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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Preparing for an academic interview – a survey (Part I)

EMBL recently organised the conference ‘The Next Generation in Infection Biology’ to provide a platform for late-stage postdoctoral scientists to showcase their work and connect with leading European faculty hiring institutions in infection biology.

To complement the cutting-edge science presented and networking sessions, the EMBL Fellows’ Career Service organised a session focused on the academic job market. We aimed to bring some clarity about the hiring process and what is needed to secure a faculty position. We invited 4 principal investigators (PIs) from France, Spain, Malta and the Netherlands to participate in a panel discussion and share their expectations when interviewing candidates. To animate the discussion, we also presented the results of a short anonymous survey we had completed with other PIs. The survey included questions related to the most common uncertainties postdocs share with us when they are preparing to apply for PI roles. Twenty faculty members responded, 6 of whom have been involved in search committees for more than 10 years. Further survey responses are welcome!

This blog post focuses on the conclusions we drew from the survey responses and related data, and also provides a set of key resources for navigating the early stages of the job application process. A summary of the panel discussion will be provided in an upcoming second post.

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How do group leaders recruit postdocs?

To inform a new workshop on applying to postdoc positions, we recently ran a survey on how group leaders recruit. So far we have 35 responses, which nicely complement our previous larger international survey on what to include in your CV.

Below you can read our preliminary results. Further survey responses from academic group leaders who hire postdocs are welcome!

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What to include in your CV – an international perspective

Scientists are internationally mobile & they do not always find guidance on tailoring their CVs for specific sectors and countries. Following a recent twitter debate on whether photos should be included in CVs, the EMBL Fellows’ Career Service started a survey to provide evidence-based guidance for life scientists.

A PDF summary of the main conclusions, with a graphical visualisation of the results by sector and country can be downloaded here. This article aims to provide a more detailed discussion.

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