Skills for a scientific career

Several studies have shown that the skills developed during early career research training are relevant for careers in academia, industry R&D and many other areas. These studies generally focus on a range of skills and, for each skill, compare the level of skill needed in the current role to the level to which this skill was acquired during the PhD (see e.g. here or here).

To add to this existing data, and aid evidence-based career guidance for life scientists, the EMBL Fellows’ Career Service previously ran a survey focused on what competencies [knowledge and behaviours] are used most by (former) life scientists working in a wide range of academic and non-academic careers. There were two major aims of the survey. Firstly,  to validate a competency framework focused on ‘classical’ research careers; and secondly to map this framework to other career areas and help life scientists to identify career areas that match their skills.

We originally received 350 responses including researchers in a range of academic (120 responses) and industry (38 responses) roles; as well as over 220 scientists working in a diverse array of non-research roles from clinical trial management to technology transfer.

As outlined below, in these responses we did see differences in the competencies selected from respondents working in different career areas, with some statistically significant differences evident between the most well-represented careers (e.g. group leader roles in academia and industry). However, we didn’t have enough responses in many non-research career areas for a robust fine-grained analysis comparing specific roles.

As we publish a major study on career destinations of EMBL researchers (here), which highlights the wide range of professions early career researchers enter, we are reopening our careers and skills survey. We would be grateful for further responses, particularly from people who have worked in life science research in academia previously (e.g. as a PhD or postdoc), and who are now working either in industry research or non-research roles in any sector. This will enable us to provide a fuller analysis on this blog in future.

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