A R e s o u R c... R e s e A R c h ...

A   R e s o u R c... R e s e A R c h  ...

A R e s o u R c e f o R s c i e n t i s t s L A u n c h i n g

R e s e A R c h c A R e e R s i n e m e R g i n g s c i e n c e c e n t e R s

A R e s o u R c e f o R s c i e n t i s t s L A u n c h i n g

R e s e A R c h c A R e e R s i n e m e R g i n g s c i e n c e c e n t e R s

© 2009 by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund

All rights reserved.

Permission to use, copy, and distribute this manual or excerpts from this manual is granted provided that (1) the copyright notice above appears in all reproductions;

(2) use is for noncommercial educational purposes only; (3) the manual or excerpts are not modified in any way; and (4) no figures or graphic images are used, copied, or distributed separate from accompanying text. Requests beyond that scope should be directed to [email protected]

Some parts of Excellence Everywhere are taken directly from Making the Right Moves.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

This manual is also available online at www.excellenceeverywhere.org.

Project Developer: Victoria McGovern, Ph.D.

Editor: Russ Campbell

Designer: Liaison Design Group

Copyeditor: Ernie Hood

Burroughs Wellcome Fund

21 T.W. Alexander Drive

P.O. Box 13901

Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3901 www.bwfund.org

A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s

The course on which this manual is based was conceived and driven by Maryrose Franko (Howard

Hughes Medical Institute) and the late and muchmissed Martin Ionescu-Pioggia (BWF), and this book owes much to—and draws from—the manual produced from that course, Making the Right Moves: A Practical

Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and

New Faculty. We are grateful to the team which built the earlier manual and to HHMI for making it easy for us to move ahead with Excellence Everywhere.

Thank you to the scientists who are quoted throughout this book. They have provided personal insights and frank comments without which this book would be much diminished. Many, many other researchers from around the world—too many to list- provided informal input and critical reading of drafts, and we thank them all for their time and for helping us make this manual a resource worth sharing.

Thanks especially to patient colleagues Jill Conley and Maryrose Franko at the Howard Hughes Medical

Institute and Barbara Sina at the Fogarty International

Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health for their long term encouragement, support, and help over the course of this project, and to HHMI editor

Pat Davenport for helpful comments throughout the process. Thanks to HHMI and to the Wellcome Trust for access to their international awardee networks, and to Jimmy Whitworth and Pat Goodwin at the

Wellcome Trust for helpful discussions. Thanks to science writers Heather B. McDonald and Christopher

Thomas Scott, who provided some additional writing.

Appreciation to Queta Bond, president emeritus now of BWF, who has been a great supporter of this work.

Finally, deep gratitude to Dan Colley, Stephanie

James, and Michael Gottlieb, who on seeing the

U.S.-focused Making the Right Moves in 2005 told us

“You need to make one of these for the rest of the world.” Who can resist such good advice from such wise people?

Table of ConTenTs


P r e f A c e

1 c h A P t e r 1 g e t t i n g s t A r t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b


The Job Search


The Job Application


The Job Interview


Negotiating Your Position



19 c h A P t e r 2 e n t r y A n d r e - e n t r y : e s t A b l i s h i n g y o u r s e l f A s

A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b


People You Should Get to Know


Support Facilities and Services


Working with Human Subjects


Responsibilities Beyond the Laboratory


Scientists and the Outside World


Understanding Your Institution and How to Progress Within It



33 c h A P t e r 3 g e t t i n g s t A r t e d : e q u i P P i n g y o u r l A b

A n d h i r i n g P e o P l e


Designing and Equipping

Your New Lab


Putting the People You Need

In Place


Interviewing Applicants


Evaluating Applicants


Making the Offer


Asking Staff to Leave



45 c h A P t e r 4 m A n A g i n g y o u r m A n y r o l e s


Your Role as a Laboratory Leader


Developing Leadership Skills


How to Improve Your

Leadership Skills


Creating Your Vision as a Leader


Developing Your Leadership Style t A b L e o f c o n t e n t s III


Building and Sustaining an

Effective Team


Good Practice for Laboratory



Making Decisions


Setting and Communicating Rules of Behavior for Members of

Your Laboratory


Keeping Lab Members Motivated


Managing Conflict in the Lab



71 c h A P t e r 5 m A n A g i n g y o u r t i m e


Strategies for Planning Your Activities


Making Choices


Managing Your Time Day-to-Day


Making the Most of the Time You Have


Managing Non-Research Tasks


Family Matters



81 c h A P t e r 6

P r o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t


Deciding on a Project


Getting Started


Tools for Developing Schedules


Controlling the Project




107 c h A P t e r 7 g e t t i n g f u n d e d


Understanding the Review Process


Preparing a Strong Grant Application



c h A P t e r 8 t e A c h i n g A n d c o u r s e d e s i g n


Why Teach Well?


Becoming an Effective Teacher


The Principles of Active Learning


Developing Examination Questions


Course Design


Teaching Others to Teach


Time Management When

Balancing Teaching and Research


The Teaching Portfolio



121 c h A P t e r 9 i n c r e A s i n g y o u r i m P A c t : g e t t i n g P u b l i s h e d


Understanding Publishing


Writing Your Paper


Submitting Your Paper


Publishing Honestly


Promoting Your Work



IV e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

135 c h A P t e r 1 0 e x P A n d i n g y o u r i n f l u e n c e : t r A i n i n g t h e n e x t g e n e r A t i o n o f s c i e n t i s t s


Training Others


Strategies for Effective Training


Different Needs at Different Stages


How to Get the Career Help and

Advice That You Need




When Mentoring, Advisory, or

Supervisory Relationships are not

working out

145 c h A P t e r 1 1 c o l l A b o r A t i o n


The Collaborative Effort


Setting up a Collaboration


The Ingredients of a Successful



Dealing with Authorship and

Intellectual Property Issues


Special Challenges for the

Beginning Investigator


When a Collaboration is Not Working



157 c h A P t e r 1 2 i n t e l l e c t u A l P r o P e r t y


Understanding Intellectual

Property Rights


Intellectual Property in a Global



Case Studies



167 c h A P t e r 1 3 m o v i n g m A t e r i A l s

A n d e q u i P m e n t


Regulations and Relevant



Appropriate Packaging


Important Issues and Practical Advice


Service and Maintenance


Responsibility for Materials


Animals and Plants


Physical Challenges to Shipping

Materials Long Distances




A P P e n d i x

t A b L e o f c o n t e n t s V

e v e R y v i R t u e o R e x c e L L e n c e b o t h b R i n g s i n t o g o o d c o n d i t i o n

t h e t h i n g o f w h i c h i t i s t h e e x c e L L e n c e A n d m A k e s t h e w o R k o f

t h A t t h i n g b e d o n e w e L L ;

t h e e x c e L L e n c e o f t h e e y e m A k e s b o t h t h e e y e A n d i t s w o R k

g o o d , f o R i t i s b y t h e e x c e L L e n c e o f t h e e y e t h A t w e s e e w e L L .

s i m i L A R L y t h e e x c e L L e n c e o f t h e h o R s e m A k e s A h o R s e b o t h

g o o d i n i t s e L f , A n d g o o d A t R u n n i n g , A n d A t c A R R y i n g i t s R i d e R ,

A n d A t A w A i t i n g t h e A t t A c k o f t h e e n e m y .

t h e R e f o R e , i f t h i s i s t R u e i n e v e R y c A s e , t h e e x c e L L e n c e o f

A p e R s o n A L s o w i L L b e t h e s t A t e o f c h A R A c t e R w h i c h m A k e s A

p e R s o n g o o d A n d m A k e s h i m d o h i s o w n w o R k w e L L .

A r i s t o t l e

VI e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

p R e f A c e

Launching a scientific career is difficult. Success as a scientist will depend on many things—from intelligence and creativity to luck; from being a good team player to being an independent thinker and driver of your own work; from bringing out the best in the people with whom you work to being an accurate and respected authority whose fairness and good ideas are known to other researchers, research organizations, and perhaps governments. At the top in research, people almost universally want the same things: to be excellent scientists, to do their best work, and to see good things come of it. Integrity is at the core of a good career, everywhere. A successful career in science pays off by advancing knowledge, and often by helping to make the world a healthier or easier place, by earning one the respect of other scientists, and by providing new opportunities to do good work and share in a better life.

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is proud to support many excellent life scientists during the early part of their careers. Although we are a research funder, our focus is actually not just on the research but also on the scientists who carry it out. Put simply, we look for the best young scientists and then invest our resources to help them reach new levels of excellence. We believe that giving scientists room for creativity, for taking risks, and for moving their interests between fields to look at existing problems in new ways is a strategy that produces a catalytic effect. Foundations are fairly small in the overall scheme of scientific funding, so like an enzyme we hope to pick a good spot from which to bring things into line so that the barriers to activation can be reduced.

Several years ago, we asked our awardees who were just starting faculty careers in the United

States and Canada to think about how we could help them better. What we heard back from them surprised us—they did not ask for more money or more scientific resources. Instead, they asked us for help in understanding how to succeed at many activities—managing people, getting grants, spreading one’s reputation, and more—that are critical for scientific success and are not taught at the bench.

Their replies stirred us to action. The Burroughs

Wellcome Fund teamed up with the Howard

Hughes Medical Institute, another researchsupporting organization that, like us, is interested in what it takes to make a good career great and a great career magnificent. Together we put together a short course for our early-career awardees. The response to the course was so strongly positive that we put together a book to make the material covered in the course available to a broader audience.

When BWF’s awardees and advisors who work in other parts of the world saw it, they said that this information was needed far beyond North

America, the region in which we make almost all of our grants. So we set about making this material relevant to scientists starting careers p R e f A c e VII

outside our region. This volume focuses on starting careers in the emerging scientific communities in the South—the low- and middle-resource regions of the tropics and sub-tropics.

The material here features insights from researchers in Africa and South and Central America, and we hope it may be useful to those in other regions as well.

The work on re-interpreting this material for scientists in many other countries has taken place in several phases. It began with asking North

American researchers who work closely with investigators and field sites in the South to provide commentary on parts of the original book that were especially “North Americo-centric.” Next, a number of researchers from the South, but working in the

U.S., were asked for their ideas. Then BWF staff sent the revised material to researchers who have established their careers in South America,

Central America, and Africa and asked for both their critiques and corrections and, more importantly, for stories from their own early experiences in starting research careers. Their comments and thoughts are found throughout the book. We hope that these will help you feel that you are in kinship and in conversation with these scientists, even though they may be far from you.

It would be impossible to create a book that fits the experiences of researchers in every place where science is expanding and new opportunities are arising for young researchers. But the material in this book is “open source.” If you are in an institution, organization, or government that is interested in custom-tailoring our laboratory management resources to use in your own country or region, we are glad to hear it.

Science is an international endeavor. Wherever it is done, it connects us to the scientists, scholars, and philosophers of the past and the future. Our work as a scientific community can make human lives better, healthier, and longer, and can improve the economies of nations, regions, and the world.

