This week, Science Careers' Emma Hitt says that, "with the right planning and enough forethought, academics can enjoy financial stability and a comfortable, if not prosperous, retirement." Susan John, chair of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, tells Hitt that it's important for scientists "to remember that wealth is relative. Some careers do not reward financially as much as they do in other ways, and that is mostly true in the sciences." For this, John suggests academic scientists make an effort toward understanding their personal definition of success, and how large a role money plays in that. "For many people, especially people in the sciences or in academia, their career is their number one asset, and it will be for a long time," says John, who is a certified financial planner, adding that, for some, "what success looks like … may be more about having stability and the ability to think about the future in terms of what is going to bring you long-term happiness," than it is about financial reward.
Wayne State University School of Medicine's Monica Uddin drives that point home, telling Science that "the compensation offered in a for-profit scientific environment might be better, but the stability of the job itself — particularly in the current economic climate — might be less than what would be found in academia, at least for a tenure-track job." In the long run, Hitt adds that, while they may not come with stock options and steep raises, positions in academia are desirable in that they often afford faculty a "plentiful benefits package," including everything from medical, to dental, to tuition assistance.
In a paper published online in advance in CBE—Life Sciences Education this week, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, "advocate for a broader doctoral curriculum that prepares trainees for a wide range of science-related career paths," because, they say, PhD programs of today "continue to prepare students for a traditional academic career path despite the inadequate supply of research-focused faculty positions." To support their stance, the authors report data from survey of UCSF PhD students in the basic biomedical sciences, many of whom "are already considering a broad range of career options" midway through their graduate training. Of the graduate students surveyed, many indicated that their "career path choices [had] shifted during the first three yr [years] of graduate school." The authors add:
To support what the authors call "this branching career pipeline," they suggest that "national standards for training and mentoring include emphasis on career planning and professional skills development to ensure the success of PhD-level scientists as they contribute to a broadly defined global scientific enterprise," UCSF's Office of Career and Professional Development Director Bill Lindstaedt et al. write.
Weber, who had nearly 30 years of bench research under his belt before founding a genetic testing, DNA banking, and genomics research firm in 2002, credits his business skills to his scientific background. [More.]
At Fumbling Towards Tenure this week, Dr. Becca wraps up the new faculty orientation she recently attended, for which her institution "brought in several newly tenured faculty for a 90-minute panel on how to get tenure … and their candidness and wisdom were much appreciated." Throughout those 90 minutes, Dr. Becca sent a series of tweets, highlighting key points of the discussion. First, the panel members emphasized that new faculty should "make yourself tenurable, not just [here], but anywhere." Later, the panel made a point that Dr. Becca says was "great advice no matter what stage of your career you're in" — faculty should "add at least one new line to each section of your CV every year." Whether that means publishing new papers, getting new grants, winning awards, or signing up for new committees, Dr. Becca says "keep building." Elsewhere in the discussion, the panel emphasized striking a balance between building collaborations and maintaining independence. At her Twitter feed, she paraphrases a panel statement, saying "collaborate to extend your resources and diversify your portfolio, but remember your independence is also being judged."
In this week's Nature, Heidi Ledford takes a look at what she calls "the 24/7 lab," one that is "renowned for [its] intense work ethic and long hours." In her article, Ledford discusses the types of researchers "who are drawn to these environments," details "what it is really like to work there," and considers "whether long hours lead to more or better science." Overall, Ledford says that researchers who thrive in such environments are generally attracted to the autonomy and freedom they afford. While some, like the University of Dundee's Philip Cohen — who tells Nature he fears that trainees are "losing all the fun in life if they don't really push themselves to the limit" — feel as though more hours logged in the lab leads to more results, not everyone agrees. MIT's Stephen Buchwald urges his lab members "to take a month's holiday every year, and not to think about work when they're gone," Ledford says. Plus, she adds, the Buchwald lab's publication records show that taking a break rarely dampens researchers' productivity.
In a response to this article, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Julie Overbaugh says that while "striking a balance between work, family, friends, and leisure is often hard in science … there must be room for those who want this balance, otherwise creative people with the potential to make significant contributions to scientific discovery will be excluded." Writing to Nature, Overbaugh says she considers herself "fortunate to work at an institution where the focus is on our contributions, not our hours."
The agency will begin accepting applications for its new program, geared toward medical and dental students interested in intranmural research, in October. [More.]
A new Council of Graduate Schools report looks into how professional science master's degree program graduates are faring. Within six months of graduation, 81.4 percent of respondents who earned PSM degrees during the 2010/2011 academic year said they were working during the week of June 20, 2011. Among those working, 88.4 percent said they were employed in positions "closely or somewhat related to their fields of study."
In their report, the council's Nathan Bell and Jeffrey Allum discuss initial hiring outcomes of PSM graduates, with whom they will follow up for up to five years after graduation. With their survey — which received 320 responses from graduates of 58 PSM programs at 36 institutions — Bell and Allum also sought to assess PSM graduates' reasons for enrolling in their programs and "perceived satisfaction with the PSM degree." Most PSM graduates reported enrolling in PSM programs "to acquire specific skills and knowledge" — 68.6 percent of respondents indicated this motivation — and "to learn more about something in which they were particularly interested" — for which 59.2 percent said so. More than half of the survey respondents indicated that they enrolled in a PSM program to increase their opportunities for "promotion, advancement, and/or pay" within the field in which they had already been employed, while 39 percent say they enrolled to facilitate a career change. Bell and Allum add that, "overall, respondents were generally satisfied with their PSM program of study and reported the highest levels of satisfaction with the quality of their scientific and/or mathematical training, the distinctive nature of the program, and the quality of their non-scientific professional training."
