman said. "We help to provide the training to be a scientist."
While Baeseman credits the success of APECS to dedicated volunteers, support from established organizations, and support from senior researchers devoted to promoting young researchers, Baeseman's own dedication to the organization belongs on that list. When Science Careers first met Baeseman at a 2007 conference in Lindau, Germany, she was a tenure-track faculty member at Kent State University. "I decided that the tenure track wasn't for me," she said.
The opportunity came up to go to the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States in Fairbanks, Alaska, to continue to develop APECS, so she took it. Toward the end of that time, the association put out a call to individual countries to host an international office for APECS. Norway stepped forward, and Baeseman now lives there and works full time as director of APECS.
She continues to do some research for a National Science Foundation grant she received while she was in Fairbanks; she published a research paper and wrote a book chapter this year. "I think it's important that when you start to make this transition from a research career to something else that you try to keep a foot in the research door."
At the same time, her devotion to APECS and its mission has provided her with a new career: "You have to find your talent and figure out where you can help science the most, and for me I think it's the administration level, helping scientists make science happen."
-by Elisabeth Pain and Kate Travis
June 11, 2010
As reported by Dan Clery in this week's issue of Science, there is a pending shake-up in the landscape of pan-European research organizations: The European Heads of Research Councils (EUROHORCs) and the European Science Foundation (ESF) are planning a merger.
EUROHORCs' national science funding agencies collectively control about €25 billion per year -- an 85% share of the overall research money available in Europe (the European Union contributes a 5% share). But, as Clery notes, EUROHORCs has no headquarters or staff. On the other hand, ESF, which has an annual budget of €50 million a year, has more than 120 staff members in Strasbourg, France, has been funding research, supporting networks and conferences, and developing science policy for decades.
The two pan-European bodies got to collaborate in response to EU's efforts to develop the European Research Area (ERA), which aims to facilitate the mobility of researchers through the harmonization of career structures and funding systems across Europe. EUROHORCs and ESF together issued a roadmap on how the ERA might be achieved, but they realized their voice would be stronger and clearer if the two bodies merged.
Among the planned changes would be a greater role in science policy development and in joint funding coordination for the new organization -- tentatively called the European Research Organization. ESF would stop distributing money (which came mostly from EUROHORCs members).
You may read the whole article on the Science Web site (subscription required).
June 10, 2010
Tenure-track faculty are more at risk of suffering burnout from their teaching duties than their tenured and non-tenure track counterparts, according to a study presented yesterday at the American Association of University Professors annual conference in Washington. Articles on the study appear in today's Inside Higher Ed and yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education.
The research is based on a survey carried out in 2008 by then Ph.D. candidate Janie Crosmer of Texas Woman's University. Crosmer analyzed self-reported burnout among 411 full-time U.S. professors, half of whom were tenured, a quarter non-tenured, and another quarter on the tenure track. Burnout levels were measured in terms of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (defined as "An unfeeling and impersonal response toward recipients of one's service, care, treatment or instruction") and perceptions of personal accomplishment.
Crosmer found that, overall, faculty members are not more burned out than the average working population. But a closer analysis of the data revealed differences depending on the career stage of the faculty respondents. The survey tool measured emotional exhaustion on a scale of 0-54; 14-23 was average burnout and 24 and higher was a high degree of burnout. Tenure-track faculty reported an average level of emotional exhaustion of 22.3, well above the tenured faculty's 20.9 and non tenure-track faculty's 16.4. Women seemed more at risk than men, scoring a 20.9 average compared to 18.5 for men.
And while no significant differences were detected in the level of professional satisfaction between the 3 different career stages, tenure-track faculty (including men and women) experienced the highest level of depersonalization, compared to tenured professors and non-tenure track faculty, Inside Higher Ed's article reports.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Crosmer mentions the "Lack of time, poorly prepared students, cumbersome bureaucratic rules, high self expectations, unclear institutional expectations, and low salary" as the key reasons for burnout. And she attributed the greater emotional exhaustion of women to "gender expectations: You have to be a wife, a mother, a caretaker, and a professor all at once."