To be a scientist is both a privilege and a passion.

We hope the insights in this book will help you build a career where you consistently aim higher, reach farther, and perform even better than you may have thought would be your best.

John E. Burris, Ph.D.


Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Victoria McGovern, Ph.D.

Senior Program Officer

Burroughs Wellcome Fund

VIII e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h A p t e R 1

GeTTInG sTaRTeD: fInDInG anD MoVInG InTo a Job

L A c i e n c i A n o t i e n e p A t R i A p e R o e L h o m b R e d e c i e n c i A s í L A t i e n e .

b e r n A r d o h o u s s A y

As you complete your scientific training and prepare to move forward into a position of greater scientific and often managerial responsibility, you are probably starting to think about the next step in your research career. For some of you, this may mean a position as the head of a laboratory at a university or as a researcher in an industry or government laboratory. For others, it may mean working more independently than during your training, but still under another scientist or official’s authority. You may have lined up a job even before starting your training or you may have to embark on a job search, perhaps with little idea of how to begin. You may have completed your training in the same country where you hope to find permanent employment, or you may be returning to your home country after having trained elsewhere.

This book focuses on scientists with doctoral degrees, but there are several levels of training for professional scientists, and in many countries there are jobs at each of these levels that can lead to positions of power and responsibility. For example, in many places people who hold the

MPhil or MSc degree and have relevant experience will become program coordinators or managers of complex partnerships, while experienced people with PhDs will more commonly lead one or a group of research programs. It is a good idea to be familiar with what kinds of jobs and responsibilities generally go with the degree you have in the place where you will work.

The process of obtaining a research appointment varies greatly from country to country and from situation to situation. This chapter will provide some general advice and strategies to help you find the type of job that suits your ambitions and goals. If you will be moving to a new position in the same institution or department or into a job that has been held for you, you may not need to carry out a job search. Still, this chapter may provide some insight into how to make sure you and your institution—whether it is a university, research institute, clinic, or government—have the same expectations as you begin a new phase of your career. That insight will help even if you find yourself in a totally different country, neither your own nor the one where you trained, but where you may have secured a job or hope to find a job.

The quote above: Houssay, referring to a famous quote by Pasteur, reflects that while science itself has no country, scientists do.

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b 1

As you start your job search or prepare to move into new responsibilities, you will confront a series of challenging questions: n

What do I want and need from my scientific work?


What do I want and need from a job?


If a job is being held for me, is it still the next job I want, and one that makes sense for me?


How has time away affected my standing at an institution to which I might return?


What will my career progression be like if I return to this institute?


If I find I have more than one opportunity in front of me, how will I chose between them?


How can I ensure that my achievements and capabilities, which may have been developed far from where I want to work, will be recognized?


If I have more than one job offer, how will I choose?


How can I ensure that the resources I need to launch my career and succeed as a researcher are made available to me?


How can my skills and knowledge be used to address the needs and opportunities in the institution and position in which I will work?

Most people also confront a very basic question: n

How do I go about finding a job?

There are no universally correct answers to these questions, but this chapter will raise some things to consider as you look for your own answers.

The Job seaRCh

If you need to find a job, make your search a concentrated effort. Ideally, doing so may bring multiple offers your way at about the same time.

Even if resources and opportunities in the region where you will work are scarce, still try to enter the search mindful that you have choices and opportunities, and that you are bringing something excellent—yourself!—to your potential employer.

Making the job hunt a focused and dedicated effort also makes the labor-intensive process of gathering your credentials and references much more productive.

If you have your heart set on getting one specific job, it may still be useful to think through other possibilities. As you think more broadly, you may find that many different possible futures are available to you. You may still love the job that was your original favorite, but also find some other ways forward that will allow you to develop contingency plans in case the preferred job does not work out. There are many reasons an excellent candidate may not be selected for what seems like “the perfect job,” including personalities not quite fitting, funding being cut, and governments changing directions.

w h i L e y o u A R e s t i L L i n t R A i n i n g

If you know that you will train abroad for a few years and then return to your home country, you can help pave the way for your future job search by forming an informal advisory group of past teachers and advisors, young scientists who are slightly senior to you and who will enter jobs while you are finishing your training, and any friends and relatives who may have useful knowledge of the scientific job market which you plan to enter.

Keep these advisors informed of your scientific and career progress while you are gone so that in a few years, when it is time to begin moving toward a long-term position, you have some allies in your own country keeping you in mind and watching out for job opportunities that may fit you.

Meanwhile, if you are training in a wealthy country, be on the lookout for re-entry grant funds, which are available from a number of agencies. These modest grants are meant to help you successfully establish your research project when you return to your own country.

2 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

The concept of job-hunting does not apply exactly in the scientific activity in my country.

Apart from the very few companies that may offer jobs for scientists (really negligible), most scientists start their careers as investigators of the CONICET and/or as teacher/professors at public universities. In both cases the most critical issue is to find the lab/institute or university department where to work, and only then one applies. The position is obtained through open contests where there is not a personalized job offer but a peer review analysis of your CV, your work plan, and the institution you chose.

In the case of universities, a contest includes a public lecture, and the analysis of previous teaching activity, all assessed by a jury.

alberto Kornblihtt, argentina

Even if a position is being held for you or you are moving on to a new role in your current institution without a formal job search, it can still be worthwhile to set aside some time to put together your curriculum vitae (CV) as you are finishing up your training. The CV is the professional passport for scientists, and it is a document you should always be ready to produce on request. You should also make contact with those involved in your training and others who will be preparing letters of recommendation for you, to let them know that you are about to move on to a new stage in your career. Sending a copy of your newly-updated CV to these individuals will help them remember your experiences and goals and will show them the progress you have made. This will help them write their strongest letters of recommendation with scientific specifics, rather than just statements about their own relationships with you and your good character.

KnowInG whaT you wanT

In your job search, you will have a greater chance of finding a job that fits you well if you have your own needs and wants firmly in mind. Career options in specific countries and regions will vary greatly, and the choices you make will be very dependent on the nature of scientific careers in the place you plan to work. In some places, universities will be the principal and perhaps only settings for research. Elsewhere, research may be concentrated in government facilities or in research institutes.

Whatever opportunities are available, you should consider the following questions: n

Do you need to be working at the “top” institution to achieve your goals as a scientist, or would an excellent but less competition-driven institution be acceptable or even preferable, given your personality, talents, ambitions, and commitments?


Do you want to devote yourself exclusively to research, or would you prefer some combination of research and teaching, consulting, government service, or clinical practice?


Do you prefer an urban, rural, or suburban location?


Will personal responsibilities or the professional needs of other family members set limits on what you might do or where you might live?


If you are a physician-scientist, will you want to see patients? How much time will you want to devote to research versus clinical practice? If you are rarely in the clinic, how will you make the time to keep your clinical credentials (licenses, etc.) up to date?


Is the timing right? Have you finished what you hoped to accomplish in your training? Are you ready to succeed at the job you are considering?

In some cases, one has to start with whatever is available so as to be able to feed your family or to look after your parents. As long as you are passionate about science and have your goals clear, you will eventually find your way back to science.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b 3

leaRnInG whaT Jobs aRe aVaIlable

Reliable formal and informal sources of information to find out about available jobs include: n

Informal discussions with current and former colleagues—for example, the supervisor of your current training, other scientists with whom you have a relationship (especially those with whom you have collaborated), teachers from your under- graduate education, government officials and civil servants you may know, and your peers. If you are doing part of your training in a different country from where you will seek permanent employment, it is critically important to keep in contact with a broad array of people back home, not just family and your closest friends, so that you can find out about job opportunities or changes to a position you have been promised in advance.


Job announcement letters sent to your department or your professional society.


Announcements (print and online) in major

scientific journals such as Cell, Science, and Nature

and in publications devoted to your subspecialty.


Advertisements in local scientific and medical journals.


Advertisements in national and regional

newspapers and international magazines. The

Economist frequently carries advertisements for

jobs (mostly not research-oriented but requiring scientific knowledge) at Non-Governmental

Organizations (NGOs), Quasi-Autonomous

Non-Government Organizations (QANGOs),

Often, we ‘create’ our job by what we bring to the opportunity, including our perspective of the position and setting. Where some see problems, others perceive opportunity.

nancy Gore saravia, Colombia

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), and other wide-reaching international organizations.


Web sites of academic institutions, particularly university Web sites, and of research institutes, as well the ministry of education or equivalent government body in your country.


Employment bulletins published by professional associations.


List serves for researchers, including technical ones focused on your scientific interests and those of multinational organizations such as the

World Health Organization.


Major radio stations and selected newspapers

(announcing jobs this way is a legal requirement in some countries).

naRRowInG youR seaRCh

Job offers in your country may be scarce. If so, you should consider every opportunity that is at the appropriate level and involves the kind of work you would like to do. But many readers will be able

A f e w c A R e e R - R e L A t e d w e b s i t e s f o R s c i e n t i s t s

Nature magazine’s Nature Jobs (http://naturejobs.nature.com) Web site advertises jobs around the world and has a useful feature for focusing on jobs in your region of interest.

Science magazine’s ScienceCareers.org Web site (http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/) contains a career development resource for postdocs and beginning faculty. This site is primarily focused on

American scientists, with some European content, but some of the advice will apply to scientists in other countries.

While jobs advertised on these sites and in these magazines are mostly in countries with larger research economies, both magazines take an international view and are adding new content and new job opportunities from additional countries as time goes by.

4 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Q u e s t i o n

what Is a “Tenure-Track” Job?

A n s w e R

In Nature, Science, and frequently in career discussions you will encounter the term “tenure-track.” In some countries, a faculty member hired in a tenure-track position will work for several years before a formal decision is made on whether tenure—something approximating lifetime job security—will be granted. If tenure is not granted, the investigator is typically asked to leave so that someone else can fill the tenuretrack spot. In most institutions that use this system, a tenured professor cannot be fired, except for certain limited causes such as gross misconduct or neglect of duty. However, gaining tenure is not an easy way to convert one’s job into a sinecure. At many tenure-granting institutions, chronically unproductive faculty will lose their research space and much of their salary support until not much more than the professorial title remains.

Some career opportunities and funding programs require that an investigator have a “tenure-track” or equivalent position. That is because such a position is expected to include dedicated research space, intellectual independence (meaning that you are the driver of your own research program), and—perhaps most importantly—your institution’s clear statement that it is committed to your long-term career success and that you are part of the institution’s plans for its own future. The important thing about a tenure-track position is not that someone has offered you a job for life, but rather that your position and your institution’s commitment to you are stable enough for you to be a researcher not only today but also far into the future.

Letters of nomination or recommendation from your institution should highlight this long-term commitment to your research, in addition to commenting on your science and the personal qualities that make you an excellent scientist, if your position has a similar level of stability.

In some places, a model much like that of the French system INSERM prevails—investigators who become part of the government-sponsored research system are very secure. Some government institutions will hire researchers for a short probationary period during which they must show they will do well in the job, and then will move them into a permanent and very secure position.

to find several job offerings that fit well and should be considered. Once you have a list of possible job opportunities, compare the advantages and disadvantages of the various jobs against your list of priorities. Find out about: n

The parameters and expectations of the position.


