The Irish funding agency, Science Foundation Ireland, is at the forefront of progressive policies designed to improve gender balance in the research they fund. These policies have gradually been introduced to respond to a need to ensure that excellence–and not whether they are having children–is the only criteria determining women’s chance of being funded. In this opinion piece, SFI’s Fiona Blighe explains how the various schemes in place work.
EuroScientist talks to Costas Fotakis, who is the former research minister for the Syriza leftist government of Alexis Tsipras, in Greece. He has been involved in designing the science policy of the Syriza party, which is competing in forthcoming national elections on Sunday 20th September 2015. In this exclusive interview to EuroScientist, he shares his view on how to build research capabilities in Greece.
With replication issues pervading neuroscience and psychology, journals in these fields aim to change the incentive structure of academic publishing. Under what they have dubbed 'pre-registration', editors expect scientists to register a detailed methodology before conducting their study. This approach, designed to remove biases and encourage replication, has since been adopted by journals that span the life and social sciences. But fray not, pre-registration leaves room for exploratory science.
A flavour of the life of some scientists working in extreme conditions shows how work-life balance is heavily tilted towards work. Yet, there are ways to preserve a sense of down time and enjoy the extreme beauty of these remote places. Above all this sort of human experience will make scientists involved stronger and better equipped to face future life and career challenges.
Never thought of being gender biased when performing evaluations? Scientists often consider themselves to be rational and objective. But a growing batch of literature suggests the opposite. Particularly, when it comes to evaluating research. Male and female scientists alike tend to implicitly undervalue women’s scientific accomplishments. A 2012 EU-report, identifies unconscious bias in assessing excellence as one of the major problems women face in science.
A recent petition seeking government support to establish more permanent jobs and to limit the number of short term contracts in science and technology positions in Germany has already gathered over 10,000 signatures. It was initiated on 7th March 2014 by a German scientist called Sebastian Raupach, who wrote a letter addressed to the vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, and to the country’s federal minister for education and research, Johanna Wanke. This petition reflects the growing unrest among scientists regarding the limited career path in Germany.
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Bad behaviour is omnipresent in science. It encompasses everything from outright scientific fraud, such as falsifying data, to other misconducts like cherry-picking data, favourable-looking images and graphs, and drawing conclusions that are not backed up by the actual facts. Overall, it matters more serious than keeping a sloppy lab notebook that no-one else can follow. This raises the deeper question: what drives scientists to behave in such a way?
History reveals a succession of many dawns and twilights, in different facets of human activity. Looking at the past, we can date and understand the reasons for the birth of science, specifically fundamental science. However, we do not know precisely when its twilight will take place. Nevertheless, clues of the advent of such twilight are already in the air. This article presents the underlying rationale suggesting that we are now past the golden age of pure science, and how we need to accommodate our research to this new era.
Academics love to measure things. But how well do they react to being measured? In the UK, that question has been thrown into sharp focus by the Research Excellence Framework, dubbed REF. It is a massive exercise, in which every university in the land has been invited, to prove the quality of the research it undertakes.
Not having a defined career structure, is for many scientists in Europe today, a frustrating reality.
One might argue that quantum physicists might tolerate this level of uncertainty better than others. Yet, this trend seems to be here to stay.
In this special issue of the Euroscientist, we explore the shift in the working culture of our society affecting scientists. This results in changes imposed by both the global economic context and the evolution of technology. Thus, scientists’ career paths increasingly look like a collection of collaborations with one-off research projects with a set duration.
As Louis Pasteur once said, “chance only favours the prepared mind”. This applies to the field of scientific discovery as well as to career management. Alas, young scientists very often lack the methods to steer their own career. Our experience of helping PhDs find jobs outside academia shows that once young scientists realise that these methods are quite simple to learn, their quest for a dream job becomes easier.