Permanent jobs in academia are scarce, and someone needs to let PhD students know

Sociologist Chris Platts found that 1% of young footballers actually gain professional contract. Take away message: becoming a professional footballer is hard.

However, Nature has surveyed more than 5,700 early career scientists who are trying to pursue an academic career. And they found that the chances of getting a job are only slightly better than the footballers’, 3-4%.

Simply put, most PhD students need to make plans for a life outside academic science. And more universities and PhD supervisors must make this clear.

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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Does ResearchGate Emerge Unscathed, or Even Strengthened?

You may remember that ResearchGate is under a brutal assault and may not survive to tell the tale.

Excerpt below is from  Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe. Lisa is the Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library and an affiliate faculty member in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“ResearchGate is under assault. As a scholarly collaboration platform that enables both public and private sharing on a networked scale, ResearchGate is seen as dangerous, not only because it is potentially infringing copyright, but because it is doing so on a massive publisher-independent scale. A group of publishers tried to tame ResearchGate through a proposal that it endorse the STM Voluntary Principles on Article Sharing on Scholarly Collaboration Networks and implement antipiracy measures, but ResearchGate rejected this proposal. Though ResearchGate now faces the threat of thousands of takedown notices and a lawsuit, it is positioned to emerge at least unscathed, if not strengthened, from these assaults.”

Want to know where we stand? Read about it here!

Science first, scientists later

In the biological sciences, authorship of scientific, peer-reviewed articles is perhaps the single biggest determinant of career success, recognition and grant funding. However, merely being one author out of, say 5, on an article is not enough, where you are on that list matters too.

Steven Burgess has proposed a radical idea on how to do away with this problem:

Want to know how? Read about it here!

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Publishers go after ResearchGate for illicit sharing of journal papers

“The unasked question that this all comes down to is: Do publisher-owned rights matter more than the sharing of research for whatever benefit?” says Jon Tennant, communications director of professional research network ScienceOpen (also an STM member) in Berlin. “There’s a chance that ResearchGate will fail to recover from this, unless they fight back, and crumble as a business.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Are preprints the future of biology? A survival guide for scientists

Although physicists have been posting preprints for nearly 3 decades, many biologists have only just begun to widely share their unreviewed papers. The shift has been catalyzed, in part, by endorsements of preprint publishing from high-profile scientists, as well as the 2013 launch of the nonprofit bioRxiv by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York; bioRxiv now holds more than 15,000 papers. But in contrast to physics, where preprints took off without much fanfare or controversy, the leap into preprints is stirring strong passions in the hyper-competitive world of the life sciences.

Pros:

  1. accelerate the pace of science—and improve its quality—by publicizing findings long before they reach journals,
  2. helping researchers get rapid feedback on their work
  3. giving a leg up to young researchers who don’t yet have many publications
  4. little difference between posting a preprint and presenting unpublished findings at a meeting, except that the preprint audience can be far larger

Cons:

  1. competitors may steal their data or ideas, and rush to publish similar work.
  2. preprint servers will become a time sink, as scientists spend hours trying to sift through an immense mishmash of papers of various quality
  3. easy, rapid publication could foster preprint wars—in which the findings in one preprint are quickly attacked in another, sometimes within hours. Such online squabbles could leave the public bewildered and erode trust in scientists.

Read about it here!

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On the fine balance between crafting new ideas and fighting writers’ block

My biggest problem as an academic? I’m not enough of a finisher. I get excited and distracted by new shiny things and start pursuing them instead of sitting down and finishing the paper from the last thing I’m already done with. I sometimes call this writers block… but that’s just an excuse and I know it.

So to combat this idea, and the ideas put forth in this post, Raul Pachecco-Vega wrote about how he teaches his students to write every day. It’s both a nice rebuttal and food for thought on how to approach the mountain of writing required to publish or perish. I especially like Meghan Duffy’s response.

Do you have writer’s block? Is there a way you combat it? Does it involve moving the refrigerator to clean behind it as a means of avoiding writing your thesis (Mom, I’m looking at you here)?

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Write drunk, edit sober

The title of this post is one of my favorite Hemmingway quotes. While I think Ernie might have taken it too far (I’m not encouraging alcoholism here), I definitely approve of this kind of mentality. Just ask my editors, my first draft is usually words vomited onto the page that I then spend MONTHS beating into submission.

But as was recently pointed out in an article making the rounds of the twitterverse: this isn’t the only way to do it, and being open about the struggles we all go through (I still hate staring at a blank page) and our process.

Check out: How academics survive the writing grind: some anecdotal advice, and let me know more about your process!

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