The department’s reputation, mission, research activities, curriculum, and collegial atmosphere.


The institution’s quality, mission, values, and political and social climate.

There is no easy way to determine how many positions you should apply for. If you work in a place where there are many jobs open at the

I know of no positions (with one exception) in Argentina that have been advertised. In

Argentina it is mostly the other way around, with some minor exceptions—it is not the institutions that go looking for applicants, but former students that want to come back and knock at the door of every institution looking for some lab space.

belen elgoyhen,argentina

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b 5

same time, or are considering jobs in more than one country or region, you may put in several job applications at once. That may seem unnecessary, but remember that job hunting has valuable spin-offs. For example, if more than one place is interested in you, you may get more chances to make presentations about your work. Your ideas are sharpened by organizing your thoughts and making presentations, and your research itself will benefit from this outwardly directed thinking.When you pull together your work for presentation, you are practicing skills you will use throughout your career. You also get better at all parts of the process as you go along. Your self-confidence builds, and your sense of what you want develops as you are introduced to various research environments.

However, unless jobs are extremely scarce in the place where you most want to work, do not apply for a scientific job for which you are clearly not qualified, whether it is beyond your current experience level or far below it. Nor should you pursue employment that really does not interest you. You do not want to waste people’s time and perhaps damage your own credibility.

The Job applICaTIon

How you go about applying for a job varies from place to place and from institution to institution.

Talk to those who trained you and to colleagues to find out about the culture at the institutions you would like to approach and what you will need to do to put in a successful application. This section provides some general guidelines, with specific examples from various individuals.

MaKInG a GooD fIRsT IMpRessIon

Regardless of the type of application process, follow the application instructions or expected protocol carefully. Make sure your materials are free of factual, grammatical, and spelling errors.

You do not want to be eliminated at the outset— a sloppily-prepared document makes a bad impression.

If there is a deadline, be sure to get your application in on time. But if you learn about the position after the application deadline has passed, go ahead and send in your application with an explanation that you were unaware of the position before the deadline. Many institutions are willing to consider late applications, and most will be delighted to see your application if you are particularly well-suited for the position available.

putting Together your CV.

Most job applications require you to submit a CV along with your application. Typically, this career summary should contain: n

Your name, address, and telephone number.


All higher education, with degrees obtained and dates.


All professional positions held, with dates and brief descriptions of the work performed.


Awards and honors, including pre- and postdoctoral fellowships.


Membership in national, regional, and international scientific and professional societies.


Major sources of independent funding.


Publications, including major reviews.


Teaching experience, awards, and interests.


References, including names, titles, addresses, and other contact information.


Invited keynote speeches and presentations.


Major research projects undertaken.


Main responsibilities held in work-related committees.

In some countries, it is accepted that you will provide personal details such as your marital status, number of children, or general health, but in others this practice will seem peculiar and may cause your application to be viewed less seriously than those that conform to a less personal standard. Ask friends and colleagues who have positions like the job you hope to get if they will look at your CV and tell you if there is anything more that should be included or anything that should be removed.

Highlight your name in bold type in your publications list so that it will be easy to see where you fell among the authors. List manuscripts in preparation as a separate category. Do not list every paper you can conceive of writing in the next year. Include only papers that you are seriously

6 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

preparing for immediate submission, or you may be seen as dishonestly padding your CV rather than as someone who has many irons in the fire. Be prepared for requests for copies of manuscripts that you have described as in preparation or submitted.

The Research proposal.

Some applications will require you to provide a description of your research plans. This research proposal may be reviewed by a committee composed of people from scientific areas outside your subspecialty.

For this reason, make sure that your proposal is clearly written and that it provides sufficient background for non-specialists to understand the importance of the work.

Follow any guidelines given when writing your research proposals. Here are some suggested items you might include: n

A title that succinctly describes the nature of your proposal.


A statement about the problem you intend to work on, indicating the key unanswered questions you will tackle. State how this research is expected to contribute to other research in your general area of scientific interest, and if appropriate to the proposal, how it may contribute to policy formula- tion or informed decision-making.


A description of your research plans. This section should comprise 50-70% of the proposal. Put forward three or four specific aims that address a range of fundamental questions within your discipline. Demonstrate that you have the neces- sary background to achieve what you propose.

Be both creative and realistic.


A few comprehensive figures. These can help make your proposal more interesting to read.

Remember, figures are most useful when they are included in the text, as they would be in a published paper, and not tacked on at the end, as they usually are when you are submitting a paper for publication.


A detailed description of the research you conduct- ed as part of your training, with an emphasis on what is novel, useful, and important and how it is the basis for your research proposal. You may want to make clear that the work you are taking with you will not be in direct competition with your former supervisor, especially if you work in the same country.


A short bibliography backing your research plan.

It should include your publications and manuscripts submitted or in press, as well as pertinent publications by others.

Your research proposal should accomplish one goal: to spell out what you realistically hope to accomplish in the next few years as an employee of the organization to which you are applying. If your plans are too grandiose, you may undermine your case by showing that you are not a realist.

(Worse, you might land the job and then be expected to live up to your unrealistic plans!)

If your plans are not big enough, however, you may appear to misunderstand the position or lack ambition. This, then, is another document where insight from others who have landed similar jobs in the same or similar institutions will be extremely valuable.


Follow instructions given for each application. Send along any important papers that are not yet published.

statement of Teaching.

If the job has a teaching component, you may be asked to include a separate section describing how you look at teaching, your instructional style, and any teaching experience you may have already had. This topic will be discussed further in chapter 8.

letters of Recommendation.

Depending on the application instructions, letters of recommendation can be included by you in the application package or submitted later without passing through your hands. Typically, these letters are written by your former supervisors. It also may be acceptable to submit one or two more references than the number asked for in the application. If possible, you should check in with the organization to which you are applying about this. Again, it is usually not appropriate to go overboard. Sending 12 references when three are requested would be viewed by many employers as a sign that you are insecure or grandiose, but some might view it as a sign that you are well-connected. It is in your best interest to find out which is more likely to be true at the institution you are interested in joining. Checking in directly with the office of the person who is hiring is one way to make sure that you do not send the wrong message.

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When you approach someone other than an advisor for a letter of recommendation, use the conversation as an opportunity to get a sense of how they judge your work. If you encounter any hesitation at all, or an indication that the person does not have time to write a letter or does not know you well enough to do so, ask others. In most cases it is better to ask someone who really knows you and your work—not just someone with an important title.

Give those who are writing you letters of recommendation plenty of time to prepare the letters.

When possible, give them your application package, any advertisements or job announcements to which you may be responding, and your most up-to-date CV. It is important that your more recent accomplishments are on their minds, not just things you may have done years ago. If you find the process narcissistic or are uncomfortable with the self-promotion involved, don’t worry— many people feel the same way. But what you are trying to do is to put on paper the facts that will make employers want to have a look at you.

These letters may be the key to convincing a potential employer to consider you for the job.

You need them to be as strong, current, and laudatory as they can honestly be. Your future depends on them.

In some places, it is not uncommon (but certainly not common) for people to ask you to prepare a draft of the letter of recommendation for them.

They do this so that you can highlight points that will strengthen your application—if you are applying on the strength of your experience with a particular technique, for example, the letter might spend a paragraph focusing on your mastery of the technique, in addition to paragraphs commenting on the bigger picture of your science, on your character, and on your standing compared with your peers. If an advisor asks you to draft a letter, it is fair for you to ask him or her to give you some examples of other letters, so that you can get the format and tone correct, and for you to ask others in your lab to help you craft the best letter you can. Be aware that although someone may have described this as a “draft,” he or she may sign it and send it without adding more comments or editing it, so check it very carefully before you declare it complete.

In most cases, your recommenders will write the letters themselves and will not let you see them.

When you deliver or send them your CV, point out any strengths you have that they may not be fully aware of. But be careful—you do not want to appear to be dictating your letter to them, and things you say that are meant to turn any negative impressions of you around could backfire.

If you are able to, provide your recommenders with stamped, addressed envelopes ready to accept letters and be sent, or, if letters are to be sent electronically, provide the complete URL or email address for submission. You want to lower the barriers to them sending the letters, or else they may procrastinate. It is better to buy the stamps yourself rather than have the letter languish simply because this important person was unable to find time to go to the post office. Tell them when each letter to each of your potential employers will be needed, and then remind them until they send your letters. Check in with the office that is hiring to verify that each letter has been received. If the people who are writing your reference letters are established scientists with a secretary or aide, you may want to enlist the help of that assistant to be sure the letters are sent in on time.

Unless a job application specifically asks for electronic submissions only, a paper letter on the writer’s letterhead stationery should be sent, even if an electronic version has also been forwarded.

The Job InTeRVIew

Depending on the process for obtaining a job in your country, a formal job interview may be required. It might last a short time, or it could involve a day long or over night visit to the institution. It may be conducted by a single person or a committee. Or you might be asked to meet directly with the hiring official at a local or international meeting and not be brought on site at all. The interview could also be conducted in stages, with some applicants being eliminated at each step. The institution inviting you for an interview may or may not pay your expenses for travel and accommodations. You might meet with several senior members of the institution, either

8 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Q u e s t i o n

what if I do not get along with my former or current supervisor?

A n s w e R

If you do not have a good relationship with your supervisor and cannot ask for a letter of recommendation, sometimes it is best to explain why in your cover letter. Be completely candid about the situation. Not having a recommendation from the very person who trained you and supervised your work can be a very significant red flag. Sometimes if you have a good relationship with the top person at your institution or department, you can ask that person to take on the task of helping you advance to your next position. This may be effective in allowing you to get past conflicts with your problematic supervisor. But remember that your publication record may make it obvious that you are not asking the person with whom you worked most closely to give you a recommendation. Despite your insertion of a higher official into the process, those in charge of reviewing applications may contact your immediate supervisor anyway.

Think and act carefully in this situation, but do not become too paranoid—a soured relationship with a past boss can be inconvenient, particularly in the small world of research, but conflicts are bad for both parties involved, and hounding you forever would probably be a negative career move for your former supervisor.

When important people are consistently bad bosses to those they train, word gets around. You should resist the urge to complain or badmouth your nemesis, and should not be surprised if a few years later others turn out to know of the grace with which you handled this difficult situation.

In the meantime, a letter from another scientist at your supervisor’s level at your institution who can comment on your intellect and hard work and perhaps make a comment on the difficult relationship between you and your supervisor may be critical in this case. Often, the frictions that arise between people can be put in a light that reflects positively on you and your supervisor—for example, if your interests in basic science grew to conflict with your supervisor’s need to use you in an administrative or bureaucratic role, then neither of you were “bad people,” the job was simply not a good fit. It is obvious how and why some bad feeling might come along. People do understand that sometimes the fit between individuals’ personalities or between a scientist and a particular job is just not right, and will not always judge you harshly for it.

during the first or subsequent interviews, and they may be asked to provide feedback about you to the person or committee doing the hiring. You may also be asked to give one or more talks about your research. No matter what the format of the job interview is, it will be your task to: n

Convince those listening that your work is exciting and that you will be a leader in your field.


