"careers in the life sciences"
careers in the life sciences careers in the life sciences 2 The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) has worked to improve the quality of science and scientific training throughout Europe for almost 40 years. To ensure, however, that European scientists remain competitive, EMBO sees that further actions are required and was happy to join with the European Life Sciences Forum (ELSF) to co-organise a targeted meeting to address one such topic. Our world grows increasingly technological, economies are based on knowledge rather than raw material and citizens call for information and communication on the various developments that impact our lives. It is therefore clear that Europe, for the next number of years, needs to ensure it has a well trained group of scientists covering many diverse positions. The meeting ‘Careers in the Life Sciences’ was organized to enable interested parties, policy-makers and practitioners to analyse the way in which systems influence the career of a scientist, and the potential for career development in Europe. Many lessons were learned from the meeting, not least being the need to avoid complacency. For those who are in the system, improvements are required; for those considering training as a scientist, greater clarity on career prospects is needed. These topics were addressed at the meeting, of which this booklet provides a synthesis. As a result of this meeting, EMBO and ELSF hope that a contribution has been made towards strengthening European science for the benefit of both the scientists and the general community. 3 Frank Gannon, July 2003 Executive Director, EMBO Secretary General, EMBC Member of the Executive Committee, ELSF 4 introduction Let us imagine a future in which the word ‘scientist’ refers to a profession that has a clear and transparent career structure with defined steps, good career prospects, and appropriate pay and benefits. Information and advice are offered at all levels of the career, parallel skills such as management and communication are actively cultivated and rewarded, and the concept of a career web of manifold alternatives, as well as the classical career path, is widely accepted. Young researchers are not restrained by rigid academic systems, but gain intellectual and financial independence, while receiving impartial mentoring at all stages. Related non-academic vocations are viewed as equally challenging and rewarding career destinations. Science, with its many related disciplines, is seen as an attractive profession by the young. This is not a fanciful, selfindulgent dream, but rather a collection of wishes that must come true if Europe is to fulfil its potential in the life sciences and their applications. The scientific career and the skills needed to be a scientist require urgent attention at many levels if we are to be able to speak in future of a profession: ‘scientist’. ‘I think we have a problem of attitude within the research community. If you drop out, you have failed.’ Martin Reddington, Director of Scientific Affairs and Communications, International Human Frontier Science Program Organization, Strasbourg, France 5 undergraduates professions. As they explore potential vocations, students should start to associate their developing skills, knowledge and, most importantly, their aptitudes with possible future careers. The advice of faculty professors, postdoctoral researchers or PhD students is invaluable at this stage, and personal guidance is highly desirable. Insights into areas such as entrepreneurship, intellectual property rights and patenting, law and management should be introduced through the curriculum via guest lectures, external visits or training programmes in these disciplines. Many students who decide to study for a PhD and enter a non-academic profession at a higher level should, as a result, be better prepared for this shift. University is a place in which people with a life science degree can make a career. Students need to be made aware of career possibilities, such that they can develop the appropriate attitude and interests, and be aware of all options before choosing their next step. Sharp intellects are rewarded in many jobs, and this must be made 6 clear at the undergraduate stage so that non-academic careers are not misconceived as lesser alternatives. The freedom experienced at university is rarely matched later in life. Students should exploit it to develop their flexibility and multidisciplinarity, assets increasingly required by modern science and related communication skills Presentation and writing skills are essential when communicating scientific results and projects to one’s peers and the public, and the concept of a dialogue with non-scientists is becoming increasingly important. Science is mainly funded by the public, hence public acceptance and understanding of scientists’ work is a significant factor in justifying continued funding. An ability to talk to politicians becomes important with increasing seniority, when personal contacts, lobbying and media skills can prove decisive in securing support for research. Scientists should receive formal training in communication skills during their education. Public communication, in particular, should be recognised by funders and institutions. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Nobel Laureate, Scientific Director, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen, Germany. ‘To be successful in science, you need positive feedback from your supervisor.’ 