Career Q&A: Laurel Haak


Laurel L. Haak has had an interesting career. She started out with traditional scientific training, earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Stanford University Medical School. She branched out after a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), joining Science’s Next Wave (as Science Careers used to be called), where she served as manager of the Postdoc Network and was instrumental in creating the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA). She has won several awards, including an NIH Director’s Award and the NPA’s Distinguished Service Award. She was recently appointed executive director of Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID), an organization that provides individuals with a unique identifier and record for managing their research activities. We decided to catch up and learn about her new position.

“A person I interviewed with once said that my resume was ‘evolutionary.’ I am not sure that was a compliment at the time, but the observation is spot on.”—Laurel Haak

This interview, which was conducted by e-mail, has been edited for clarity and brevity.

We are working with the research community to embed ORCIDs into research workflows, providing a means to associate research activities with the identifier. This information can then be used to keep local systems up-to-date, which will result in accurate attribution, less time spent filling out forms, and more complete information with which to map the research ecosystem—a benefit to everyone in R&D.

A person I interviewed with once said that my resume was “evolutionary.” I am not sure that was a compliment at the time, but the observation is spot on. My science training provided the core understanding of the research ecosystem, and the need for a portable identifier. I learned about research policy, perspectives of stakeholders, and developing targeted communications while at AAAS [the publisher of Science Careers] and at the National Academies. Discovery Logic provided corporate experience developing requirements for research systems, managing deliverables, and getting a product delivered on time and within budget. Still, I am learning every day.

After grad school, I took a postdoc position at NIH and on the side was a volunteer editor for a quarterly newsletter for Women in Neuroscience [under the Society for Neuroscience]. When I started interviewing for a “real job,” I applied for jobs in academia, pharma, and biotech. A colleague sent me the post for the Next Wave editor position. I love writing, from the WIN newsletter I found I really enjoyed empowering people to make informed decisions about their career, and the Next Wave position provided an opportunity to work on postdoc policy issues. It was absolutely the right decision for me.

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