Still, The Chronicle reports, Crosmer offered one solution to help reduce burnout: "If departments would adopt collectivistic values. It's sometimes hard for professors to feel like they're in a community, a community where they can share the workload. If one faculty member is really busy working on getting a grant, for instance, maybe a colleague could step up and teach their classes. If faculty members didn't feel like they had to do it all, that they had someone within their community to turn to, I think that would help."
Some follow-up comments dismissed the idea as unrealistic. The commentercompetition as an important factor to burnout and a very good reason for not asking for help: "If I were to ask an untenured colleague to teach my classes so that I can work on a grant, the colleague would rub their hands together in glee, because I would have given them great ammunition in the ongoing competition, not to mention endless opportunities for snarky remarks - clearly I am not up to the job if I need to ask for help. I simply wouldn't mention it to a tenured colleague, because they might see my asking for help as a reason to vote against my tenure case."
And even if you're well-intentioned and want to help, often you simply can't afford the luxury, also commented '"Let's get past this notion that somewhere in our schedules we have 'extra' time to share and start talking about hiring some of the unemployed and underemployed PhDs to help reduce our loads to manageable levels."
Nonetheless, I think Crosmer's suggestion is well worth exploring. How much flexibility you may have in juggling your duties probably depends a great deal on your particular situation, colleagues, and institution. Admittedly, she is at the tenured level, but when I recently talked to Begoña Vittoriano, a successful and appreciated scientist at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain who combines her mathematical research with development cooperation activities in poor countries, she mentioned to me that she sometimes swaps teaching duties with colleagues to make some of her traveling possible.
April 6, 2010
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.
March 31, 2010
A popular way of mustering innovative and fresh ideas is to hold a brainstorming session -- but according to a paper published recently in Applied Cognitive Psychology, this may not be the best approach. The study, which was carried out by Nicholas Kohn of the University of Texas at Arlington and Steven Smith of Texas A&M University, suggests that instead of enhancing creativity, brainstorming sessions may give rise to a "collaborative fixation" on certain ideas.
In keeping with previous studies, the authors first found that participants produced fewer ideas, in total, when taking part in a brainstorming session than if they had been working separately. The difference was as high as 44% in the first 5 minutes of a brainstorming session. The authors also found that when working separately participants explored a greater variety of ideas, up to 55% more idea categories than during brainstorming sessions.
In a second experiment, the researchers found that participants in a brainstorming session tended to conform "to ideas to which they were exposed, and the rate of conformity increased as the number of ideas exposed increased," the authors wrote in their paper. "Fixation to other people's ideas can occur unconsciously and lead to you suggesting ideas that mimic your brainstorming partners. Thus, you potentially become less creative," Kohn explains in an accompanying press release.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you should ban brainstorming sessions from your lab meetings. You might just need to adjust the format. It seems odd, but, depending on what you want to achieve, the best approach might be to put everyone in a separate room.
"Assuming it is desirable to have a wide variety of ideas or solutions to a problem... then one should split the brainstorming group into non-interacting individuals, avoiding a group session," the authors write in their research paper. "On the other hand, if the goal is to explore a few categories in depth, then interacting among the members should be encouraged. Also, taking a break might help alleviate fixation, leading to an improvement in ideation, especially in terms of the quantity and variety of ideas."
March 26, 2010
Over the next one or two decades, research infrastructure in Europe could begin to look very different. For the coming generation of scientists, that means new challenges and opportunities on the horizon.
As the Sixth European Conference on Research Infrastructures (ECRI2010), which took place in Barcelona earlier this week, once more demonstrated, ambitions can be simple, but implementation is slow and complex.
Europe is planning to build or upgrade 44 large-scale pan-European research facilities, all of them listed in a roadmap document released in 2008 by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). The list of projects includes, for example, the so-called new Global Ocean Observing Infrastructure (EURO-ARGO), the new European Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Laboratory Infrastructure (ECCSEL), and upgrades to the European Life Science Infrastructure for Biological Information (ELIXIR).
