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Careers talk

Social media, skills and long-term planning on ESOF 2016 agenda

Twitter perceived as too risky
A survey presented by the UK’s University of Aberdeen found that only 47 per cent of scientists use social media for professional purposes, and that established researchers were more engaged online than PhD students. Even though younger researchers have grown up with social media, they reported fears that a mistake online could damage their career advancement.

Amazon laments skills shortage
A lack of graduates in science, technology and engineering was described as the “single biggest limit” to the growth of the cloud computing branch of Amazon, by Brendan Bouffler, head of scientific computing at Amazon. The problem is even more acute in public research institutions, where salaries are lower, said Alison Kennedy, director of the UK’s Hartree Centre, which provides research services to industry.

Early-career researchers urged to think long term
PhD students and postdocs were advised to start planning for their future early on, and consider discussing their longer-term priorities with their supervisors. “The postdoc by its nature is a temporary role,” said Naoimh O’Connor, research careers manager at University College Dublin in Ireland. It is important to have a strategy for getting to where you want to be in 5 years’ time, she said, which includes life goals, as well as career goals.

Time to give credit to peer reviewers
Bernd Pulverer, head of publishing at the European Molecular Biology Organization, said that including refereeing activity in research assessment would raise the status of peer review and reduce the influence of metrics. Pulverer said that he was sceptical about the value of quantitative measures of research quality, and that a researcher’s review activity should be considered because of its fundamental role in academia.

Panels address gender balance
Female researchers remain seriously disadvantaged in obtaining senior academic positions, and subconscious discrimination remains widespread, one session heard. Mentoring and improvements to science education were among the solutions discussed. Virginie Orgogozo of the Institut Jacques Monod in France even suggested research needed to be made less competitive, to help women.

This article also appeared in the ESOF 2016 Special