Science Careers Best of 2007


For the past few years, Science Careers has used the year-end issue to highlight the editors’ choices for the best articles of that year. As 2007 ends, we continue that tradition. For early-career and aspiring scientists, every year offers serious challenges, but thanks to a tight job market and a funding climate that’s the worst in many years, this year’s choices reflect an even greater sense of urgency.

To help our readers cope with this tighter environment in 2007, Science Careers articles offered more nuts-and-bolts career advice on dealing with setbacks and deception, on improving your chances of getting published in a top journal, and on landing research funds in a tight market. We expanded our coverage of student issues, with monthly columns for Ph.D. students (the “Mastering Your Ph.D.” series) and more articles for undergraduates than in previous years. For all early-career scientists–students and faculty members, academic and industry scientists–we discussed the importance of balancing life outside the lab with workday pursuits.

In 2007, we talked about how the political establishments in the United States and in Europe have begun to recognize the imbalance in the scientific work force, the supply of young scientists exceeding the demand for their services, at least in the jobs scientists traditionally hold. Testimony in U.S. congressional hearings, on which we reported, exposed the myth that there’s a shortage of scientists and engineers. In Europe, the much-heralded European Research Council, a funding mechanism created by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme, was flooded with more than 9000 proposals for some 300 research grants, an illustration of just how competitive the fellowship market has become.

Even as we wrote about the difficulties encountered by scientists, we offered more hopeful and inspirational stories. We highlighted Rita Thornton, who overcame barriers of race, age, and disability to earn a Ph.D. degree and succeed in her field of environmental science. We wrote about neuropsychologist Bigna Lenggenhager, who at age 27 saw her research about simulating out-of-body experiences published in Science and discussed on the pages of leading newspapers around the world. For students considering a Ph.D., we showed how a doctorate can provide many of the skills industry is seeking.

In 2007, we took steps to encourage more dialog with our readers. We changed the Science Careers Blog to a platform that makes it easier to provide comments and started a page on Facebook with José Fernández, our GrantsNet program manager, as host and guide. And we started a new In Person series, featuring first-person accounts and commentary from scientists, policymakers, and managers. After you read over the editors’ 2007 selections displayed below, let’s hear from you via e-mail, the Science Careers Forum, the Blog, or Facebook in 2008.

Best of 2007, Editors’ Choices

What You Need to Know About Electronic R01 SubmissionsAlan Kotok, 5 January 2007Science Careers gives you the lowdown on electronic submission of NIH R01 grant proposals as the first submission deadline approached.

Opportunities: InsubordinationPeter Fiske, 12 January 2007 Grad students and postdocs often are encouraged to stick to the straight and narrow. But sometimes it’s a good idea to color outside the lines.

Dealing With DeceptionBeryl Lieff Benderly, 19 January 2007 As incentives for scientific cheating increase, early-career researchers need ways of protecting their own careers while safeguarding the integrity of science.

Returning to AcademiaSarah Webb, 26 January 2007 Conventional wisdom says that moving to industry is a one-way ticket, but some scientists have made it a roundtrip.

Mastering Your Ph.D.: Dealing With SetbacksPatricia Gosling and Bart Noordam, 16 February 2007 Stuff happens in science, sometimes it’s bad stuff, and you can’t just reset and start over. Here’s how to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and move on.

Young Researchers Face NASA Budget RealitiesAndrew Fazekas, 23 February 2007 NASA’s tough funding climate is taking its toll on the next generation of space researchers.

Priming the MindPolly Shulman, 2 March 2007 Yale graduate student Lawrence Williams wants to understand how factors we aren’t aware of influence our thoughts and decisions.

Cruising the Frozen SeasAndrew Fazekas, 16 March 2007 Biological oceanographers share their experiences doing science on Antarctic seas.

A “Comprehensive” CareerSarah Webb, 23 March 2007 Faculty members at smaller public institutions and comprehensive colleges find creative ways to pursue scholarship while dealing with heavy teaching loads.

Getting Published in Scientific JournalsElisabeth Pain, 6 April 2007 Your publication record can make or break your career, but training in scientific writing is rare. What can you do to improve your chance of success?

Who Speaks for Early-Career Scientists?Beryl Lieff Benderly, 1 June 2007 In the current discussion about raising the cap on the number of foreign technical and scientific workers, the voices of the Americans most directly affected are going largely unheard.

Hidden Talents, Hungry Markets: Ph.D.s Have Many Skills to Offer IndustryKrista Zala, 8 June 2007 Managing your project, heeding a budget, and presenting your results at meetings all hone skills that you’ll need to land a job outside academia.

To Choose an Adviser, Be an “Armchair Anthropologist”Siri Carpenter, 20 July 2007 Choosing a research adviser is as critical as any decision you will make during your scientific training. To choose wisely, you’ll need to ferret out some information, both scientific and cultural.

Undergraduates Ask: Should I Do a Ph.D.?Elisabeth Pain, 14 September 2007 Whether to do a Ph.D. is one of the most important decisions you will make in your professional life. Yet many students go into it blindly.

Studying the Self ScientificallyElisabeth Pain, 5 October 2007 Two things set Ph.D. student Bigna Lenggenhager apart from most of her peers: her area of research and the fact that she has already published her work in a top journal.

Rita Thornton: Turning Obstacles into SteppingstonesAnne Sasso, 12 October 2007 Rita Thornton’s experience demonstrates that age, race, and disability need not be barriers to success in science.

Mastering Your Ph.D.: Starting Off on the Right FootPatricia Gosling, Bart Noordam, 26 October 2007 For scientists in grad school, getting into good habits early is key to starting a new term off right.

Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 1: Publication, Citation, and ImpactS. Pfirman, P. Balsam, R. E. Bell, J. D. Laird, A. E. Michaels, 2 November 2007 Figuring out what hiring and tenure committees are looking for is difficult for junior scientists. In the first installment of a three-part series, the authors give advice on managing publications and citations in order to maximize impact and survive assessments.

In Person: Hiring in a Dysfunctional Job MarketBrooke Allen, 16 November 2007 A technical professional from the finance industry describes some innovative ways to uncover hidden talent.

Work and Life in the BalanceKate Travis, 7 December 2007 For some people, work-life balance means career and family. For others, it’s work and social life. Whatever the situation, it’s tricky to manage and takes a lot of self-discipline.

Darwin’s Legacy: Keeping Order

Taken for Granted: Labor Unions and Postdoc Disputes