Researchers, writes Prof-like Substance at The Spandrel Shop, have to sell their work. "Like it or not, you're in sales," his blog post title notes. Investigators have to be able to convince their audience — especially a funding agency — that their research idea is good and worth spending the money on.
Prof-like adds that some researchers appear to look a bit down on this skill. "I hear people say, all the time, that so-and-so only got the money because they can sell their work. It is usually said with at least a subtle air of 'my science is better, but they're smoother,'" he writes. "The reality is that selling the ideas is critical to doing the science. Whether you are trying to get money from the federal government, industry or private donation, you still need to get people interested!"
Over at Fumbling Towards Tenure, Dr. Becca writes that as a new professor, things can change very quickly, much like being the parent of a newborn. "There are major milestones, and there are days when everything seems to regress," she writes. "Most of the time, you look back and wonder how your child/lab ever used to take the form it did not even all that long ago."
Her lab, she notes, has gotten off the ground as she's written a number of grants and a review paper, as well as taught undergraduate classes. But now, she adds, she has to get published and, importantly, raise her profile.
"I'm pretty sure a lot of my future success is going to depend on whether people remember my name when they review my grant applications and manuscripts and put together symposia panels," Dr. Becca writes. "To this end, I am really kicking the networking up a notch. Being brave, talking to the fancy pants people at meetings if I have the opportunity; forging new collaborations, and following up on interactions.
She adds, though, that it's not only about talking to "fancy pants people" but also developing relationships with researchers who are just a step or two ahead of her. They, Dr. Becca says, have figured out how to get their acts together and now have a "magical combination of sympathy and wisdom."
While he didn't say anything about sunscreen, James Watson offers some advice to today's postdocs. According to the Nature Jobs Blog, the main points Watson gave were to travel and to not do anything boring.
For his postdoc, Watson headed to the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, where he, Francis Crick, and their colleagues tackled the structure of DNA. "In general the best work at any given time is not being done in your own institution, it is in other places, so go to these other places and meet them," Watson says. "And if you meet them sometimes you can invite them to come and work in your place."
Further Watson says to avoid boring projects and instead to "do something as important as you can." He tells postdocs to tackle one of the big questions still unanswered in their field. Further he advises talking projects over with colleagues. "Most of my success wouldn’t have happened without the particular intellectual environment I was in," he adds. "Having someone as good as Francis Crick that I could talk to, I was very lucky."
Changes to progress reporting take effect this month, the Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health notes at its site. Researchers with NIH Streamlined Noncompeting Award Process and Fellowship awards have to now use the eRA Research Performance Progress Report Commons Module for all grants with May 1 and May 15 due dates. "It is important to be aware of these requirements because noncompliance with them will jeopardize the NIH's ability to issue timely awards," the post adds.
To determine if a grant falls in this category, OER says to check to see if the award uses SNAP — K awards and R awards usually do, and F awards also have to meet this new requirement.
A chart at Scientific American sums up data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics showing that while women are receiving a higher percentage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees, they are being awarded fewer doctoral degrees than men are. The chart indicates that women receive nearly 50 percent of chemistry bachelor's degrees and less than 40 percent of the doctoral degrees. The drop off is more severe in math and statistics: Women receive approximately 43 percent of bachelor's degrees in those fields, but less than 30 percent of the PhDs awarded.
Scientific American notes, though, that more women are becoming science professors. "It seems like many of the indicators are pointing toward parity, but at different scales and different rates," Adam Maltese, a science education professor at Indiana University Bloomington, says. "That's not going to happen overnight, not in the next decade, and maybe not for the next 20 or 25 years."
Data can have a tendency to pile up, and Duffymeg at Dynamic Ecology wonders how investigators prioritize which manuscripts they work on first — and how that prioritization changes over time.
As a graduate student and as a postdoc, she writes that she would first work on what she considered to be the most interesting studies followed by those she thought had the best chance of getting into a top journal. As a faculty member now, she says that manuscripts with a student or postdoc as the lead author get pushed up the queue, but that means others then get left by the wayside.
"Manuscripts that do not include students or postdocs as coauthors are currently languishing near the bottom of my manuscript to do list, and it makes me wonder if/when I will get back to them," Duffymeg adds. "In this case, results are going unpublished due to lack of time. I really wish this wasn’t the case, but I’m not sure of what to do about it."
At his blog, DrugMonkey adds that he prioritizes his manuscript list not only by interest and by how it will help his trainees, but also by the grant cycle. "If there is a chance of submitting a manuscript now, and it will have some influence on the grant game, this is a motivator for me," DrugMonkey writes.
Amy Freitag at Southern Fried Science recounts advice she received from her a mentor late in her undergraduate career on getting into graduate school: if you don't receive a stipend, you're not really in. "When it came time to choose schools, the [five] years of funding Duke offered me made a large part of my decision as to which graduate school I attended," she writes.
Other programs offered her a stipend, but no health insurance, or two years of funding with the hope of more. Having to pay out of pocket for insurance or medical costs or the uncertainty of funding after a few years were no-goes for her. "I'd seen enough current students working a full-time job to pay living expenses while taking [four] years to finish their master's," she writes. "No thanks."