7 postgraduates After graduation, many interesting career routes open up, for which, increas- ingly, specific training opportunities exist (e.g., an M.Sc. in Biotechnology for those aiming at industry or patent work). Although a PhD is an essential qualification for embarking on an academic track, other options are possible and career advice is essential at this juncture. PhD studies require a strong interest in problem solving, analytical abilities and independent thinking. Although all PhDs involve research of some kind, this and the 8 has four years of undergraduate training, one year spent on a master's thesis and four to six years of PhD work. Though diversity can be a good thing, some standard requirements for a PhD in Europe need to be defined. This would help to increase cross-border recognition of the qualification, hence promoting researcher mobility. PhD programmes at most universities offer no continued education in science and complementary (transferable) skills. As a result, students become specialists in a title of PhD are almost the only things that doctorates in Europe have in common. The extent of undergraduate education and the duration of the thesis work vary considerably between countries, and even among institutions in the same country. At the one extreme, a PhD holder has three years of undergraduate training and three years of bench work; at the other extreme, she/he narrowly defined scientific field. Insight into management, technology transfer and communication are important for many careers in the life sciences, be they in academia or industry. Mentoring is still a foreign concept at many institutions, and supervisors are frequently unprepared for the role of mentor. PhD students should be able to discuss their performance with a mentor, and assess their potential and suitability for various careers. A PhD thesis is the beginning of the path to intellectual independence. PhD students should therefore be given the chance to write up their publications and grant applications themselves, thus learning crucial skills. Supervisors play a key role in a student’s scientific and non-scientific training, and should be aware of their importance in determining an individual's career prospects. mentoring Mentoring is an integral part of a scientist's education and career, since it helps to define the individual's goals and the path that needs to be taken to reach them. However, few organized mentoring programmes exist. Mentoring can take different forms: more advanced students may advise the beginners on the curriculum; or a person who has reached a level in her/his career that the mentee wishes to achieve may give advice. Mentors should be able to provide guidance as to which branch of the career tree an individual should follow, and supervisors must be aware of the great responsibility that they bear in ensuring that their students and postdocs receive good career counselling. 9 postdoctoral research future success are interactive scientific surroundings, and a mentor who provides intellectual freedom and career advice. In this environment, the postdoctoral scientist will be stimulated to test her/his ability to conduct independent research, start collaborations and supervise students. Switching to a new research field can contribute to scientific versatility and greater technical skills. Geographically, mobile researchers may profit from cultural diversity and new contacts, but often need to maintain useful connections at home. Though mobility can pose serious problems for those with a partner or family, an international curriculum vitae may be necessary in some countries for attracting funding Postdoctoral training is a crucial period in which a life scientist develops projects based on her/his ideas, takes on supervising responsibilities, and critically assesses career possibilities in and outside the laboratory, in academia or industry. Currently, many European postdocs are like pilots flying a holding pattern, waiting for clearance 10 to land. Many change position frequently, attempting to accumulate enough publications to gain a permanent academic position, often exceeding the three to five years considered optimal if one is to make one's mark. The choice of laboratory and scientific mentor are key decisions. Prerequisites for and boosting career prospects. Obtaining independent funding via a fellowship or grant is advisable, since it can provide greater freedom and improves the individual's curriculum vitae. The lack though of some basic non-scientific benefits, such as social security and pension contributions, can be a strong disincentive to continue or even start a postdoc. Furthermore, postdoctoral life scientists earn significantly less than similarly qualified peers such as engineers or medical doctors, hence steering many excellent people away from such a career. That is, if they have not already had to leave science as a result of having children, one of many hurdles that can impede the progress of women in scientific careers. The postdoctoral years are a time of tough decisions. Most individuals will not make it to the next academic stage. Postdoctoral research in industry, on the other hand, can offer a way into many non-academic careers. It need not be less intellectually challenging, and can allow a more controlled shift of vocation. management and business skills Besides rigorous scientific training, scientists need to acquire non-scientific skills if they intend to become group leaders, manage projects and people, and/or enter the business world: • Project management • Personnel management, including mentoring skills • Communication and negotiation skills • Awareness of industrial exploitability, intellectual property rights and technology transfer • Time management 11 academic career scientists ally selected on the basis of their publication records and prior evidence of independence, and hold the position for five years before being evaluated for tenure. At this stage, other factors, e.g. proven ability to attract external funding, patent ownership, professional activities (societies, review panels etc.) and administrative ability are taken into account. Such a defined, transparent career path is lamentably absent in most European countries, where institutions often keep young scientists in staff positions within