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The Black Hole

BY DAVID KENT | March 24 2010

I just thought I would quickly bring it to people’s attention that the Canadian House of Commons has been hopping with activity regarding post doctoral fellows and the repercussions of Budget 2010. A quick scan of the comments in March can be found here and if you want to keep track on your own, check […]

BY DAVID KENT | March 22 2010

***Quick Hit: The CAPS petition to maintain the competitiveness of a postdoctoral research career in Canada is up to 1750 signatures. For more information on why this petition has been written, visit the CAPS website. Perception, Power and Principles: Human induced climate change and why people have trouble accepting the science Over the last three […]

BY DAVID KENT | March 10 2010

Last week Canadians were treated to another Harper Government budget where the post doctoral stage of developing highly qualified researchers was finally recognized as an important part of the research enterprise. Post docs shared a grand “hurrah!” as this was a good thing, and long overdue. Oddly enough, it was not just lip service as […]

BY BETH | March 04 2010

Piggybacking off of Dave’s last post, which detailed ways that scientists can “help further the public knowledge of, and excitement about, scientific research,” with a specific focus on disseminating academic research and communicating with government, my posting today is going to take a look ways to increase science literacy and getting the general public excited […]

BY DAVID KENT | February 22 2010

As promised in my least work principle entry, today’s entry will try to identify relatively easy ways for science trainees and professors to help further the public knowledge of, and excitement about, scientific research. I’ll try to stick to dissemination of academic information and communicating with governments and Beth will follow up next week with getting general information out to the public (adults and kids!)…

BY DAVID KENT | February 21 2010

This short blog entry argues that when looking at the relationship or science and society, the majority of scientists only see (and avoid) the energy barrier in front of them and fail to imagine and strive toward the products on the other side. There are of course exceptions to the rule and this article hopes to inspire such visionary thinking. It contends that the products, similar to those in a chemical reaction, will provide a state that will in their own time lead to less energy expenditure for scientists.

BY BETH | February 18 2010

“Knowledge translation” is one of those buzz words you seem to hear a lot these days.  To put it briefly, it basically means getting research results to be used in “the real world.” Traditionally, academics have disseminated their research results through publishing in academic journals and presenting at academic conferences, but of course the people […]

BY DAVID KENT | February 07 2010

As I outlined in one of my very first blog entries the waters are quite muddied when it comes to understanding the tax benefit regarding scholarships outlined in the 2006 budget. It became quickly apparent that things were a little more complicated though, especially when it came to post docs on fellowship or trainees paid from their supervisor’s grant.

BY BETH | January 31 2010

While looking at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) funding opportunities ((despite the fact that I’m out of academia, I don’t seem to have entirely escaped the world of grants, as the organization that I work for is interested in getting more involved in research)) the other day, I came across this interesting opportunity: […]

BY DAVID KENT | January 21 2010

When asked to identify the most important issues affecting their country, Canadians often list three items: economy, healthcare, and environment. Though often underappreciated, the advancement of science and technology is a common thread that underpins and indeed is inextricably tied to these three major issues. We live in a world where the economy is driven by innovation, medicine requires further advances each day to save and improve lives, and an environmental crisis is upon us as our climate changes as a direct consequence of our modern lifestyle.

BY BETH | January 17 2010

I can honestly say that I never truly experienced science until I was a graduate student. Sure, I had a fair chunk of labs in my undergraduate degree – first year involved a full year of biology, chemistry and physics lab sections, and upper years included labs sections in analytical chemistry and organic chem and an entire course that consisted of a biochemistry lab. But each of these labs was what we like to call “cookbook labs” – we weren’t generating and then testing any hypotheses; rather, we were following a recipe that we were given to try to find a predetermined answer – the person with the answer closest to the one the prof has already determined gets the best grade. We were learning the technical skills – how to use a pipette, run a DNA fingerprint, or perform a titration, but that was all…

BY DAVID KENT | January 10 2010

In 2002, I was one day away from selling knives for an entire summer in the heat of Southwestern Ontario, then I got a letter reading “someone has turned down their summer NSERC … you are on the waiting list – want it?”
First things first… as an academic your entire career will probably depend on continually getting funding. It is no surprise that when a hiring squad looks at potential tenure track applicants, a key question is: “How fundable is this person?”

BY DAVID KENT | December 30 2009

So, in the wake of a very busy December, I realize that we only registered two blog entries this month – a noticeable drop from November’s eleven. But this is the realistic way forward if we want to tackle these issues with the time and energy they deserve, as these “issues affecting trainees” underpin many of the important decisions that are made in an academic career and give decision makers a sense of what trainees are thinking. It’s a lot of information though and in recognition of everyone else being busy as well, I thought a quarterly summary of highlights would be a good idea.

BY DAVID KENT | December 10 2009

It’s already clear that the BSc is the new high school diploma (soon to be overtaken by a Masters), and undergraduate students are being told that they can do whatever they want and should leave as many doors open as possible . So, it seems a reasonable course of action to stay in school and get that extra degree that will allow you to not close doors. This line of thinking, however, also leads to a problem of too many degrees being sought and obtained for the wrong reasons. There is a lot to be said for the value of getting out there and gaining work experience and Beth continues to probe the different types of careers available… but that’s not what concerns me in this entry… (and I’m definitely not playing the “over-qualified card” because that is a load of nonsense… you can never be over-qualified)… What concerns me here is “Why do we sign up for the next degree?”

BY DAVID KENT | December 01 2009

The PDF pool is growing because more are entering, fewer are exiting and the average length of stay is longer… is this a bad thing? In our current system I don’t think it is so bad, because there is demand for the research to get done and PDFs can do it… but, the way we handle/define/support this class of workers needs to change.

BY BETH | November 26 2009

Shortly after I got my new job, I was out for dinner with some friends of mine with whom I had gone to grad school.  I was telling them about my new position and one of them said, “How did you convince them that you are an ‘Evaluation Specialist’?  You didn’t do your education in […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 24 2009

The intention behind this particular blog entry is to focus on how our elected representatives and the bureaucratic machinery that operates alongside them filter through the thousands of scientific papers and reports to make policy and political decisions. First of all, our original group tried to figure out how government gets scientific information, then asked was the science and the delivery process rigorous, and finally we proposed (or borrowed) some possible solution

BY BETH | November 18 2009

So what does a PhD do when they decide to leave academics? The prospect of figuring out what to do for a living when you decide that you don’t want to be a “principal investigator” (PI) is daunting.  As Basalla & Debelius put it in their book “So What Are You Going To Do With […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 17 2009

In medical science, many of the protocols we use for bench work feel like recipes. To nobody’s surprise, it is often compared to baking – add component X, spin, add component Y, mix, “cook” in a gel, etc, etc – and I say fair enough. Many will argue, however, that such protocols are not the bread and butter of an academic scientist’s career which certainly relies on designing the experiments to answer novel questions about the particular system or situation being studied and interpreting an often confused picture to help make sense of that system.
This blog entry contends that we are putting less emphasis on the latter and more on the former and our nation is going to pay a hefty price if we don’t turn the boat around – the PhD is becoming less focused on learning how to think, and more focused on learning how to do. This is a trend that I am labelling the rise of the cookie cutter PhD.

BY DAVID KENT | November 15 2009

After an undergraduate and doctorate, medical science trainees need to undertake post doctoral training before being granted a faculty position. After this round of training, however, many are going on to a second and even a third round of “post-doc’ing” … this blog entry asks why we do this and encourages science trainees to stop after the first PDF and do a major evaluation…