Convince each person you talk with that you will be a good colleague.


Find out as much as you can that will help you decide if the institution, the working group, and the job are right for you.


Convince the interview panel that your competen- cies and expertise will complement and strengthen those of the research group and add value to existing research activity.

Regardless of how the particular process works, be prepared for a demanding and exhausting experience. Get enough rest beforehand so that you will be at your best.

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aDVanCe pRepaRaTIon

Be well-prepared by doing the following before your visit: n

Organize the logistics of your trip, including travel tickets, hotel accommodations, arrangements for pick-up, and the schedule of events on interview day. Be conservative about your estimates of travel time—you do not need the added stress of missing a connection and being late. If you will have access to email or cell phone communication during your trip, exchange addresses or phone numbers with the person who organized your interview so that you can alert each other if there are problems during your travel or any changes in plans. Do not make assumptions about arrangements being made for you—get the details beforehand. Find out whether you will be given accommodations while you are on site, particularly if you are flying in before the day of your interview. It may be that accommodations will not be provided. Knowing this before you arrive, so that you can make your own arrangements, will save you plenty of confusion and trouble later.


If you will be meeting other scientists, find out about their scientific interests ahead of time. Read a few of their papers or at least skim the abstracts.

Be ready to ask them about their work.


Learn as much as possible about the institution and its mission. You want to make sure your ambitions are in line with those of the institution.

DRess CoDe

Dress neatly and in keeping with scientific custom as you know it. If you have trained abroad, talk to colleagues who are local to the institution where you are interviewing to make sure you understand the dress code. A simple suit—jacket, buttondown shirt, tie for men, and matching trousers or skirt—may be the best approach. If you end up being over-dressed, the jacket and tie can be taken off for a less formal look. Think through what you will do if your luggage is lost on the way. It is advisable to carry an extra shirt, underclothes, and light toiletries in your hand luggage, just in case your baggage goes missing.

pRepaRInG youR Job TalK

During an interview visit, you may be asked to give a formal presentation on your current research.

At many institutions this kind of talk lasts about an hour, including 10-15 minutes for questions.

You have probably given a long talk before, and you know what works for you, but here are a few guidelines on how to prepare your talk:

First, write out the entire talk, thinking of your audience as you write. Remember, a talk is not presented in the same way as a scientific paper.

You must get your main ideas across to listeners who have had little opportunity to study the details, as well as to those whose research interests and backgrounds are very different from yours. Assume that your audience will be composed of intelligent people who are uninformed about your chosen scientific field. To help your audience follow your talk, divide it into several clear and concise sections, and give an overview of the talk at the beginning. At the end, restate your conclusions and offer an outline of your future research plans.

At the outset or at the conclusion of your talk, include a brief statement acknowledging those who helped you in your research.

Next, translate what you have written into the pictures and “major points” summaries of a slide presentation. Most researchers use PowerPoint presentations to deliver their talks. If you use computer slides, bring along a sturdy backup, for example a CD or flash drive with your talk, as well as a less technology-dependent backup like acetate slides that go on overhead projectors. Be sure to ask your hosts ahead of time about the type of equipment that will be available to you and plan accordingly. Try to vary the design of your slides, balancing the use of text and figures. Resist the temptation to use only bulleted points, but also avoid long sentences. Many people who are nervous about public speaking will place every word that they plan to say on their slides. That does not make a very good slide show! Keep the text on your slides brief and to the point. Refer to the text as you speak, but do not just read it— elaborate on it. That will lead your audience to be comfortably attentive to both your text and your remarks. Be sure that your slides are readable from the back of a lecture room and that the order of your slides matches your written presentation.

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During an interview, in some cultures it is suggested to be very polite, never make eye contact with interviewers, and to avoid speaking about oneself (e.g. describing your strengths in overt terms). Specifically, females are encouraged to avoid eye contact with male interviewers. When interviewing with a person with a foreign/international background, these principles may be viewed as major weaknesses, and thus reduce your chances of getting hired. It is important to find out the background of the interviewer and adjust one’s behavior accordingly.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

A few back-up slides of new work or additional experiments may occasionally add value to any discussion arising from your presentation.

View your slides projected in a lighted room, if possible. Many images look fine on a computer screen but work poorly when projected. In particular, avoid using light-colored text on light-colored backgrounds or dark text on dark backgrounds.

Finally, practice your talk in front of a mirror. Doing so allows you to time your presentation while getting used to the sound of your own voice. Keep repeating the talk until you can deliver it easily, using your slides as your only memory aid. If necessary, edit the talk down until you can deliver it comfortably within the time allowed. Remember that a talk that is slightly too short is much better than one that is too long. It may be better to focus on only one aspect of your research, so that you can give sufficient detail within the time you have, saving the rest for the question-and-answer session.

When you feel comfortable giving your talk, enlist your supervisor, your colleagues, scientifically trained friends and any students you work with as an audience for a “dress rehearsal” practice talk. If you will be using a laser pointer when you give your interview talk, practice with one, as the jumpiness of the laser spot can be a distraction for the audience if the speaker is not used to handling the pointer. Encourage the group to ask questions and offer frank criticism of your work, your manner of speaking, your gestures and any annoying speech or gesture habits that distract from your talk, and your professional appearance. (Especially if you are a very sensitive person, it is good to start by reminding your helpful crowd you are looking for insights that will let you quickly improve the talk, not for thorough dissection of your work, personality, and appearance.) This is a useful exercise as it may help prepare you to respond to comments, including difficult and unanticipated questions.

Ask the group for suggestions for improving your

PowerPoint slides. Make sure that you start preparing your talk well before the day you will have to leave and that you ask for comments early enough to leave time for editing your slides and your talk to incorporate with any good advice you receive. i n t e R v i e w i n g i n A g L o b A L c o n t e x t

When NGOs and multinational organizations recruit, they will frequently meet with researchers in the South, but bring with them assumptions and expectations that come from institutional cultures in Geneva, New York, Paris, London, or elsewhere. The dress code, how to interact with the organization’s staff during the process, how forward or aggressive to be during the interview, and even how much to pursue eye contact may be different from what is right for institutions in your country.

Eye contact, in particular, is difficult to gauge. In many (but not all) Northern cultures, briefly dropping and then re-establishing eye contact on encountering a person in a position of power is a respectful sign, but keeping them dropped is viewed as unconfident or dishonest. In most places, whether North or South, gaining, pursuing, and holding eye contact too much is interpreted as aggressive. Finding opportunities to talk informally with people from the countries frequently represented will give you a chance to experiment with different levels of eye contact.

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Practice your first few sentences until you can deliver them without much thought—this will help you dive into your speech even if you are nervous.

Do not memorize your whole talk and give it as a recitation, though—know what you plan to say, but relax and talk with your audience rather than trying to say exactly the same words that you practiced in the weeks before the talk.


On your own, go through your talk over and over again, paying attention to the words you will use to go through your slides. If there is a slide where you find yourself saying too much or going off on tangents, work particularly hard on moving crisply through the data.


Feeling balanced is important to your self- confidence. Plant your feet firmly on the floor.

Break habits such as rocking from foot to foot or pacing.


Make sure you speak clearly and loud enough for all in the room to hear.


Practice what you will do with your hands so that you can break fidgeting habits or the urge to put them in your pockets. A computer mouse and a pointer may be enough to keep you from fidget- ing—but be careful not to play with either of them.


Even though you may have done all the work presented, it is important to sound modest in your presentation. Begin by saying, “The work I will tell you about today was carried out while I was in the lab of X at institution Y.” Then, describe each research slide in terms of “we.” Be aware that someone may interrupt and ask, “Yes, but what of this work did you yourself do?”


Practice how you will answer questions. It is okay to answer “I do not know” if you then offer to find out about any matters of fact later and follow up with the questioner. It is a great opportunity to make contact with faculty after the interview.


If you feel you will be very close to your time limit, practice deferring questions to the end of the session so that you are not derailed by questions that come up during the talk.

DelIVeRInG The TalK


If you can, arrive early, so that you can become comfortable with the room and can be sure that your slides are set up and ready to go. You may have to ask your host to get you to the room with enough time to prepare.


The most nerve-wracking moments are just before you begin your lecture. Focus on your breathing.

Make every inhale and exhale deliberate to control a rapid heart rate. During the talk, pause and take a breath between transitions, just as you would if you were telling a friend an exciting story.


Greet your audience and tell them you are glad to be with them. Make eye contact with a few audience members who seem eager to hear what you have to say. Then plunge in.


Let it show that you are excited about your work and the chance of perhaps landing a job working with the people in front of you.


Do not worry if some people close their eyes or seem uninterested. Continue to give your talk as you practiced it, making eye contact with those who are listening closely, even if those who remain engaged are the students, not the leaders.

answeRInG QuesTIons


Repeat the question for the audience, as it is often difficult for other audience members to hear a question asked without benefit of a microphone.

Then take your time answering. If you need to, buy some more time by asking for a restatement of the question. In a pinch, give an interpretation of what you think the questioner wants to know. Take a moment to think through what you want to say and then speak, formulating a beginning, middle, and end for your answer. Give your best answer and stop. Rambling on only conveys uncertainty.


If questions are slow in coming, take the initiative by pointing out some aspect of your work that you passed over quickly but that you believe warrants the audience’s attention. This gives you a chance to use some of the material you edited out of your talk. You may generate a whole new line of ques- tioning. In case you need to go back through your slides to a particular one in order to clarify a point, arrange to have your slides accessible during the discussion period.

12 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


If challenged, listen to the criticism and give a judicious response. Do not become defensive.

Questions are more often asked because the questioner does not understand something than because he or she is trying to make a fool of the speaker. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. If the criticism seems unfair or there is a disagreement about a matter of fact, stand your ground politely. You might suggest a follow- up discussion later. Even if the person is being quite aggressive, you can still try to end the back- and-forth by suggesting that you agree to disagree until you can talk later and find out where you are misunderstanding one another.

GIVInG an InfoRMal TalK

When you visit a potential employer, you may also have an opportunity to give a less formal presentation during which you can offer detailed information about the direction of your future research. Ask before the interview how long you should talk and make sure that in fact the more formal seminar is not expected.

For an informal talk, give a brief overview of your research agenda (which you may have included in your job application as a research proposal).

Include in this talk both your short- and long-term objectives—both the purpose of the work you are talking about and what you would like to accomplish during your career. For example, you may be working on a very detailed signaling pathway, but this work is a small part in your greater interest in how one microbe causes disease. Understanding a tiny phosphorylation event may seem esoteric; putting it in the context of your long-term interest in Dengue fever helps even the least trained person in the room understand why you are doing the work.

Once you have established a sense of perspective, state several specific problems you want to work on in the next few years, and explain in detail how you plan to proceed. Be prepared to write on a white board and bring along an overhead projector sheet or two of preliminary data that will demonstrate the feasibility of your plan. Show that you are familiar with the details of any new techniques you may need to master. Be sure to convey to your audience why the work is important and how your work can make a difference to your field.

