STIC Report: Unemployed PhDs

higher unemployment levels for science-based doctoral-level graduates The “private rate of return” ((Defined in the report as “The private internal rate of return represents a measure of the returns obtained, over time, relative to the costs of the initial investment in education and is equal to the discount rate that equalizes the costs of education during the period of study to the gains from education thereafter.” (Source))) on getting a post-secondary education was 9.6% for…

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The opportunity cost to doing scientific research at a university

Most of us become scientists because of a fundamental desire to improve human health and well-being. We want to make the world better, but the premise that the only way to do this is through a university is mistaken. There is an opportunity cost to doing scientific research within the confines of the university that needs to be acknowledged. The alternative, of course, is seeking independent financing. Private enterprise are the shades of gray in…

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Quarterly summary: From startups to dropouts

It’s been a long “quarter” – turns out we haven’t summarised our blogging activity since February.  Apologies to our readers that rely on these summaries to do their catch-up; we’ll do better in future.  Since this has been such a long period of blogs, the themes are not quite so easy to extract. Jonathan blogged about his experience launching a startup company and on some interpersonal issues like 360 faculty review and researcher vulnerability. And I’ve…

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Why labs should embrace 360-degree faculty reviews

Damien Wilpitz joins me this week for a co-written article on the practice of 360-degree and reverse reviews, and their noticeable absence from academic labs. Damien is a laboratory research manager at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a research-management consultant. Jonathan: We just completed our 360/reverse review at Platelet BioGenesis. This is a yearly exercise in which our board of directors sits down with our team to review the organization’s executive. The board…

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Why some research areas appear relatively “over-funded”

I recently attended a large collaborative-research group meeting where, as part of the project, two members of the public were invited to attend the scientific research day.  The program is broadly under the “cancer research” umbrella and the two members of the public were patient advocates whose lives had both been touched by cancer. One of the personal stories that was shared stressed that some areas of cancer research are very poorly supported compared to…

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Lessons learned for hiring new staff at a startup

Academic research labs are like small to mid-size biotech companies in many respects – they have comparable budget, organizational structure and personnel makeup. But they are also very different. Nowhere is this more apparent than in hiring practices. In academic research labs all decision-making power rests with the Principal Investigator (PI). Postdocs, graduate students, and technicians are rarely asked to provide more than high level impressions of candidates and rarely take ownership of new hires.…

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Retroactive pension as a postdoc? Apply now!

Some of the biggest historic discussions in our column that get Canadian postdoctoral fellows in a rage are those around the taxation situation in Canada. It seems that postdoctoral fellows just can’t win – employee or trainee? – either way, the chips rarely fall well for the postdoctoral fellow. Today’s rather brief post is more of a public service message to remind postdoctoral fellows that now is the time to submit a claim to be considered an…

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Resiliency in science: We need to stop punishing vulnerability

No one goes into a career in science expecting it to be easy. Less so for graduate studies. But shouldn’t it also be fun? The wonder of new discovery, the rush of finally understanding as the puzzle of existence comes into focus, the ambition of being a catalyst of the change that newfound knowledge brings. These things drive us. The development of the scientific method – one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments (and a pretty recent…

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Teaching and research roles – moving beyond the clinician scientist

Just about anyone who works within biomedical research has interacted with swathes of clinician scientists. They come in all shapes and sizes, from those who have just briefly touched down in a lab through to those who wouldn’t even trust themselves in a room with a patient anymore. At some point (I don’t pretend to know the exact mechanics or motivations), the clinician scientist became a critical cog in the research and translational space, and…

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Limiting grants to well-funded labs

I want to touch on a topic this week that has previously been controversial – namely that federal research funding of individual labs should be capped to allow more broad allocation of limited resources among a larger group of researchers. Why this is controversial is that on the surface it appears to contend with the dogma that one should always reinforce success, and well-funded labs are presumably well-funded because they are successful. While no one…

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