The survey also collected salary information. The authors found that of those respondents who reported working during the week of June 20, 2011, those in business and industry were most likely to be earning between $40,000 and $69,999 per year; those in academia, between $30,000 and $39,999 annually; and those in government were earning anywhere "from $29,999 or less to $100,000 or more."
A study showing that black National Institutes of Health grant applicants are 10 percentage points less likely than white applicants to win funding made waves among the research community when it was published in Science last week. In the time since, several bloggers have voiced opinions on the issue. DrugMonkey says the study highlights "a big issue that should be a big wake-up to the NIH," and adds he is hopeful researchers will not be "discussing the same disparity five or 10 years in the future and similarly wringing our hands." Indeed in response to the study, several agency officials have promised to look into ways to make changes to help balance the scales, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Acting Director Susan Shurin. In a memo initially distributed among internal staff, Shurin said that while the study's conclusions were unsettling, "it is in some sense even more disturbing that they are not at all surprising to NHLBI scientific staff." During a Science Careers live chat this week, study co-author Laurel Haak said that she, too, was not surprised by her team's findings overall. "What was surprising was that the difference was only for black investigators submitting grants, and that the variables that explained differences for other groups were not explanatory for the black investigator group," Haak said.
Throughout the live discussion, Discovery Logic/Thomson Reuters' Haak and Chad Womack — founder, president, and chair of the nonprofit TBED21 — fielded participants' questions regarding minorities and women in science, which ran the gamut from research institutions' family-friendliness to changing the structure of academic research mentorship. A full transcript of the Science chat is available, here.
In an in-press Social Science Research article appearing online this week, North Carolina State University's Steve McDonald shows that women are generally less likely than men to land certain jobs informally — i.e., when not searching for them — through workplace social contacts. To come to this conclusion, McDonald analyzed US Bureau of Labor Statistics study data obtained between 1979 and 1998. "Gender appears to moderate the influence of work experience on non-searching," McDonald writes, adding that "while occupational and related work experience are positively and significantly associated with the odds of non-searching among men, work experience is unrelated to non-searching among women." Further, McDonald suggests that "men are more often being informally tapped to fill highly skilled jobs and women are often recruited to fill jobs with more flexible employment arrangements." Overall, he says his study sheds "light on the mechanisms of status attainment," and that "treating work experience as a measure of skill accumulation alone simultaneously props up a meritocratic view of the labor market while downplaying the role of nepotism." Going forward, McDonald suggests researchers who aim to elucidate gender differences among the forms of work experience and informal job placements might profit from additional studies as to how skills acquisition, social resource acquisition, and discrimination influence one another and contribute to gender inequalities in the workplace.
Brigham Hyde co-founded a club to introduce academic scientists to the inner workings of the life sciences industry and, later, an analytics firm that's now bringing the biopharma business down to a science — all while he was busy working to defend his PhD thesis. [More.]
Female Science Professor says "there is no doubt that we professors are managers in many ways," not least because of the paperwork involved. But, she says despite the many similarities, the title PI is not necessarily synonymous with boss. "We are advisors, not employers," she says. "The employer is the university." For example, FSP says she can't simply "fire" an advisee. "Perhaps the argument that professors aren't really employers or managers in a business or industry sense is analogous to the argument that students who are research and teaching assistants may — or may not, depending on your opinion — be 'workers' in the same sense as employees who are not also students," she adds. In a comment to this post, moom suggests that, as a PI, "your position relative to the student is similar to the chairman relative to you — or an immediate manager — rather than the CEO in a company."
Being a teacher helps improve research skills, says report in Science. The University of Virginia's David Feldon and his team used a rubric to compare the quality of research proposals from 95 early-career graduate students in STEM fields at the beginning and end of an academic year. During the year, half the students had teaching and research responsibilities, and half had only research responsibilities. After controlling for pre-existing differences between the groups, the researchers say that those students who taught and did research "demonstrate significantly greater improvement in their abilities to generate testable hypotheses and design valid experiments." The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that these findings are contrary to what many science graduate programs say: Teaching distracts from research. "The findings resonate with people," Feldon tells the Chronicle. "Of the people I've spoken to about this study, half said, 'Of course that's what you found.' The other half said, 'There's no way that can be true. Your data must be wrong.' Everyone's got an opinion on this, but there's been little data."
Men who are agreeable don't make as much money as disagreeable men do, and women make less, whether or not they are agreeable, reports LiveScience. According to the University of Notre Dame's Timothy Judge, that wage gap between disagreeable and agreeable men is about 18 percent while it is 5 percent between disagreeable and agreeable women. Judge's study is to be published this fall in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. "Women who appear to be tough or disagreeable get a special kind of scorn directed toward them," Judge says. "That sort of neutralizes the benefit that they might otherwise receive." Judge also studied why considered disagreeable men have a wage advantage, and found that they were viewed as strong leaders.