Expect to be interrupted. This kind of talk is a chance to show that you can think on your feet, that you respect others, and that you will be an interactive research colleague. Even if you feel pressured, do your best to keep things friendly and to keep any disagreements light. Saying “You may be right, I may be right—what is the best experiment for settling the matter?” is a good way to turn a disagreement back to the questioner and to the audience.

Meeting potential Colleagues.

If part of the interview process will include one-on-one conversations with other researchers who will be at or near your level, it is important to show interest in their work and ask lots of questions. Remember that these potential colleagues are looking for someone who will benefit their own work, as well as someone who is a good scientist, and often as someone who will be pleasant to have as a neighbor down the hall. You may be taken out to dinner by some of the faculty. This is a chance for them to evaluate you as a future colleague and for you to determine whether you would enjoy working with them. Be yourself during these events, but also be appropriately respectful and deferential to your would-be colleagues.

Depending on where you are applying, you may also have a chance to meet students or other trainees working there.

ConCluDInG youR VIsIT

Typically, your visit will conclude with a conversation with the head of the institute or department to which you are applying or with the committee in charge of hiring. Once the visit is over, it may be time to wait patiently, because the institution may be interviewing other candidates. In the meantime, it is customary in many places that as soon as you return home you write a formal letter addressed to the individuals you met during your visit, thanking everyone for their hospitality and reiterating your interest in the position. Even if that is not the expected protocol in the place you are looking for a job, few individuals are mortified to receive a formal note of thanks and you have little to lose by sending one. If during g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b 13

your one-on-one interviews you have promised to share data or more information, be sure to follow up on your commitment quickly. If being “Johnnyon-the-spot”—very quick and eager to serve any request—is out of place in the culture in which you will work, still follow up quickly but perhaps note that the fast follow-up is a sign of your enthusiasm for the question, not a rush to move things along more quickly.

Be sure to inform those who have interviewed you if you decide to take another job or if for some other reason you decide to withdraw your candidacy.

They may remember you negatively if you give them an unpleasant surprise by not revealing your plans until after they have made an offer to you.

neGoTIaTInG youR posITIon

Once the head of the institute or of the department where you applied has given you a tentative offer, or at least let you know that you are the top candidate, you are in a position of maximum strength for asking for what you need to do your job well, both in terms of your salary and technical resources. In some places it is expected that you may be able to negotiate some aspects of the job, while in other places it is expected that you will take what is offered. Find out ahead of time what the custom is for the position for which you are applying. The best way is to ask people in similar positions in the same area about their own experiences with starting a new position.

In some places, there will be very little room for negotiation in salary, and there may be no money available for start-up support. You may be given the only space that is available, or there may be some room for negotiating about where your lab will be.

You should gather information beforehand to better understand what is likely to be negotiable. Even when all of the practical details are pre-determined, you may be able to negotiate for more independence, or to cluster your responsibilities in ways that leave you more time for research. No matter where you go, talking with senior scientists who are familiar with the institution may help you learn where flexibility is available and how to ask for it.

eValuaTInG The offeR

If you are offered a position, you will need to find out as much as possible about the job and the resources that will be made available to you if you accept it. If you are not satisfied with some aspects of the offer, try to negotiate better terms, if you can (this is not possible at all institutions).

You will have to do the following: n

Learn the details of the offer.


Re-read the list of priorities you made at the outset of your search to evaluate how the job stacks up against that list. Is this the job that will work for you and for your family?


Calculate precisely what you need in salary and other benefits to determine whether the offer measures up. For example, can you afford to live in the community on the salary offered? Think about your family’s expenses and other financial factors that will be important to you in the long run.


Does the institution provide help in finding or paying for housing, fees for children, and, if necessary, transportation expenses related to the job? Benefits such as these can be negotiated in some institutions, but not others. In some countries, the idea of asking your institution for help with any of these things would be absurd, while in others several of them are typically part of what is available.


Enumerate in detail the other resources— especially equipment not currently on site or opportunities to travel to places where the proper equipment is available—that you believe you need to succeed in the scientific work you have planned. Decide what is absolutely necessary and what you can live without. In some cases, it may be satisfactory for the department to guarantee you access to shared equipment, rather than buying you your own.


Make your wishes known to the institution’s representatives, and engage them in the process of negotiating with you. Even in situations where salary and other personal factors are not nego- tiable, it is important to clearly indicate any resources without which you will not be able to do your work, and discuss what will be done to make sure you have access to them.

14 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Q u e s t i o n

how do I distinguish myself from the lab that I trained in if I want to continue in the same research area?

A n s w e R

Get a letter from your mentor explaining that he or she is pleased to know that you will be continuing to work on project X, which he or she will not pursue. Have this discussion with your mentor before you start to write the grant application. n

As much as possible, get everything spelled out in writing—it helps both you and your employer to be clear on what is promised and expected from both sides. This is true even if you are getting

“the standard package” and no negotiations will take place.


For physicians in clinical departments, job discus- sions should indicate the extent of clinical duties and clinical support, time to be spent at outlying clinics, and so on.


Ask for a copy of a manual that spells out the institution’s or department’s policies for its staff, if such a document exists. If it does not, make sure you know who you will need to see, what forms you will need to fill out, etc., to get yourself situ- ated at the institution. Often finding someone who is willing to act as a “big brother” or “big sister” as you settle in is the most useful way to go about learning the written and unwritten rules of your new institution, as well as important secrets like where to find the good coffee or who to call when the power goes out.


It may be that your job is very large. For example, you may be hired to be the person for an important disease in your country. Even in cases like that, you will need resources well beyond your job title to get your work done. It may be easier to discuss those resources before you agree to take the job than it will ever be after you have done so.

You may need to do some homework to rule out problems that may not have been revealed during your discussions with people at the institution where you have received an offer. For example, it would be helpful to know if the working group has experienced internal personal conflicts recently, if the organization has financial problems, if the head is retiring or stepping down soon, whether key leadership or staff members are about to leave or retire, and the rate of staff turnover, including what levels of staff leave most frequently and why. You also want to know whether people who have worked in the institution and department have been happy, well-supported, and successful.

Use the grapevine—talk to people you met during your interview visit, and talk with others recently affiliated with your potential department and institution. Be discreet, but be straightforward.

You do not want to be surprised, especially if there are issues that are not “deal breakers” but would be better dealt with before you arrive.

When you are contacted with an offer, you might be asked for a second interview. This time, you will be able to ask more detailed questions about the position. Talk with key people in your prospective department, and have a preliminary look at available housing. A second interview visit is an excellent time to start the discussion about what you will need in terms of laboratory space, materials and equipment, and staff. g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b 15

If talking directly about money is not socially acceptable in a given place, what kind of conversation could yield some general numbers without showing your hand or asking someone else to?

You can engage in a conversation with human resource personnel in a relaxed environment

(away from the work environment) where you can talk about your vision of the research group that you will be leading. This group will be in various grades and will also have different career advancement requirements as well as salary scales. On the pretext of this line of discussion try to find out (how advancement works) and where you want to be in the next five years.Also try to get the associated advancement grades and some salary scales.

In so doing you may be able to estimate the salaries of those that are above you and thus compare with your own salary. It is much easier to find out what salaries those you supervise earn than those who supervise you.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe

whaT you neeD To fInD ouT

Here are some of the details you will need to ask about.

The appointment.

You need to know the following: n

What your job title implies about your independence and authority, length of your expected relationship with the place where you are working, and expec- tations about your role(s) within the organization.


The length of your initial term of employment.


The terms under which the organization’s commit- ment to you will be renewed or not renewed.

The salary.

You need to pin down the following: n

Is the salary guaranteed, and if so, for how long?

In other words, you need to know whether part of your salary and other support must eventually be obtained from other sources.


Are you responsible for obtaining money for your salary through grants, or will your institution provide it?


If your institution provides it, what is the amount of your base pay (this may determine future raises) and is that base pay tied to a particular grant or other funding source that may expire?


Can the salary be negotiated or is it a set amount for the type of position you are being offered?


What benefits come with the position?


Can you supplement your salary from other sources, for example by consulting or teaching or working in an unrelated job?


What are your institution’s policies on outside consulting, including how much consulting is permitted, what approvals are required, and what limitations apply? Are there outside opportunities that are explicitly not allowed?


If your salary is negotiable, you should seek out sources of information you can use to evaluate your initial offer. Salaries differ not only from country to country, but even within the same country they can vary widely depending on degree, geographical location, type of institution

(public vs. private, research institute vs. university vs. hospital), and scientific discipline. To evaluate the salary offered, you need comparative information on starting faculty salaries at the institution offering you the job and in your field elsewhere, as well as on costs of living.

Salary numbers are confidential in many institutions, but it can be useful to draw on friends and colleagues to at least get an idea of the appropriate range.

Research Money and facilities.

In some countries, an institution is expected to provide an investigator who is just starting his or her own lab with some money for hiring workers and for buying supplies and other resources such as office and lab space, equipment, computers and software, a technician and other support staff, help in obtaining grants, and support for travel to conferences and meetings. This kind of institutional support may be ongoing, or it may be available only for a pre-determined period of time, after which the head of the lab is expected to obtain funds through other sources, such as grants.

16 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

If you are to set up a new laboratory yourself, it is useful to inquire about how to get such resources at the institution. You may inherit them or be expected to share them with others in the research group. However, if it works at your organization, it is good to ask up front about the resources you need so that you can plan appropriately. You do not want to later find out that your assumptions do not match those of the person or people who have hired you.

service within the Institution.

Ask whether you will be expected to serve on committees within the institution and about other projects you will be expected to become involved with, in addition to doing your research. Early on, try to establish an understanding and agreement with your superiors about how your time will be divided between your research project and other tasks.

Teaching Responsibilities.

If your job will be attached to a university, you should know that although it is rewarding, teaching can be the most time-consuming activity for new faculty. You will want a clear statement about the following: n

Your teaching load (the number of subjects and classes each term, typical enrollments, and levels and types of students).


Expectations about teaching-related tasks such as running student laboratories and administering and grading student examinations, students’ accessibility to you during non-lecture times, and advising students on their university curriculum and their careers.


Whether you are expected to draw students into your research work and direct their thesis projects.

protecting Research Time.

If you are a physician who is seeing patients and doing research, or if you are a government scientist or public health official who has administrative tasks and is doing research, you will need to clarify as much as possible how much time you will spend in each of your roles.

You need to know what is expected when your other responsibilities call you away from your research. If you do not get a clear understanding of these issues before you start your new job, you may become overwhelmed when opportunities or crises put your various roles into conflict.