The open, competitive process of selecting these projects for new facilities means that the next generation of European scientists should have access to first-rate instruments to pursue research of pan-European interest. Researchers can also expect to be granted access to these new facilities on a competitive basis, and Europe has money to pay for such travel costs.
The opening of these new research facilities should provide new training and research opportunities. For example, the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (European XFEL), which is being built near Hamburg, Germany, is expected to start operation in 2014 and have a workforce of 300 people. Some postdoc and engineering positions are already posted on the project's Web site.
"Construction of a large-scale facility requires always highly specialized and trained scientists, engineers, technicians, managers," Michel van der Rest, Chair of the European association of national Research Facilities open to international access (ERF), said during ECRI2010. If you take a job in a facility under construction, you should be willing to see your job evolve as the facility moves into an operation and maintenance phase. "Short-term and long-term staff exchanges and staff mobility are key parameters to maintain competence and motivation," van der Rest added. He and other speakers highlighted the need for a better legal framework including portable pension schemes to promote international mobility.
Several speakers at the ECRI conference highlighted what they described as largely unaddressed training gaps. For example, as science requires increasingly complex and expensive bits of equipment, the next generation of researchers should be prepared to go and carry out their experiments in large-scale facilities scattered not only around Europe but also all over the world, said founding ESFRI member John Wood. "You need to look at how you are going to train these young people in that [global] environment," where e-infrastructure and mobility will become key aspects of the job.
Another training gap is in the skills needed to manage large research facilities. As Carlos Losada, Director General of the ESADE Business School, said in his talk, pan-European research infrastructures require 3 kinds of management: at the level of the facility itself, at the level of relationships with other facilities, companies, providers, and clients, and -- the third level -- within the broader context of the European Research Area. "Each of these levels has different types of leadership" and requires "different management competencies," Losada said. "Scientists with a solid level of knowledge management and developed competencies in managing is probably the best solution."
The conference left me feeling that the opportunities a more international environment offers young scientists largely outweigh the challenges. If you know what kind of research may be hot and doable in the future or if you are able to anticipate shortages in transferable skills, it could well be that in 10 or 20 years' time you have positioned yourself to become a leader in your area, whether scientific or managerial. But you have to be willing to get the training you will need by yourself .
The "training of young scientists, engineers, and technicians in line with the needs of the upcoming large scale facilities should be a priority. The ESFRI roadmap should be used to anticipate the needs of technical expertise at the european level," van der Rest said.
March 18, 2010
Another article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education today and written by Mary Ann Mason, co-director of the Berkeley Law Center on Health, Economic & Family Security, looks at how over the years women have won, and lost, lawsuits for tenure denial based on sex discrimination.
The laws are there: "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or religion. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII and prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions," Mason writes in the article. "What protection those laws offer has been the subject of evolving interpretation by federal courts," however, and it has become "more difficult for a plaintiff in a tenure case to prove discrimination" these last 20 years.
Even if you are successful, the price may just be too high to pay. "In practice, few plaintiffs are reinstated, and most compensation packages do not financially justify the enormous time and expense of the lawsuit and the shame of replaying a failure in the public eye. Colleagues may avoid you, and you may [be] tagged with the odious label of 'troublemaker,' which almost guarantees you will not receive another job offer," Mason writes.
On the positive side, Mason adds, the women who brought up and won lawsuits have contributed to creating a more open tenure procedure where candidates are today better informed of their rights. Still lacking, however, are equal opportunities to mentoring and the creation of a flexible tenure-track.
"Even with a fair, open process and family-responsive policies to help parents (still a distant goal at most universities), there will always be those who suffer the cruel sting of denial. I don't think the answer is abolishing the tenure system... Instead, let's just get on with making a good system a fair system for men and women," concludes Mason.
March 18, 2010
Case No. 1: You're an assistant professor, married with young children, at a small liberal-arts college... It's been a long year, and you're looking forward to... that long-neglected family vacation. Then your chair... announces that a senior colleague has unexpectedly retired: Can you cover her classes over the summer?