Looking back, Freitag says that she is even more confident that she made the right decision. She adds that changes could be made to the graduate education system to better finance positions — and also to lower student debt — as well as address concerns that there are too many PhDs being produced. "[P]erhaps it's time to re-think the finances of graduate education. Perhaps schools should offer less positions but fully fund them," she says. "The solution then starts with a bit of sage advice — if you didn't get offered a stipend, you didn't get in.
Differences in verbal skills among people who are also good at math may affect who pursues a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and may partially explain the gender gap seen in such STEM careers, a recent study in Psychological Science says.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan conducted a two-wave longitudinal study of 1,490 people, surveying them when they were seniors in high school and then at age 33. From this, the researchers say that students who were skilled in math and who had good verbal skills were less likely to go into STEM fields than people who had a high mathematical ability but a moderate verbal ability were. The researchers note that more women tend to be in the former group than in the latter.
"Our study shows that it's not lack of ability or differences in ability that orients females to pursue non-STEM careers, it's the greater likelihood that females with high math ability also have high verbal ability," Pittsburgh's Ming-Te Wang, the lead author of the study, tells BusinessNewsDaily. "Because they're good at both, they can consider a wide range of occupations."
A lot of the questions that are asked during an interview for a postdoc position are easily predicted ones. "It is highly worthwhile spending some time before an interview preparing some sample questions and answers. Doing this combined with some investigation into the research group and PI can really give you the edge in securing the position," writes Ellen Moran at Bitesize Bio. Some places, she adds, may even send questions ahead of time to prospective postdocs.
Moran lists a number of questions that she's encountered and most of them are straightforward — candidates should be able to articulate what their career plan is and describe the sort of research they've conducted in the past, including what techniques they are familiar with.
She does, though, offer tips for the tongue-tied. For example, if the position is an academic postdoc, she writes that candidates could say: "This position will allow me to build on my existing research skills and allow me to develop as an independent scientist by acquiring new techniques, additional project management skills, publications and funding grants."
In addition, Moran notes that if candidates have gotten to the interview stage, they've already impressed the interviewing panel. Further, she gives this reminder: "At the end of the day remember you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you." So also be prepared to ask, as well as answer, question, she says.
Back in the fall, the Harvard Business Review named data scientist as the "The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century," or the new computer engineer or finance quant from the 1980s and 1990s. "If 'sexy' means having rare qualities that are much in demand, data scientists are already there," wrote Thomas Davenport from Harvard Business School and Deloitte Analytics and D.J. Patil from Greylock Partners. "They are difficult and expensive to hire and, given the very competitive market for their services, difficult to retain. There simply aren't a lot of people with their combination of scientific background and computational and analytical skills."
And now, Nature Jobs offers tips on joining the ranks of data scientists. Data scientists, Michael Koploy from SoftwareAdvice.com writes at Nature Jobs, come from a variety of backgrounds, and, before and after graduation, they need to keep up with the current trends in field by reading academic journals. Further, he adds, aspiring data scientists should also develop some business sense. "Obtaining a better understanding of the business' underpinnings not only directs the data scientist's research, but helps them present the findings and communicate with the less-analytical executives within the organization," he writes.
About half of US-trained PhD holders go on to work in academia, but the others go on to find work outside of academic research. At her Rock Talk blog, Sally Rockey, the deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health, writes that the agency has a new initiative to better prepare trainees for a variety of careers. "Especially in challenging financial times, it is important to not only prepare trainees for a diverse set of career outcomes, but to leverage existing resources and enlist additional support from the potential beneficiaries of NIH-supported training — the employers of PhD scientists," she writes.
The program, called Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training, or BEST, aims to give out 15 awards through the NIH Common Fund this fiscal year to "¬support the development of new and innovative methods for preparing graduate students for the full breadth of research and research-related careers in the biomedical, behavioral, social, or clinical sciences," Rockey says.
The application deadline is in May.
It's the last step to getting a doctorate, and the thesis defense strikes fear into the heart of many a candidate. But, Bitesize Bio's Laura Fulford writes that it doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience — she says she enjoyed hers.
Of course, you do have to be prepared, and Fulford offers some tips for doing so. The first two things she says to do, though, are to relax and to do something fun — outside of the lab and away from your dissertation. While she says that it's important to go over and be familiar with your dissertation and any corrections that may need to be made to it, she adds that you should remember that "you are the expert; you know your stuff, remember that."
"This is the moment all the blood sweat and tears has been leading up to," Fulford says. "Enjoy your moment in the spotlight." And, she adds, don't forget to plan a party or night out for afterward.
Before accepting a job offer, Joanne Kamens, the executive director of Addgene and a career development expert, says there are a number of questions that scientists should ask themselves, the NatureJobs blog's Catherine de Lange reports. "Asking the right questions before making that decision means you can base your choices on rational thinking rather than gut feelings," de Lange adds.
Many of those questions deal not with compensation, but with the atmosphere of the lab. Researchers, Kamens says, should try to picture themselves in that setting to determine whether they think they'll fit in and be challenged as well as learn new skills.
"Will the work challenge you? Are there resources in place to help you cope with the pressures and maintain a good work-life balance — what support is available?" de Lange writes. She points out, though, that to answer such questions, a bit of self-knowledge is necessary. "To answer these questions you need to know yourself and what suits your style, so take some time to consider that before setting out to gather this information," she says.
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