The pool of jobs is limited in our clinical setting, which does compromise one’s ability to negotiate. Secondly, for active clinicians, posts are mainly clinical. Research is seen as a secondary activity which does limit time allocated to research and the ability to negotiate for protected research time. Fortunately, the status quo is changing. Government has begun to increase research funding through the National Research Foundation and the

Medical Research Council.

brian eley, south africa

Jobs are far too scarce! One has to find something, anything, and then negotiate as time goes by and you climb the ladder.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

Negotiation is not so common with government positions, but this can be done in cases of consultancies. One can negotiate their salary and the rest of the package (transport, housing allowances, work terms) in some parastatals

(state-run companies) and the private sector.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe

GeTTInG whaT you neeD anD wanT

how to negotiate.

If in your institution you can negotiate some of the aspects of your job (such as the salary, money for research, or other duties you will need to perform), present your requests clearly. Take some time to make a list of what you really need, and think about how to explain those needs to the person in charge of hiring you.

Be reasonable with your requests, but do be sure that you maximize your opportunities to do the research you hope to do.

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b 17

When the institution responds and you begin to discuss the terms of your employment, be prepared to make trade-offs. For example, if you are asking for a piece of equipment, indicate that you would be willing to share it with other faculty and how it would benefit the rest of the department. Knowing what is essential to you is crucial at this time.

The offer letter.

At some institutions, the fruits of your negotiations should be reflected in an official letter from the institution offering you a job.

Work with the institution to craft as comprehensive a letter as possible. The letter is usually your contract, so take it seriously. In addition to the basics (e.g., title, salary, and research support), the letter should detail the timing, schedule, process, and requirements for your job.

Even if offer letters are not usual in the institution where you are accepting a job, it can be useful to write a letter to the person who is hiring you soon after you have talked about your needs. In it, you can restate what he or she has said regarding the particulars of the job. If presenting a list of the particulars seems arrogant or offensive, one way to accomplish the same thing is to write a detailed thank you letter expressing your pleasure at accepting the job and noting the features that make it especially attractive.

hanDlInG MulTIple offeRs

If you are offered more than one job, congratulations! Multiple offers are gratifying, but they also make life complicated. The important thing is to deal honorably with all of your suitors. n

Be as straightforward as custom allows.


Be prompt to decline the offers you are not interested in so that other candidates may be considered for the job you do not want. Keep in mind, however, that it can be risky to decline all your other offers before you have accepted your first choice in writing. There have been cases when firm verbal offers have been withdrawn because of a university-wide hiring freeze.


Whether you should play the institutions against one another to obtain a better offer varies from place to place. Talk confidentially to some very trusted advisors to gauge the situation where you want to work.


If you need to delay making a decision, ask for an extension of the deadline if you need to. It is much better to try to move a deadline than to miss one completely.


Davis, Martha, and Gloria Fry. Scientific Papers and

Presentations. New York: Academic Press, 1996.

Heiberger, Mary M., and Julie M. Vick. The Academic

Job Search Handbook. Philadelphia: University of

Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Rehrig, Norita H. Six Steps to Successful Interviewing:

How to Build Your Reputation by Picking the Winners.

Bethlehem, PA: College Placement Council, 1990.


Austin, Jim. “You’ve Worked Hard to Get This Far.”

ScienceCareers.org (November 22, 2002),

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_ magazine/previous_issues/articles/2002_11_22/


Federation of American Societies for Experimental

Biology. Career pages, http://www.faseb.org/careers/


Golde, Chris, M. “After the Offer, Before the Deal:

Negotiating a First Academic Job,” Academe: Bulletin

of the American Association of University Professors,

January/February 1999, 44–49, http://www.aaup.org/


Golde, Chris, M. “Be Honorable and Strategic,”

ScienceCareers.org (August 24, 2001), http://scienceca-

reers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/ articles/2001_08_24/noDOI.5231522495243752553.

18 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b

c h A p t e R 2

enTRy anD Re-enTRy: esTablIshInG youRself as a sCIenTIsT In a new Job

L e p R é s e n t s e R A i t p L e i n d e t o u s L e s A v e n i R s , s i L e p A s s é n ’ y p R o J e t A i t

d é J à u n e h i s t o i R e .

A n d r é g i d e

Many scientists decide to train abroad and then return to their home countries to obtain a permanent position. The advantage of training abroad is that you get exposure to the latest approaches and ideas from the broader community. You will meet people with whom you will be able to collaborate for years to come. If you trained in a country with many resources, you probably had access to state-of-the-art facilities, major scientific publications, and conferences, and so you may have many advantages in moving your scientific ambitions forward.

But at the same time, training abroad can pose special challenges to a job search. For example, you may not have maintained the necessary conn- ections to help you find a job in your homecountry.

You may also not be as familiar with the current system in your home country, particularly if you left your country very early in your professional training, before you had gained a true understanding of how and why things work in your own country’s scientific system. It may be difficult to adjust after working in a different system for so many years. When you return, at first you may be very frustrated with how slowly things get done, especially when stocking your laboratory with supplies and equipment for the first time. In addition, the ways of judging scientific accomplishments differ between countries, so that the fact that you published in top-tier journals while training abroad may not hold as much weight as having the right connections in your home country. Also, remember that science does not proceed at the same pace in all countries. And even if you maintain a high rate of work, your basic research may be slowed as you respond to your country’s or region’s needs for practical solutions to immediate health problems. Even if you are doing well, it can be frustrating to see those you trained with “race ahead” with their careers in a richer country when you return to a place where doing science is more difficult from a practical standpoint.

Challenges you may face include limited research support and its attendant need for more time spent on preparing and revising budgets, reading and modifying contracts, and handling your own administrative tasks, including human resources management and procurement of materials,

The quote above: Gide says that the present would be full of possible futures if the past hadn’t already chosen the story.

e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b 19

equipment and supplies. Maintenance and calibration of equipment may be sub-optimal and you may find yourself handling those tasks yourself.

Exchange rate fluctuations may eat away at grants from international funders. Your network of nearby colleagues may be smaller than you have grown used to, and you may have less access to the informal transfer of knowledge that happens when there are more scientists working closer together.

What happens if I outrank my advisor when

I come back?

You must always bear in mind that outranking your advisor will be a sore point for him or her in most cases, and you should handle this situation carefully. Communication (including in writing) in all aspects of your work copied to his supervisor is very important. Your advisor may feel outranked in terms of:




grants sourced


technical expertise



One way to overcome this would be to tactfully get your advisor involved in grant proposal writing (if he or she is a good scientist) that will boost the overall profile of the research section where both of you are. This should be done in such a way that he feels that he is truly part of the process. The advisor should also be a part of the planning and implementing process of your research programme. You can also use your technical expertise to bring into the section some funds that can be used by the section as agreed upon by you and your supervisor. However, one should be careful not to be taken advantage of.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe

Be humble and respectful: work hard on your relationship with him or her. No matter how well trained you’ve come back, he or she is better connected and will know many more things that can help you readjust. It is in your interest to be humble and open minded.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

people you shoulD

GeT To Know

As a beginning investigator, you will want to learn quickly which individuals can affect your career progress. They may include: n

Heads of departments and divisions


Senior scientists within your own department or division


Senior scientists in other divisions who share your research interests


Senior physicians (if you are a physician-scientist)

It is a good idea to get acquainted with faculty in your own department and in other departments whose research interests are complementary to your own. You may find, for example, colleagues with whom research collaboration is possible, and/or colleagues with a good understanding of any health and safety risks associated with your research, who can advise you about the policies of the university and safe procedures for controlling research risks.

You should get to know administrators in your department or division who can help you with matters such as requesting maintenance, purchasing, tracking expenditures, hiring staff, and a host of other issues you will not have time to deal with in detail. These individuals will also be valuable in preserving stability when inevitable changes come, such as when the head of your department or division retires or moves on to another position.

20 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b

suppoRT faCIlITIes anD seRVICes

Some universities provide considerable support to aid faculty in their activities. Support services include libraries and media centers, scientific or technical services commonly referred to as “core facilities,” and administrative offices established to help faculty complete grant applications and comply with regulatory requirements. To save your time and to be compliant with your institution’s rules and customs, you must know what centralized facilities exist to support you.

If you are remaining at or returning to the place where you trained, you are probably already familiar with the traditional campus-wide resources and some core facilities at your institution, but may never have dealt with administrative support services. Listed below are some issues for which you may find some administrative support at an institution that has a large research operation.

If you are not at an institution that is primarily focused on research, you may find that you need to handle these important concerns yourself.

ReGulaToRy CoMplIanCe

There may be an office or committee at your institution to help keep track of the licenses and approvals you will need to comply with government regulations for research. You may need to find out about: n

Requirements for radiation safety, if you intend to use radioactive materials.


Requirements for the possession and use of bloodborne pathogens and other infectious materials and for recombinant DNA research.


Licenses needed for the use of proprietary reagents and materials, drugs and approvals for research that is specifically regulated in your country—for example, work with certain dangerous pathogens, recombinant technologies in organisms that accidentally or purposely could be released into nature, or stem cell research.

In many developing countries it is possible that government policy and infrastructure to regulate safety, scientific integrity and the ethical conduct of research are weak, or perhaps even non-existent. Institutionalization of regulatory guidelines and policy on scientific integrity and the ethical conduct of research will often require proactivity by the scientific community.

nancy Gore saravia, Colombia


Approvals for human subjects research.


Requirements for carrying out studies on animals.


Requirements for using lasers or acutely toxic chemicals, and for disposing of hazardous chemical or biomedical waste.

healTh anD safeTy

It is important that you become familiar with the health and safety guidelines that apply to your research. Universities often have rules for safety, but even if you are at an institution that does not, you should make sure the members of your research group know the hazards that may be present in your laboratory, are trained in safe work habits, and know how to deal with any emergency that may arise. Your institution may have an office to help you with this responsibility by providing safety training programs, technical assistance, regulatory compliance assistance, risk assessments, and services to test the integrity of safety equipment, or you may have to develop these capabilities yourself.

e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b 21


Q u e s t i o n

Is your institution ready to apply for international funding?

A n s w e R

It takes some preparation to get ready for managing grants from most major funding organizations. If your institution has not already been pursuing grants from major funders, you yourself may have to see to it that the clerical work to get ready for funding gets done. This preparatory work is not especially difficult, but it can be bureaucratic and time-consuming.

Most large funding organizations now or will soon require electronic submission of grant proposals.

Funders supported by governments, such as the National Institutes of Health in the U.S., may require your institution to be registered and given an identification number, which will be used on all grant-related communications with the agency, before you can put in a grant application.

Uploading grant applications to electronic submission systems can also be a time-consuming task. Each piece of the grant, from the proposal itself to the budget forms, may require a separate document to be uploaded to the funder’s online form, and others may be asked to submit electronic letters of recommendation and collaboration agreements before your proposal is complete. If your internet connection is slow or frequently interrupted, even though you begin to upload a document, it may not be properly transferred to the funder’s computer. Incomplete grant application forms will generally be rejected by the funder’s computer system, sometimes leaving one mystified about which of the many parts of the application has triggered the rejection.