Case No. 2: You have been invited for an on-campus interview for a tenure-track position. At the get-acquainted dinner, the conversation focuses on elementary schools and the best place to hold an 8-year-old's birthday party. One of the committee members turns to you and asks, "So, do you have children?"
An article written by David D. Perlmutter and published today in the Chronicle of Higher Education looks at "When and How to Use the Other 'F' Word" -- Family, that is -- at work.
"For most of us, but especially for probationary faculty members, family dynamics affect career success. Talking about those issues, however, is risky," Perlmutter writes. In his article, Perlmutter outlines adequate ways to respond in the two situations described above, and preconises not using family as an excuse to bypass faculty obligations, speaking about your family in moderation, and being willing to hear about some family stories even if you don't have kids yourself.
Read the whole article.
February 26, 2010
The science video channel AthenaWeb features a nice documentary on several young researchers who have won Starting Grants from the European Research Council. The video, entitled 'Bringing Great Ideas To Life: The European Research Council (ERC)' was supported with ERC funding.
Science is "an attitude," Fotis C. Kafatos (who has since stepped down as ERC President, replaced by Helga Nowotny) says in the video. "It's not just important to know what's already known but to learn and discover what is not known. So we really have to trust the young. We have to give them the message that Europe encourages them to come and stay... and help Europe be one of the major science centers in the world."
A former beer-brewing engineer now studying pheromones of amphibians using fake frogs; a cello player studying how our hearing and touch senses work at the molecular level; an economist looking at the impact of media coverage on how hard local politicians work; and a geologist who simulates earthquakes inside the lab, are among the profilees.
At the time of the recording, 600 ERC Starting Grant agreements had been signed. "If you have a bright idea, and if you want to start an independent career, then apply to the ERC grants and we will help you... to bring this great idea to life," concluded Dr Jack Metthey, ad interim Director of the ERC Executive Agency.
February 22, 2010
Another Science Careers session held at the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego last Friday afternoon aimed to give women and underrepresented minority scientists some practical tips on boosting their chances to get onto the next rung of the academic career ladder. Instead of spinning a narrative, I'm just highlighing some of the main points the speakers made in their presentation.
Dr Hind Saidani-Scott, Senior Lecturer in mechanical engineering at
I do not like defeats. I have always been a fighter and you need to be one if you want to succeed.
If you have a problem (racism, harassment, discrimination) tackle it when it occurs.
Do not use [family tasks] as an excuse to miss meetings or deadlines.
Just keep going. The more you achieve, the easiest it becomes.
- As women you will have huge challenges to overcome. But if we want things to improve, we have to learn from our experiences and try to help others in similar situations instead of saying 'we overcame these problems [ourselves], so let them do it the hard way.'
Regents and Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez of
MULTIPLE mentors (research, inspirational, savvy, etc.)
Mentors at a DISTANCE are essential (phone, skype ...)
Isolation and Stress are the Biggest Challenges at every single step
Membership in a real community of professionals of your type
Regular Access to Professional Development Programs
Sacrifices may only be truly understood by your peers. Need to stay connected to a community of your own scientific peers--they can be your support group and the best INITIAL source of information
Associate Professor of African American Studies & Sociology Kerry Ann Rockquemore, University of Illinois at Chicago (You may find Professor Rockquemore's entire presentation, 'Playing to Win', on her web site www.NewFacultySuccess.com):
Know how your institution works organizationally and the unwritten Rules of Engagement
Align time and priorities, develop a strategic plan, learn how to manage conflict
Know what you need and get it from the BEST source
Many core needs can be met outside of traditional mentoring relationships
Be strategic with "mentors" so that you get from them the things only they can give you
There are resources for your support, but you have to pro-actively seek them out
Dr JoAnn Moody, Faculty Development and Diversity Specialist in San Diego (The tex below are excerpts from a document Professor Moody distributed on the day and is a summary from Professor Moody's 2009 booklet 'Solo Faculty: Improving Retention and Reducing Stress". More information can be found on her Web site DiversityonCampus.com:
Predictable stressors and complex dynamics faced by a 'solo' ("one of a numerical few")
Standing for a stereotype and a group ("I somehow represent my whole tribe")
Heightened visibility and feeling in the spotlight
Awkward moments, micro-agressions (both deliberate and non-deliberate)
Solo often has to sort through 'What did that comment mean? ... Or Am I being too sensitive?
