The purpose of branding in science

“The art of branding is firstly to attract the kind of people you want to work with.” – Jonathan Thon Like it or not, branding and self-promotion are an integral part of science. Our training might focus primarily on how to do science, but that isn’t enough; we also need to promote ourselves and our findings in order to persuade others to fund and collaborate on our research, and to highlight the value of our…

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On lockdown and international travel – I’ve been grounded and learned some lessons

Editor’s note: We are delighted to have a guest post from professor Berthold Göttgens at the University of Cambridge who shares his thoughts on the dramatic change in international travel, felt by academics across the world. I was looking at my calendar today and I was supposed to be in China. Next week, I was meant to be in Japan, then China again, then Paris, and then San Diego before coming home to the U.K.…

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Leadership in response to COVID-19: anticipating the fallout

The last few months have been filled with discussions on the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on the academy. This column has not been exempt, with recent entries addressing topics ranging from the fringe benefits of cancelled travel, disruption-induced mental health issues and career considerations, as well as the loss of passive social check-ins. Funding agencies, governments  and universities have all stepped in to help bear the financial cost of the intense upheaval and protect core…

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How our current approach to science pushes people away – Part 2

“—it requires more than a simple commitment to equality. It requires that you change your life so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis and become comfortable with them and familiar with the best of their culture, so that when you want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a member of a minority, you aren’t betrayed by your hesitation and discomfort.” ― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking…

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Funding more “fundable” research, an opportunity for targeted funding organizations

“Fundable, but not funded.” This is one of the most heartbreaking phrases a scientist can get through their inbox and it is the one that tells them an organization felt that their work was of sufficient merit to warrant funding, but that other research proposals were rated higher. Bad luck. We have written before about the arbitrary nature of funding decisions that hover around the funded / not-funded line and one study that measured grant…

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Can “ultimate mastery” act as a framework toward achieving a flow state?

“You have to be able to accept failure to get better.” – LeBron James A close friend, Howard Bornstein, recently penned an article on Medium describing “ultimate mastery” as a framework toward achieving flow. It’s worth reading his post which triggered a question of whether an iterative model of Miller’s pyramid of assessment, which is related to Noel Burch’s four stages of competence, might be more representative of the process of innovation in practice, rather…

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How our current approach to science pushes people away

“I’d found out that if you pushed people away hard enough, they tended to go.”   ― Morgan Matson, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour Despite efforts to promote under-represented demographics within academic science, stark opportunity and outcome disparities persist. The causes are systemic and supported by ample evidence, and it’s important that we reflect on their repercussions. Humans self-identify into thousands of overlapping ethnicities, multiple genders, and various socio-economic classes; the fluid boundaries between categories…

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How can we best support the mental health of senior academics?

In my last post, I reflected on the “work harder” culture in scientific labs across the world and alluded to the mental health strain that such a work culture can cause. This is not to say that everyone who works hard faces inevitable burnout, but it is notable that the last five years or so have witnessed a step-change in the amount of time, money, and discussions dedicated to dealing with the mental health of…

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Checking in as COVID-19 continues to take a toll on all of us

It’s been a difficult series of months. In the U.S. we have lost more than 130,000 people. In the world, we are projecting more than 550,000 deaths – which is almost certainly an underestimate. Nowhere in the world is the difference in pandemic control more starkly contrasted than between Canada (2,813 cases per 1M) and the United States (9,604 cases per 1M). Photo of COVID-19 cases in Canada and the United States. The data on…

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Working 60 hours a week does not automatically make you a good researcher

When I was young, I was always inspired by people who dedicated their energy and enthusiasm to building something. Whether it was a small business owner working around the clock or an athlete honing a skill to make the big leagues, these were the role models that made me want to try harder and be a better version of myself. There was obviously some survivorship bias going on, but I hadn’t yet recognized that. In…

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