If your institution plans to become more involved in seeking grants, it can be very useful to have clerical staff who can take care of background work such as registering your institution for ID numbers with various funders and phoning or emailing funders to straighten out computer glitches. Whether you have clerical staff to help or will be doing the submission on your own, be aware that until you have conquered these systems’ learning curves, the process can be very slow. Begin the process as soon as you know you will be submitting a grant to a particular agency, and begin submitting the grant several days—perhaps two weeks—before the agency’s deadline to allow time for straightening out any problems that may arise.

GRanTs anD ConTRaCTs

Your institution may have individuals who can tell you about available university financial support and help you apply for it, and can provide information about outside funding opportunities. Some institutions have complex procedures in place for submitting grants—many signatures may be needed. You should find out what the procedure is at your institution before you write your first grant so that you will not run into administrative obstacles as you race to meet a grant deadline.

TeChnoloGy TRansfeR

Some institutions have an office to manage the patenting and licensing of any discoveries made at the university. (See chapter 12 for a detailed discussion of technology transfer and intellectual property.)

22 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b

puRChasInG supplIes

You may be required to go through a specific committee or office at your institution to buy equipment and supplies. Its staff may be familiar with the full range of vendors and products and may be able to help you negotiate prices. Staff members may also be knowledgeable about regulatory and shipping requirements related to the products they buy. They may also keep track of payments and receipt of goods, thereby providing a valuable accounting function for your lab. If there is not such an office, you might consider finding a good accounting software program to use to keep track of spending and resources.

hIRInG sTaff

Large institutions may have administrative

“human resources” staff people who can help you hire research staff to work in your laboratory, or you may be responsible for advertising the job and attracting candidates yourself.


If you are at a well-known training institution, excellent students may be drawn to you by the chance to work at the institution. At smaller or less well-known institutions, attracting students may be more difficult, and forming alliances with

(including, perhaps, getting faculty appointments at) other institutions may be very useful if training a new generation is important to you.

publIC RelaTIons oR CoMMunICaTIons offICe

The public relations or communications office at a research institute keeps the outside world informed about the achievements of the institution and its scholars. Its staff maintains contact with the news media and can help you prepare for an interview, translate your findings into “sound bites,” and learn how to field questions comfortably.

If such an office exists in your institution, individuals in it may have a personal interest in reading and editing your grants and scientific papers, but this may or may not be part of their official job.

One of the lessons I have learned as a student in a foreign university and as part of a university in Costa Rica is the importance of keeping good relations with and learning from administrative staff—executive secretaries, administrative assistants, financial officers, etc. Even if one is a good researcher, one may not have good administrative skills. Besides, large organizations like universities develop a large set of regulations, and it is difficult to keep track of all of them.

Gilbert brenes Comacho, Costa Rica

” q&a

Q u e s t i o n

Is your institution ready to administer grant- funded work?

A n s w e R

Your institution will be responsible for a variety of tasks, ranging from assuring good accounting for financial support you may receive to accounting for how much of your working day is spent on a project. If your research touches on human subjects, uses animals, or requires application of “Good

Practice” guidelines discussed on page 25, there is administrative tracking that must be done. Hiring institutional clerical staff will make life easier, but if hiring staff for this work is impossible, remember to budget your own time for the required administrative tasks.

Without timely and proper accounting and reporting procedures for grants management, the flow of money from funded grants will likely stop and agencies may be reluctant to support you in the future. Failing to keep up with administration of human, animal, and good practice requirements could result in your work being stopped by regulatory agencies until you can prove that proper procedures are in place. e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b 23

woRKInG wITh huMan subJeCTs

Whether you will be using invasive techniques or simple surveys, before you work with human subjects you must obtain the approval of your institution’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) or

Independent Ethics Committee (IEC). The IRB or equivalent committee at your institution is responsible for ensuring that all research done with the institution’s participation is in line with international standards for what experiments can and cannot be done with human beings. Research involving non-human animals and some ethically contentious work on plants is also regulated, but falls under different sets of standards.

why do IRbs exist?


To protect the rights and welfare of human subjects.


To ensure compliance with existing regulations.


To prevent conflicts of interest.


To ensure that all research conducted at a facility is reviewed according to a uniform standard.

why does an ethical person need IRb review and approval?


No one can be completely objective about their own work.


People underestimate the risks involved in things they are very familiar with.


People overestimate the benefit of things that are important to them.

hIsToRICal baCKGRounD

After World War II, several Nazi physicians were put on trial for their participation in horrendously abusive medical experiments done on concentration camp prisoners. The first codification of ethical principles surrounding the use of human subjects in scientific research, the Nuremberg

Code, emerged from the trial verdicts. Among several important statements, the Code firmly established the concept of informed consent.

The nuremberg Code stated:

The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonable to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.

The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs or engages in the experiment.

It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.

In 1964, the Nuremberg Code was adapted by the

World Medical Association into a standard for therapeutic research done in humans, the Declaration of Helsinki. The Declaration has been amended several times since then, and continues to be one of the international standards used for the conduct of clinical research. A 1975 revision of the

Declaration established the idea of review by an independent institutional committee. Revisions to the Declaration of Helsinki continue, but there are

24 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

now competing standards. Council for International

Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) is the most dominant of them.

The CIOMS International Ethical Guidelines for

Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects cover topics that include ethical review (the review committee process); informed consent, including whether subjects are inappropriately lured to participate; choices of appropriate experimental controls; rules for research in especially vulnerable groups such as children or the mentally ill; rules for research on women, especially while pregnant; confidentiality; rights of anyone injured by the research to get treatment and compensation; and more.

Although there is considerable overlap between the competing standards, the differences between them are very important, especially in lower resource countries. The Declaration of Helsinki holds that in therapeutic trials, participants are entitled to the worldwide best standard of care.

This standard makes it difficult to test improved therapies that may yield better clinical outcomes but will not come up to the benchmark of the worldwide best standard of care.

Many national ethics bodies have pulled away from use of the Declaration of Helsinki so that they can continue to allow research that will improve human lives even if it is not up to the standard of care available to the world’s richest people. Efforts are being made to align the standards better, but until unified standards can be established, rules for ethics review around the world may remain contradictory and confusing.

The Gxps

In 1990, the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (usually called the “Conference on Harmonization” or ICH) was formed. It now brings together European, American,

Japanese, and other countries’ national interests related to development of pharmaceuticals. The

ICH has developed a separate standard, Good

Clinical Practice, to focus on both ethical and technical issues in developing new therapeutics.

It provides a framework for design, conduct, performance, monitoring, auditing, recording, analyses, and reporting of clinical trials. It is meant to assure that not only are human subjects protected, but also that data from human trials meets the highest quality standards.

Other harmonization efforts have produced other sets of standards. As a group, they are called the

“GxPs” (with the ‘x’ acting like a mathematical variable, not as an initial for anything). The Organization for Economic Co-ordination and Development has produced Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) standards, which are meant to improve rigor in planning, performance, monitoring, reporting, and archiving the results of experiments, especially in the fields of pharmacology and toxicology, which are very involved in pharmaceutical development.

Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), which is not yet as well-harmonized as GCP and GLP, focuses on documenting the flow of products through manufacturing and on quality control in manufacturing of foods and drugs. Good Regulatory

Practice (GRP); Good Distribution Practice (GDP);

Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and others now exist in science and science-related manufacturing. The buzzword has escaped, however—there is also Good Feng Shui Practice (GFSP), Good

Tourism and Hospitality Practice (GTHP) and more.

Countries and corporations that are using GxP often insist that work done with their support must be carried out according to certified GxP standards. Workshops for learning the rules and procedures are becoming widely available.

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : f i n d i n g A n d m o v i n g i n t o A J o b 25

ResponsIbIlITIes beyonD

The laboRaToRy

As a scientist at a research-oriented university or a research institute, you may focus principally on research. But you may also be required to teach classes and to train the people who work in your laboratory. In addition, you may have to perform various administrative functions at your institution, and if you are a physician, you may also have to look after patients.


You may find juggling your teaching and research responsibilities to be a bit overwhelming at first.

No matter when your teaching duties begin, take the time to prepare for them. If there are any

“how to teach” courses offered on campus, take them, and if you can, ask permission to sit in on a few of your colleagues’ lectures to see how they handle their classes.

Bear in mind that teaching gives you an opportunity to meet students who may be interested in doing research in your laboratory. There is much more detailed discussion about teaching in Chapter 8,

“Teaching and Course Design.”

Launching a research career in biomedical sciences in low-resource environments in disease-endemic countries is a huge challenge.

Success may depend more on creativity and luck than the extent of knowledge about the subject. In these environments a genius is best defined by Thomas Edison’s adage—90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea


You may be expected to participate in one or more committees or groups at a university. Although you should take this responsibility seriously, you also need to be judicious in your choice of assignments. Some committees are very labor-intensive.

Others may deal with politically sensitive matters that may be difficult for a new researcher. Other committees may deal with matters irrelevant to your concerns as a scientist. So, before you accept a committee assignment, ask for a detailed description of what will be expected of you in terms of time commitment and the nature of the decisions to be made. It may help to talk with your colleagues about which committees are important to your success and which are potential time-wasters.

Your university may have a number of committees that take care of issues such as promotion of faculty, hiring new faculty, ethics, human subjects research, laboratory safety, teaching, awards, and long-term planning for the university. If you are asked to serve, try to find out about the meeting schedules and workloads of these committees.

Generally, committees that are responsible for case-by-case review of individual applications or projects are the most labor-intensive. However, the workload of a policy committee that initially sounded light may suddenly expand when it finds itself dealing with a “hot” issue.

Many committees, however, do give you a good return on your time investment. Serving on a search committee for hiring new staff may give you a voice in deciding who a new colleague will be. You might also want to be on a committee that puts together a seminar program or scientific meeting. This will give you a chance to invite leaders in your field to visit your institution, as well as being a good way to bring in scientists with whom you may want to collaborate. Work on an admissions committee for graduate students might be worthwhile because it will introduce you to students who could work in your lab. A good strategy is to try to get on a committee where your expertise will be useful but you will not be overburdened. Ask the head of your department and senior faculty for advice on balancing committee work with your other obligations in the early years of your career.

26 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b

sCIenTIsTs anD

The ouTsIDe woRlD

If you are based at a university or research institute, you may owe allegiance to several constituencies

—to the university or research institute that supports you, to your profession, and to the general public that stands to benefit from your research.

To keep your outside activities appropriate, you need to be aware of the university’s or institute’s rules and expectations with regard to: n

Service in professional associations.


Conflict of interest and conflict of commitment, including limits on consulting activities.


Relationships with the news media and with government and political agencies.


Participating in industrial labor actions (strikes).


As your career develops, you may find opportunities to consult with commercial entities such as biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies in your own country and abroad. Both you and your home institution stand to benefit from relationships that extend your reputation, add to your knowledge and skills, and may result in practical applications of your discoveries. In addition, you may welcome the added income. But remember— the institution that employs you may have primary claim to your labor and your allegiance.