February 20, 2010
In a career session at the AAAS Annual Meeting in
If I had to convey just one message from the workshop, it would be: if you are passionate about alleviating the burden of human disease and are willing to step onto new ground, there has never been a better time to enter clinical and translational research.
In the last several decades, a unique culture has developed in the United States in which many medical doctors pursue research. This culture has been well supplemented by M.D.-Ph.D. dual-degree programs. But the number of physician-scientists has been declining sharply over the years, and even if they were to expand, M.D.-Ph.D. programs would find it difficult to fill the open slots. The resut: "There are huge opportunities for Ph.D. scientists who want to train and affiliate with medics," Varki said.
Increasingly, disease-specific programs and Clinical and Translational Translational Science Awards (CTSA) programs are being put in place to help nurture careers in translational science among Ph.D. scientists. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) also offers Career Awards at the Scientific Interface for scientists with a background in the physical, mathematical, or computational sciences addressing biological questions. Still, "there is not a very good mechanism in place right now" to get into the field "if you haven't got an M.D.," Varki said. As a Ph.D. scientist, "You have to make it up for yourself."
This is not necessarily a bad thing, pointed out Jim Austin, Science Careers Editor and PI of CTSciNet, the Clinical and Translational Science Network, who was moderating the session. This also means that opportunities are wide open: "Start with a disciplinary training, see how it relates to medical applications, and go and find it."
Look for "opportunities where you feel you can have an impact," Topol said. For example, you could develop a particular area of expertise related to a disease or a biological pathway, and build up on that, he added.
Importantly, don't sell yourself short if you have no specialized training in a medical-related field, intervened Bill Galey, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, from the audience. Other scientific disciplines, like chemistry, physics, computer sciences, and mathematics are all be relevant to translational research. Medical imaging and nanotechnology are two examples of emerging areas needing physical scientists, and "as biology gets more quantitative, there is a greater need for people trained with that kind of quantitative skills," Galey said.
The best way to get in is to find a postdoc in the lab of a top-notch physician-scientist, Varki said. "You have to convince them that you really care, are serious, and want to give it a shot,"
As you progress in your translational research career, make sure to remain open-minded about opportunities as they come up. "Keep it flexible because you never know where science and medicine [will] get you," Varki said. For example, Topol, who trained as a cardiologist, pioneered the clinical use of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), an enzyme involved in the breakdown of blood clots, after hearing about tPA in a journal club. When that project "hit the wall," Topol started thinking: "'Why not get into the genetics of heart attack'," he says. "You've got fantastic project opportunities," Topol added. You just have to go and find them.
Another topic that came up for discussion during the workshop was the leaky pipeline for women. While during medical school, there is gender neutrality, but there is "never parity in those interested in research," Galey said. There is a general perception among women that combining an academic career with a clinical career and a family is very hard, he added. But "research is not inconsistent with family." Galey said, "It is much easier to tell your lab that you need to leave" to take your kid to the doctor "rather than a waiting room with lots of patients."
"Women need to stand up and say what needs to be done rather then having a few guys" trying to raise the issue, said Varki, who wrote an opinion piece on the need for on-site childcare facilities in the American Society for Cell Biology (ACSB) Newsletter a couple of years ago.
"The more you move towards patients, the more complicated it gets," Varki said. And getting a physician-Ph.D. position is in no way as competitive as getting a faculty position in the more traditional disciplines, he added.
Certainly, "The most exciting time in biomedical research is now," Topol said.
February 19, 2010
In a career workshop at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego Friday morning, Victoria McGovern of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund promised the audience three tips on how to improve their academic writing. But she gave many more than three.
