A collaborator and I are about to submit a manuscript, a process that is deeply satisfying. However, it also leads me to reflect on the inefficiencies of the current publishing system. For example:

● Traditional academic publishing is extremely expensive, and much of its cost goes to filling corporate coffers rather than paying for services necessary for publishing. For example, Elsevier alone pulled in $1.1 billion in profit in 2010, an astounding 36% of its total revenue. In an age of tightening budgets, this is probably not the best use of public funds.

Published in COMPASS Points

In my last post, I covered the initial steps of applying for academic faculty jobs, basically preparing and submitting the application material to the universities. Most universities will shortlist the applications to between 5 - 20% for further evaluation, which usually includes two types of interviews: first, a remote interview (via phone or Skype), and finally the last round—a visit to the university. To get to this final step is already a significant achievement, since competition for faculty positions in certain universities in the United States can be intense—around 300 applications for 1 position.

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 11 July 2014 00:00

The Study of Being a Neighbor

Scientists can be reclusive. Not just in the "lab work all day, time course all night, cell culture all weekend" way, but also because we can be a very isolated community. We are busy trying to keep afloat in a competitive field, and other scientists and like-minded academics often surround us. Our friends, colleagues, classmates, and sometimes even partners, are part of the science community that encompasses most of our time.

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 04 July 2014 00:00

Won’t you SHARE YOUR SCIENCE?

The Outreach Subcommittee of the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) announces the Share Your Science Video Contest with prizes up to $500. This new initiative aims to increase basic science awareness because informed decision makers produce better outcomes for funding.

Published in COMPASS Points

There are always times when we need some extra help in the classroom—in finding new ways to engage students or to encourage them to learn about a new topic, for example. iBioEducation from iBiology provides tools that can help enrich your students' learning experience. It doesn't matter if you are a teaching a graduate class, an undergraduate class, or a high school class; there is something for everyone.

Published in COMPASS Points

It's a sad but inevitable truth: enthusiasm ebbs and flows, never consistent or unwavering. This holds true for many things in life, but to scientists this is most pertinent to our enthusiasm toward our projects. Whether you're a grad student or postdoc (and maybe even a PI), you have definitely gone through a period when you're simply tired of your project, don't want to read another word or article about the same-old topic, lack the motivation to do any experiments, and in short find anything related to your work off-putting and depressing. One good point to keep in mind: You're not alone having this feeling.

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 25 April 2014 00:00

On Parenting and Postdoc-ing

When I was a kid, I didn't know that I would be a scientist. But I did know I would be a parent. Having children was a high priority in my life. However, during graduate school, I started to see the professional demands placed on graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty. When, then, would be the best time to start a family? There is not one right answer, as it depends on each individual's personal and professional situation. And you will probably never think you have enough time or enough money to start a family. I had my first son at the end of graduate school, and my second son four years later, shortly after starting a second postdoc. So, how is it going? Can I be a great parent AND be a successful postdoc? Can I have it all? The answer is Yes! And...No. And, both Yes and No, sometimes even at the same time. Let me explain:

Published in COMPASS Points

One topic represents a common problem of science today: the academic faculty job market. The competition for an assistant professorship in cell biology in a middle-sized university in the United States results in a clash of approximately 300 applicants warring against each other for ONE position. In times of impact factor dominance, limited fellowships, and fewer grants, the focus has shifted from creativity to irrational productivity, sometimes measured by the number of CNS (Cell, Nature, Science) papers published. Even though the career transition from postdoc to assistant professor is broken now, how can you proceed to the next academic step if you really want to?

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 11 April 2014 00:00

Where Will a Biology PhD Take You?

Based primarily on the 2012 NIH Workforce report this infographic represents current workforce sizes and annual fluxes before and after a PhD in the biomedical sciences in the US. The picture is not as dire as that painted for the UK by this 2010 Royal Society report, but many of these figures are based on estimates and self-reporting. We'll have to wait for the NAS Postdoc Report for better data. In the meantime, that report's chair, Greg Petsko, has divulged some interesting tidbits in his iBiology talk: the data on postdocs are so poor, many institutions can't estimate the number of postdocs they have within an order of magnitude. Hopefully, clear data on these job markets will empower trainees to make better-informed career decisions.

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 04 April 2014 00:00

Exotic Electronic Lab Notebooks

A few weeks ago, we heard about two of the most popular tools for maintaining a lab notebook: Evernote and OneNote (now available for Mac). I'm a devout OneNote user myself - for my needs, it's fantastic. Then again, I'm mostly just making in-line buffer calculations, linking to other documents, taking advantage of URL annotations on my copy and paste jobs, and using the Snipping Tool like it's going out of style. But what if I had more heavy duty data analysis to do, or computational projects to manage? As more and more biologists are building their own software tools, it makes sense to have a notebook that can interface with code in a more meaningful way.

Published in COMPASS Points
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