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THE BLACK HOLE

By JONATHAN THON | September 24 2012

While I’ve published these sentiments before, the growing inefficiency in academic research makes this particular point worth repeating. Postdoctoral fellows drive research in academic labs (see Statistics Canada’s Expectations and Labour Market Outcomes of Doctoral Graduates from Canadian Universities) and their salaries, including indirect costs, constitute a major portion of a research budget. Nevertheless, only […]

By DAVID KENT | September 18 2012

A few weeks back, the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars circulated a newly released online tool from the AAAS called my Individual Development Plan (or myIDP). I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and browse through it (and do the self-assessments) and I would highly recommend PhDs and postdocs to take a look as […]

By JONATHAN THON | September 10 2012

Satisfaction levels increase in academic science as careers progress and are highest at the full-professor level (“For Love and Money,” PDF). While this is usually preceded by a doubling in salary from the postdoctoral fellow to the assistant professor stage, there are more pressing elements to career advancement. Lifestyle is one: lack of job security, […]

By DAVID KENT | September 04 2012

A report was released last week by Toronto-based Higher Education Strategy Associates that came as a surprise. Using their self-stated “alternative metrics” for measuring the research strength at Canadian universities, the Measuring Academic Research in Canada: Field-Normalized Academic Rankings 2012, report uses a combination of different metrics (h-index, research funding, etc) in combination with what they’ve termed field normalization in […]

By JONATHAN THON | August 24 2012

It should come as no surprise that by increasing the supply of graduate students (and in turn post-doctoral fellows), we have arranged to produce more knowledge workers than we can employ, creating a labor-excess economy that keeps labor costs down and productivity high (How much is a scientist worth?) – but is this what we […]

By DAVID KENT | August 14 2012

I always knew that bad news was released on Fridays in the summer… but last Friday was pretty ridiculous.  NSERC has just announced that in order to improve its success rate (just clocked at 7.8% in the most recent competition) it will now reduce the number of times an individual can apply for a postdoctoral […]

By DAVID KENT | August 10 2012

For those who have not yet heard, the CIHR plans to make major changes to their funding mechanism for health scientists. Last week, at the height of summer vacation, the CIHR released a “What CIHR heard” document that summarizes the feedback they received on the proposed changes. At first, I was simply going to pick […]

By JONATHAN THON | July 30 2012

The following is my response to a letter from Canada’s federal minister of health, Leona Aglukkaq, who was in turn responding to an earlier letter from me: Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Thank you first and foremost for taking the time to respond to my letter on February 7, 2012, regarding the lack of opportunity for early-career […]

By DAVID KENT | July 24 2012

Earlier this summer, two major reports were released from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences. Beryl Lieff Benderly offers an excellent, though slightly pessimistic, summary of the reports and their potential implications on the Science Careers site and this is well worth a read if you’re not willing to […]

By JONATHAN THON | July 16 2012

In a concerted effort to practice what I preach, I write often to the Office of the Prime Minister to highlight issues facing early-career scientists in Canada. To their credit, I always receive a response. Below is a transcript of the most recent letter I received from the Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq. Please see […]

By DAVID KENT | July 09 2012

Quick hit: Beth forwarded something interesting to me in a follow up to my slightly controversial critique of the Three Minute Thesis article – Jorge Cham of PhD Comics fame has just launched a two minute thesis video competition to have your thesis illustrated. An interesting idea for sure and something that should aid in […]

By DAVID KENT | July 03 2012

In my last post, I urged non-traditional sectors to engage motivated PhD students early in their careers as direction into non-academic careers is sorely lacking. Until coming to the U.K., I had never met a third-year PhD scientist who already had his sights set on working in the financial consulting sector. At the time, this […]

By JONATHAN THON | June 25 2012

The Bridges to Independence report (NRC, 2005) reveals that the number of PhD-trained life scientists in the United States ages 35 and younger increased by 59 percent between 1993 and 2001 while the number of these scientists in tenure-track positions increased by only 7 percent. At research institutions this number decreased by 12 percent over […]

By DAVID KENT | June 15 2012

After Jonathan’s last post on introducing career streams into academia, I was reminded of a question that a colleague of mine once asked: “If so many non-academic fields need highly trained PhDs, why don’t we ever see them pay for their training?” I replied with several examples of how biotechnology companies are starting to invest in […]

By JONATHAN THON | June 04 2012

In the 1990s the typical PhD in biological sciences entered the job market in their mid 30s, after spending approximately 3.8 years as a postdoctoral fellow (National Academy of Science, Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers). This is 3.6 years longer than it was in 1970 (National Research Council, Trends in the Early […]

By DAVID KENT | May 28 2012

Maybe I’m getting old, but after reflecting on the recent uprising of Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competitions across the world and the accompanying bravado, I feel that we are drifting far away from the core components of academic training. Started in 2006 at the University of Queensland, the 3MT idea is very simple.  You get […]

By JONATHAN THON | May 17 2012

Scientific research is a marathon, and if we fall behind now, while we are leaders in health innovation, the cost of recovering our position, in light of emerging economies with which we compete, will become progressively more expensive. Sustained increases in National Institutes of Health and Canadian Institutes of Health Research funding are critical to […]

By DAVID KENT | May 10 2012

We’ve all been told about the value of networks with adages like “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, but I’d never stopped to think about this outside of meeting individual people. While I’m certainly not denying the value of knowing the right person in the right place at the right time, I want […]

By JONATHAN THON | May 04 2012

It falls to scientists to speak up in support of federally funding research and in this third installment of a four-part series, I explore the economic cost of doing research in a cash-strapped system and the burden this is placing on young investigators. To bring yourself up to speed, installements 1 and 2 are referenced […]

By DAVID KENT | May 02 2012

Over the past 15 years, there has been an enormous shift in the human resources completing scientific research.  The training period has lengthened significantly and adjustments must be made to address the growing concerns of young scientists.  Many individuals, who do not have permanent positions, share a unique set of experiences and challenges that need to be […]

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