McGovern kicked things off by inviting attendees to present their research to the person sitting next to them. Everyone immediately seemed happily engaged. Then, after a few minutes, McGovern asked if there was anyone in the audience who felt dread about writing. A few hands rose. "We are sociable animals," McGovern then said. "Writing allows you to communicate to more people than talking does." Yet, it's much the same thing. The message: Though many people are intimidated by writing, it's much the same as explaining something to an acquaintance.
Whether you are writing a dissertation, an abstract, or a paper, "science is all about telling stories." McGovern said. She urged scientists to think about the results they want to communicate as a novel or a movie with "a hero, a conflict, and a moment." She took the example of malaria research, where the malarian pathogen would be the bad guy and the conflict a struggle for survival between two species--the malaria pathogens and humans.
When telling your story, keep an engaging tone by leaning toward the active, she suggested. Scientists started writing using a lot of passive tense (using formulas like "it was discovered..." and so on) to remove themselves from the picture. "People didn't want to seem grandiose" about their discoveries." But the passive voice must not be overdone, she said.
Then, read aloud what you have written, even if it seems goofy. "English and most other languages have a rythm to them," McGovern says. Reading aloud, even if English is not your native language, will help you detect when you go astray by using too much passive or just too many words. "Don't spend lots of space to say something... Don't inflate things." Just "communicate real things to real people."
Just try to relax, she suggested. "It's just communicating with other people."
Finally, practice your writing by talking about your science with your family, friends, and anyone who will listen to you. "There is not much in science that cannot be expressed in simple language," McGovern said. Tell them what it's about, why it matters, what changes things, and where you intend to go from here.
Remember when you had a big break and went back home or told your family on the phone? "Bring that excitement into your scientific communication."
February 19, 2010
The first event I attented at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego was the Science Careers Speed Networking Breakfast hosted by Science Careers Outreach Project Director Brianna Blaser. I had never taken part in speed networking before, neither in speed dating for that matter, and once I got into it I found the event not only useful but also a lot of fun.
As attendees came in and served themselves to breakfast, Brianna quickly set up the rules of the game: pairs of participants would meet around a table for 4 minutes, after which she would blow a whistle for us all to swap networking partners.
The first person I met turned out to be hugely interesting. An Associate Dean for Graduate Studies at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of California-Irvine, Mike Mulligan told me of how he helped Ph.D. students deal with mental health problems during their scientific training. I would have interviewed him right here and then, but after Brianna whistled several times I decided to be disciplined and leave it for another time.
Next I met Suthesh Sivapalaratnam, an M.D. doing a Ph.D. at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Suthesh is Chair of Aprove, the PhD-student association of AMC Graduate School, and he told me about the initiatives the association has been putting in place to give a professional and social network to young scientists.
I also touched base with a representant of the Journal of Young Investigators (JYI), a journal entirely run by undergrads. With more than 10 years of existence, JYI gives undergrads an opportunity to submit their research for publication, be involved in the peer-review process, and write news and features articles.
As I got into the pace of speed networking, l met many other people whose work seemed less directly relevant to my own work and interests, but whith whom I had a fascinating chat nonetheless and swapped business cards in case a common interest would come up later on.
Starting at 7.30am, I would have thought that many (including myself) would have preferred taking their morning coffee in silence rather than starting chatting away with complete strangers. But the event offered many instant rewards beyond the caffeine-kick, and was an excellent way to get into a networking mood for the rest of the meeting.
February 8, 2010
February 4, 2010
According to a story published today by Zoë Corbyn in the Times Higher Education supplement, the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom has urged its principal investigators (PIs) to keep a better check on the originality of draft papers written by younger scientists.
The faculty's research strategy committee recently recommended "appropriate supervision of postdoctoral staff, 'including the previewing of draft papers' and the use of 'native English-speaking staff to support junior colleagues," Corbyn writes. The recommendation follows a case of plagiarism that led to the withdrawal of a paper that had been published last July. As explained by the faculty's dean of research, "the postdoc had inappropriately copied a large piece of text, and the principal investigator... had not checked his work," Corbyn reports.