larger groups that permit little or no independence. Funding agencies in several countries have introduced programmes allowing young scientists both intellectual and financial After a period of postdoctoral training, certain researchers should be in a position to set up an independent laboratory, and ‘It [the tenure track system] is far superior to the many other systems floating around. None of them are part of a comprehensive 12 recognise a path along which to develop a productive and rewarding career. In the USA, talented scientists are appointed to tenure track assistant professorships, which require them to initiate and manage their own research programmes, and obtain their own funding. Candidates are preferably identified by a search committee, which must ensure equal opportunities as well as excellence. These procedures tend to be highly transparent; information on selection criteria and appointments is often readily available. Candidates are usu- career structure that promotes performance.’ Gottfried Schatz, President of the Swiss Science and Technology Council (SWTR) Bern, Switzerland independence. Though such programmes are laudable attempts to force top-heavy academic systems to change, they are no substitute for fundamental reform. Universal adoption of tenure-track mechanisms would encourage scientific innovation, improve global mobility, ensure continuity of careers and lessen the impact of the brain drain. Also in a healthy academic system, the transition from postdoc to independent science and family scientist is a challenge. From a relatively protected situation, newly appointed faculty members must demonstrate skills in the management of projects, budgets and personnel. They will also be personally responsible for continuing their training in the generic skills that are so important for advancement, not only in academia, but in most other environments. 13 ‘At some point, something clicks and the male career progresses slightly faster.’ Louise Ackers, Professor at the Law School, University of Lancaster, UK. Balancing a family and scientific career is difficult, in particular for women. Factors such as mobility requirements and career breaks for babies, as well as the high probability of being part of a two-career couple, are not very compatible with family life. The EMBO position paper on women in the life sciences addresses these topics, and can be obtained from www.embo.org/projects/women/index.html EMBO & ELSF recommend: scientists in training supervisors • Scientists should consider options and opportunities at every step of their career, continually assess their suitability for different vocations and undertake further training if required. • Students and postdocs should be willing to assume responsibilities. They should be encouraged to do so 14 • Supervisors have a responsibility to be active mentors (or to appoint mentors) and should take this role seriously. They should schedule individual career discussions with their students and postdocs annually. • Supervisors should ensure that their mentees are aware of career possibilities and training requirements. • Mentors should encourage independence in their mentees at an early stage. and be rewarded appropriately by funding bodies and institutions. • Scientists should be aware that building up and maintaining networks is important for a successful career. • All individuals should take advantage of training in generic skills and insist on some degree of mentoring from their supervisor. 15 ‘We require clarity of the structure of an organization from the top down.’ Mary Osborn, group leader, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany. institutions, funding organizations and governments a clearly defined PhD programme that also includes training in generic skills. • The postdoctoral position should be reviewed with regard to fellowship duration, return policy, and salary and social benefits befitting a highly trained professional. • Researcher independence – financial as well as intellectual – should be encouraged at an early stage. • Training in generic skills, especially communication and management, should form part of the training programmes for scientists at all stages of their career. • Students should be encouraged towards multidisciplinarity. • Reform of the academic system at the training programme and career development levels is necessary at all stages: student, PhD, postdoc and tenure-track researcher. ‘In general academic salaries 16 • Career paths should be made more transparent: each institute should prepare documentation describing the paths through various levels of the academic hierarchy, appointment criteria, bottlenecks, skill requirements and opportunities. • Important universal criteria for a PhD degree in Europe should be defined. • Institutions/universities should offer should be comparable to other professions where bright people can find a job.’ Tom Wilson, Head of the Universities Department NATFHE, The University & College Lecturers’ Union, London, UK • Institutes should provide young scientists and their mentors with information on careers other than those in academia, and invite outside speakers to highlight these. • Institutes should support their scientific staff in the continuous development and implementation of mentoring skills. • The recruitment procedure for professors and group leaders should be transparent, and based primarily on quality. • Selection criteria should be clearly defined. • Feedback should be given to all candidates after interview. • Scientists should be recruited from a broad community rather than a local pool, using equally broad selection panels. 17 ‘Selection is not the problem; it's what happens to all the other excellent people who are not selected.’ Ero Vuorio, Professor, Department of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finland ‘As a young scientists you need the system to give you a chance.’ Beatrice Durand, EMBO fellow, Institut Pasteur, Paris, Fance ‘European laws don't allow an employer to employ people for more than two years without offering a permanent contract. But post-docs are outside this law!’ Guido Posern, EMBO fellow, Cancer Research UK, London, UK ‘There is a mismatch between the output of PhD students and the number of positions available later.’ Frank Gannon, Executive Director, EMBO ‘Europe is doing a worse job [than the USA] at furthering the talent it has; we can't afford to waste that resource. [...] Policy makers must [ ...] give scientists a career that is selective, risky, fair, transparent, and can be planned with reasonable certainty.’ Gottfried Schatz, President of the Swiss Science and Technology Council (SWTR) Bern, Switzerland ‘Management is an essential skill for a scientist. [...] When faculty appointments are made, applicants should also be judged on their managment record.’ David McConnell, Professor, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland ‘In nearly every country in the world, the professions clinician, engineer and lawyer are paid much more than the average scientist.’ Tom Wilson, Head of the Universities Department NATFHE, The University & College Lecturers’ Union, London, UK 18 further reading: ‘BETT Report’ Independent Review of Higher Education, Pay and Conditions (UK 1999 ) ww.set4women.gov.uk/set4women/research/ bett_report.htm ‘Promoting Academic Careers at Swiss Universities.’, Recommendations of the Swiss Science and Technology Council; only available in French or German, (Bern, Switzerland 2001) www.swtr.ch/swtr_fr/_nachwuchsfoerderung.htm www.swtr.ch/swtr_ger/_nachwuchsfoerderung.htm ‘Towards a new paradigm for education, training, and career paths in the natural sciences.’ Position paper of the Human Frontier Science Program Organization http://www.hfsp.org/pubs/Position_Papers/ funders.htm ‘Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies. Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (USA 2000) http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9831.html ‘The Glass Ceiling for Women in the Life Sciences.’ EMBO (Heidelberg, Germany 2002) www.embo.org/publications/print.html and European Science Policy Briefing of the European Science Foundation (Strasbourg, France, N°16 - July 2002) www.esf.org/publication/139/ESPB16.pdf ‘Standards for the PhD Degree in the Molecular Biosciences.’ Recommendations of the Committee on Education of The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Canada 2000) www.iubmb.unibe.ch/phdstand.htm ‘Agents for change – Bringing industry and academia together to develop career opportunities for young researchers.’ European Science Policy Briefing (Strasbourg, France, N° 17 - July 2002) www.esf.org/publication/141/ESPB17.pdf Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament ‘Researchers in the European Research Area: one profession, multiple careers.’ COM (2003) 436 (Brussels, Belgium, July 2003) ftp://ftp.cordis.lu/pub/documents_r5/natdir0000046/ s_2063005_20030722_123945_2063en.pdf about ELSF The European Life Sciences Its mission is to increase their visibility and impact in the public and policy-making arenas, to advance research and to promote the contribution of scientists to European society. Forum (ELSF) is a coalition of independent organizations representative or supportive of the life siences, biotechnology and biomedical research communities in Europe. 20 ELSF membership European Arteriosclerosis Society (EAS) European Cystic Fibrosis Society (ECFS) European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS) European Life Scientist Organisation (ELSO) European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) European Plant Science Organization (EPSO) European Society of Gene Therapy (ESGT) Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) about EMBO The European Molecular provision of training through practical courses and workshops and by stimulating mobility through its Fellowship Programme. Today EMBO has 1200 elected members, including 36 Nobel Prize laureates. The European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC) supports EMBO’s activities. Biology Organization (EMBO) promotes biosciences in Europe. It was established by leading scientists almost 40 years ago. The organization raised the standards in this area of science through the establishment of a specialist laboratory (EMBL), the The EMBC member states are: Austria Belgium Croatia Czech Republic Denmark Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Israel Italy Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland Turkey United Kingdom 21 Notes 22 23 masthead Quotes: from the EMBO and ELSF meeting: ‘Careers in the life sciences’ Heidelberg, Germany, 11 – 13, September 2002 24 and from the EMBO meeting: ‘The glass ceiling for women in the life sciences’, Heidelberg, Germany, June 22 – 23, 2001 concept & layout Ellen Peerenboom (EMBO) ilustration L. Ratt (freelance) photographs corbis stock photography and pictures illustration & photo editing Uta Mackensen text Andrew Moore (EMBO), Martin Reddington (HFSP), Jan Taplick (EMBO), Luc Van Dyck (ELSF) & Gerlind Wallon (EMBO) assistance Lynne Greinstetter text editing Andrew Moore, Jeannie Eckert, Ellen Peerenboom & Luc Van Dyck printed by Reintjes, Kleve, Germany For the latest information visit: www.embo.org www.elsf.org Ellen Peerenboom, PhD EMBO Press & Public Relations Officer Postfach 102240 D-69012 Heidelberg Tel.: +49 (0)6221·8891 108 Fax: +49 (0)6221·8891 200 firstname.lastname@example.org www.embo.org Andrew Moore, PhD EMBO Science & Society Programme Manager Postfach 102240 D-69012 Heidelberg Tel.: +49 (0)6221·8891 109 Fax: +49 (0)6221·8891 200 email@example.com www.embo.org Luc Van Dyck, PhD European Life Sciences Forum Executive Coordinator Postfach 102240 D-69012 Heidelberg Tel.: +49 (0)6221 8891 552 Fax: +49 (0)6221 8891 210 firstname.lastname@example.org www.elsf.org