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The Black Hole

BY DAVID KENT | February 04 2013

My last post generated a fair amount of commentary both here on this site and on Reddit. It seems that many people have experienced exactly what NIH Director Francis Collins described: they’ve been made to feel like failures for leaving academia. If the vast majority of PhDs and postdoctoral fellows will not become tenure-track academics, […]

BY JONATHAN THON | January 28 2013

Research proposals are by necessity narrow in focus, and once awarded require that funds be allocated as described in the proposal on penalty of having these funds withdrawn. When funding rates are low it becomes increasingly important for investigators to demonstrate that their research proposals are unlikely to fail and therefore constitute a good investment. […]

BY DAVID KENT | January 21 2013

Over the years, our site has had many articles on two major themes: the education and training of scientists, and the effective transfer of knowledge between academic science and other sectors (e.g., industry, policy, science outreach). Last week, Nature published a short interview with NIH Director Francis Collins concerning the policies being adopted to improve the […]

BY JONATHAN THON | January 14 2013

Dear readers, with a new year comes new challenges. The pressures on young scientists today, while certainly greater than they were last year, are quickly coming to a head. With the upcoming American sequestration discussions in March, and an improving economy, it is more important now than ever that the current structure of academic science […]

BY DAVID KENT | January 07 2013

Happy 2013 to our readers! We’ll start this year with a summary of our autumnal posts capturing the third quarter of activity at our new University Affairs home. Both Jonathan and I have enjoyed the transition and are looking forward to a year packed with good discussion and constructive solutions. We have several guest posts […]

BY DAVID KENT | December 12 2012

Further underscoring the acute strain on human resources in academic circles, Elsevier has just announced a unique program to help out researchers who find themselves in between positions (thanks for the heads up C!). While many parents are no doubt crying about how their clever child with a PhD bounces from one short-term contract to […]

BY JONATHAN THON | December 03 2012

I received my doctorate from the University of British Columbia under Dr. Dana Devine (2004-2008) and currently hold joint appointments within the Hematology Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. I am in my fifth year of a postdoctoral fellowship, having won an ASH Fellow Scholar Award and more recently […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 26 2012

Today we are very excited to have a guest post from one of Canada’s new Banting Fellows, who has asked to remain anonymous. You may be surprised to read this person’s assessment of Canada’s “Cadillac” award for postdocs. The most challenging question, from our perspective, that our blogger raises is: Are universities buying the fellowships? […]

BY JONATHAN THON | November 19 2012

Research supported by the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) is in serious jeopardy. NIH’s inflation-adjusted budget today is almost 20 percent lower than it was in FY2003 and is facing even more severe cuts on Jan. 2 unless Congress proposes alternative legislation to avert them. These reductions are the result of a looming “fiscal […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 12 2012

This past weekend, I attended the inaugural meeting of the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Administrators in Ottawa. As with most inaugural meetings, there was a combination of excitement and confusion but it appeared that the overall theme was one of identifying common ground and working together in the most productive way possible. The stated aims of CAPA are […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 02 2012

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research have announced their October 2012 call for applicants to the Science Policy Fellowship Program. As in years prior to this one, it seems that the fellowships are available only in partnership with Health Canada: Exploring ways of integrating academic clinical trials into Health Canada review process of therapeutic products […]

BY JONATHAN THON | October 29 2012

It is without question that gender disparity persists within academic science. While it has often been suggested that greater numbers of women moving through the academic pipeline will ultimately resolve this problem, I’m not so sure. It’s been roughly 33 years since the United States Congress passed the Women in Science and Technology Equal Opportunity […]

BY DAVID KENT | October 18 2012

This quarter has been a very busy one for both Jonathan and me. Unfortunately from my end, this meant that the resource site is not yet live. Things are starting to take shape and it should be launched this autumn. We hope this will be an easier-to-navigate resource page that can direct early career […]

BY JONATHAN THON | October 09 2012

In my previous post, I made the argument that the government is wasting money training a multitude of postdoctoral fellows for jobs that only a fraction will assume. Conversely, there is an argument to be made that this investment, while disadvantageous for the majority of postdoctoral fellows, is actually beneficial for science. This week I […]

BY DAVID KENT | October 02 2012

Last week, the Council of Canadian Academies released their The State of Science and Technology in Canada 2012 report and trumpeted the success of Canadian science and technology over the last six years (University Affairs has a news story on the report here). Overall, it seems we are performing well when research output, citation rate […]

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 […]