Close mentoring and good training are needed to help young scientists learn proper procedures -- some plagiarism is unintentional -- and adopt appropriate ethical standards. But there is something in the recommendation that makes me a little uneasy. While it puts the onus on the PI to guarantee original research and writing, it seems to imply that only early-career scientists are prone to plagiarism.
To me, a more appropriate recommendation would be to encourage and train both PIs and young scientists on how to avoid, detect, and report plagiarism -- by their younger AND their older colleagues.
Read the full THE story here.
January 6, 2010
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published the story of how an undergraduate English teacher struck by a disability developed interactive ways to teach her students.
Elaine Smokewood, a 54-year-old English professor at Oklahoma City University in the United States, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease when she started losing her ability to speak and part of her mobility a couple of years ago. "Most professors believe they listen to their students, of course, and that they hold vibrant discussions in class," writes the aticle's author, Jeffrey R. Young. Smokewood was no exception, considering herself a "'highly interactive'" teacher, she told Young. "'But I still saw myself as the most important person in the room.'"
Disability forced Smokewood to give her classes from home, using a computer and a Web cam to display her image on a large monitor in the classroom, a videoconferencing system that shows her the students, and a speech synthesizer and typed text to talk to them.
The unusual setting made her a better teacher, Smokewood told Young. In particular, she became a better listener:
"I became a different kind of teacher than I had ever been--I became a teacher who actively listened," she wrote in a recent essay for the university's alumni newsletter. "I had in the past often confused listening with waiting for my students to stop talking so that I might resume the very important business of performing," she added. "I learned that if I listened carefully, thoughtfully, generously, and nonjudgmentally, my students would delight me with the complexity of their thinking, the depth of their insight, the delicious wickedness of their humor, and with their compassion, their wisdom, and their honesty."
Students are forced to participate much more in class: Smokewood makes them lead class discussions, quiz each others, and participate in an online forum discussion.
Her system may not work in all situations, Smokewood warns, especially for large or introductory classes. It seems to me it would also be difficult to implement in science classes, where traditionally there is less space for discussion and a greater need for equations, drawings, and demonstrations.
But listening more carefully to students and giving them a greater play in the classroom strikes me as a great way for teachers of all disciplines to better engage and prepare students.
Read the entire article here.
December 3, 2009
This morning I took part in a local career event organized by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) Barcelona and the Parc Científic Barcelona (PCB). This career event, entitled 'Career progression in science -- options beyond the bench' took an unusual format that I think worked really well.
In a 1-hour session, 7 speakers each talked about their own career transition for 5-10 minutes. A good breadth of career options were represented; among the speakers were a research and innovation manager, an entrepreneur, an investment manager, a science communicator, a European grant program officer, a patent attorney, and a science journalist (that was me).
It was interesting to see the many common themes that emerged from these presentations: the realization at Ph.D. or postdoctoral level that a career in science is not the right path, either because one doesn't enjoy some particular aspects of research or because one isn't a first-division researcher; the risk that leaving a career in academia represents; the many small steps one has to make to stir his or her career in a new direction; the readiness to experience different jobs and countries; and the importance of continuing to have a wide range of professional experiences even after the transition.
After these presentations, we all went into a coffee room where each speaker was allocated a table. Attendees were then left free to go and chat with any speaker they were interested in. The smell of coffee and the nice pastries helped give this session an informal and interactive feel.
One theme that kept coming back around my table was, how do you break into science journalism? Should I go for a journalism course or start working right away? Should I get a job or go freelance? These are all legitimate questions, but impossible to answer decisively. I felt I was being asked for a kind of recipe for baking a science journalism career.
My response: try and explore a range of opportunities that is as broad as possible. This will help you get to know the sector and can help you decide whether this is really what you want to do. If you are in the lucky position of having to choose between different opportunities, pick the one that best suits your aspirations and personal circumstances.
Altogether, this informal session lasted for 2 hours, and all of the speakers were kept busy with a constant stream of questions. Both speakers and attendants seemed really pleased with the event. I certainly was.