Many universities with faculty involved in this kind of work have developed explicit guidelines limiting the extent of a staff member’s work with other parties. It is critical that you know your institution’s policies regarding your work outside the scope of university or research institute employment and your relationships with outside parties. If you are at an institution where such guidelines are not in place, it is still prudent to check in with those above you before you take on a significant outside commitment.

publIC seRVICe

As your career progresses, you may be called upon to serve on boards of directors or commissions, or testify before government bodies on the meaning of your work or its ethical or public policy implications.

Treat these invitations as a serious responsibility.

Again, letting those above you know that you have been invited to participate is important. If you are worried that your superiors will take these opportunities for themselves or resent you for having been offered such opportunities, talk to a trusted advisor about how to proceed. It may help to have a letter of invitation that clearly specifies that your expertise is the reason for the invitation.

Remember, anything you say in public will reflect on your institution. It is easy to be misunderstood or quoted out of context. Practicing what you want to say before the event will help you deliver your message clearly.

You may also have opportunities to participate in educating the public about science and how it affects them, at schools or at community events.

These opportunities can be both enjoyable and rewarding.

The people you should get to know locally should also include politicians and public servants in the appropriate government departments. You will need their support if you require funding from UN organizations like the World Health Organization and aid agencies like USAID.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b 27

unDeRsTanDInG youR

InsTITuTIon anD how

To pRoGRess wIThIn IT

You have no doubt spent many years in academic institutions and are familiar with their overall structure. But now, as fully trained scientist, you are entering into a new set of relationships with your professional colleagues. Perhaps for the first time, you may have to deal with many of your institution’s administrative offices. If you have done part of your training abroad, you will need to reacquaint yourself with the structure of institutions in your own country.

If your role includes being the head of a laboratory or major project, you will need to: n

Get to know people who will support your research efforts, including the head of your department or institution and any more established researchers nearby who can serve as advisors throughout the next phase of your career.


Understand how your organization is run and who reports to whom; in particular who will be making decisions about how you advance in your career.


Watch carefully to understand hidden power structures that may be important to your success.

Sometimes there are people who are not technically

“in charge” but are key to your getting resources

(or in some cases have the ability to thwart your efforts). These individuals could be anyone from senior researchers to clerks. Early on, it is important to keep your eyes open and not to overlook or underestimate those around you.


Know about the organization’s research infrastructure, including who administers the funds to run your laboratory, what support services are available to you, and any policies about laboratory safety and ethical issues that apply to your work. It may be that if you are at a quite new institution or the first researcher doing your kind of work, you will have to help your organization get up to speed on things like safety standards, proper accounting and handling of paperwork for granting agencies, and international standards for work involving human subjects or collecting samples from the field.


Find out what the expectations are for independent researchers with regard to how much they should publish, whether they should seek outside funding and if so how much of it, and what other activities they need to perform.

This chapter provides you with a starting point for obtaining this type of knowledge. It also discusses some of the professional responsibilities you may have to fulfill outside the laboratory, including teaching and service and, in the case of physicianscientists, patient care. Finally, it will give you some insights into how decisions about promotions are made and how you can maximize your chances of being promoted.

oRGanIZaTIon of a “TypICal” unIVeRsITy

Although the major goal of most universities is the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, universities also need funding to support their activities. A university must seek revenue from a variety of sources, including, in some cases, researchers. If you are going to work in a university setting, it can be useful to learn the paths through which decisions are made, as well as the channels through which money flows. Universities across the world vary in organizational and reporting structures, but many will have the following people in charge: n

A board of directors or governors, which may be composed of academic, business, and community leaders who hold appointed or elected positions with specific terms. A board meets regularly to review all major policy, financial, and management decisions, and may have a say in decisions about faculty appointments and promotions. A typical research institution may be composed of a director, one or more deputy directors, section or unit heads and support services that include technical and administration sections/units. Usually a top management team that includes the director, deputy directors, and heads of the technical units and the administration will make decisions on finances, appointments, promotion of personnel, and institutional advancement.

28 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b

c o n s u L t t h e f A c u L t y h A n d b o o k

If you take a job in a large, complex university, you will primarily report to your department or division head, or in some places to a group leader—that is, a more senior scientist who organizes the activities of a group of researchers working on related aspects of a problem. If you have an appointment in more than one department, or in a department and in one of the university’s separate research centers or institutes, you may have to report to more than one individual. If you will report to more than one person, you should try as much as possible to get these lines of command and responsibility in writing as described in the previous section.


A president or chancellor who has general oversight of the university’s academic programs and financial health. He or she is also the university’s public spokesperson, dealing with “big picture” issues such as relationships with the government and with other funding bodies, as well as relationships with alumni, and fundraising.


A number of individuals with high-level titles— vice presidents, pro vice chancellors, rectors, vice rectors, provosts, deans, chairs of departments, directors of graduate schools, and similar positions may look after different areas of academic life, such as budgets, appointment of new faculty, maintenance of facilities, research funding, information technology, regulations for research involving human subjects, patenting and licensing issues, student affairs, and so on.


Many universities are organized into smaller schools, divisions, departments of study, and departments of research, or faculties—for example, a large university may contain a School of

Engineering, or a Faculty of Medicine, or a Division of Public Health and Sanitation, each headed by different individuals. These individuals may have significant input on your appointment and career development. Within these units, there may be smaller ones, or departments, which are also often headed by powerful individuals.

t h e s t R u c t u R e o f o n e L A R g e u n i v e R s i t y

( d r a w n f r o m a s o u t h A m e r i c a n i n s t i t u t i o n )

exeCuTIVe TeaM:

board president board and office Manager executive secretary

Committee secretary legal secretary exec Manager Corporate affairs

Vice president Research exec Dir finance exec Dir Tech & Innov exec Dir operations exec Man

Cap Dev exec Man

Res admin

& Mgmt exec Man strategic Res

Initiatives exec Man


Mgmt strategic Research Committee exec Man hR



Man operations

18 Intramural unit Directors 22 Division Managers

e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b 29

structure of the south african

Medical Research Council president’s office


Corporate and Public Affairs Directorate n

Legal Services

Research Directorate


Research Units, Groups, Centres,

and Lead Programmes n

Research Capacity Development n

Research Admin and Management n

Strategic Research Initiatives

Technology & Innovation Directorate finance Directorate operations Directorate

plannInG foR pRoMoTIon

You are more likely to advance in your career if you understand from the start how decisions regarding promotion are made at the institution you are joining. Ask the head of your department or division for advice; you can then start planning your strategy accordingly. It may be that promotion depends on factors outside of the department structure. For instance, in Argentina a researcher in a public university depends on evaluation from

Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), the national research agency, for promotion.

CRITeRIa foR pRoMoTIon

Listed below are some of the important factors that university administrators take into consideration when promoting a scientist. Determine the weight that each of these factors, and other aspects of your job, carries. You can find this out through discussions with your department head or other immediate superior.


Your research must be of a quality and quantity that contributes substantially to your scientific discipline. Publication in peer-reviewed journals in your specialty and statements from individuals in your field who can testify to the quality of your research may be required. Ongoing research grant support may also be expected.

Additional evidence of competence includes prizes and other recognitions of your work, as well as invitations to present your work at conferences.


You may have to provide evidence that you are a competent teacher and that you fulfill your responsibilities to your students in a conscientious manner. Teaching is notoriously difficult to evaluate, but your department may have mecha- nisms to do so. You should ask early in your teaching how your efforts are evaluated so that you can be sure to perform well in the expected areas.


You may have to demonstrate that you are willing to work for the betterment of the university, your profession, and the public at large. Service on departmental and other campus committees, on research ethics boards, on editorial boards of journals, and on grant review panels demonstrates your willingness to assume your share of responsibility. Invitations to serve on editorial boards and other outside committees also demonstrate scientific recognition beyond your institution. Work for professional associations and work as a consultant to government and industry also may be viewed positively when considering your service to the institution.

30 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b

s p e c i A L i s s u e s f o R p h y s i c i A n - s c i e n t i s t s :

straddling the worlds of Research and patient Care

You can increase your visibility and the stability of your job by doing the following: n

Create allies who will stand up and protect you. Cultivate a few people in your field who think you

are terrific. n

Make yourself essential by providing an important clinical skill or filling a crucial clinical need.

Other clinicians who know your worth can become your advocates and help protect your interests.

Advocates need not be in your own department, but they should rely on you and your expertise. n

Get the word out that you are doing something. Actively communicate progress on your research

with people who matter in your department or division. n

Integrate research and clinical activities and use departmental academic meetings to promote the

clinical relevance of your research program.

The ReVIew pRoCess

The review process for promotion varies greatly from country to country and from institution to institution. You should familiarize yourself with the process by speaking with colleagues who have gone through it. Seek the advice of several people.

Meet on a regular basis with your department head or the people who will have input into your promotion to review your progress and make sure that you are doing what is expected of you.

TIMe fRaMe foR MoVInG aheaD

Your institution may have established the exact time frame for evaluating your work and for your eventual promotion. Find out how long it typically takes for someone in your position to progress from one level to the next. Once you know the time frame, set specific, achievable objectives for yourself right at the outset of your career, with timelines that tell you what you need to accomplish each year. The whole process will seem more manageable, and you will be able to make realistic career decisions based on your progress. e n t R y A n d R e - e n t R y : e s t A b L i s h i n g y o u R s e L f A s A s c i e n t i s t i n A n e w J o b 31


Barker, Kathy. At the Bench: A Laboratory Navigator. Cold

Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press,


Barker, Kathy. At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator. Cold

Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press,


Boice, Robert. Advice for New Faculty Members:

Nihil Nimus. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Deneef, A. Leigh, and Craufurd D. Goodwin, eds.

The Academic’s Handbook. 2nd ed. Durham, NC: Duke

University Press, 1995.

Goldsmith, John A., John Komlos, and Penny Schine Gold.

The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career: A Portable

Mentor for Scholars from Graduate School Through Tenure.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Harmening, Denise M. Laboratory Management: Principles

and Processes. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Kennedy, Donald. Academic Duty. Cambridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, 1997.

Menges, Robert J., and associates. Faculty in New Jobs:

A Guide to Settling In, Becoming Established, and Building

Institutional Support. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of

Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. Committee on

Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. On Being a

Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research. 2nd ed.

Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1995.

Reis, Richard M. Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for

Academic Careers in Science and Engineering.

Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press, 1997.

Schoenfeld, A. Clay, and Robert Magnan. Mentor in a

Manual: Climbing the Academic Ladder to Tenure.

Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing, 1994.

Varnadoe, Lionel A. Medical Laboratory Management

and Supervision: Operations, Review, and Study Guide.

Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 1996.


Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) offers a range of tutorials related to ethics, research review processes, informed consent, good practice, and other topics in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and

Chinese at its Web site www.citiprogram.org. There is both free material and material only available by institutional subscription at this site.

Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research, a guidebook on research ethics from the Office of Research

Integrity of the U.S. Public Health Service, is available online at http://ori.dhhs.gov/documents/rcrintro.pdf

Quality practices in basic biomedical research, a guidebook on Good Practices from the World Health

Organization, is available online at http://www.who.int/tdr/


The Good Indicators Guide: Understanding how to use

and choose indicators, a guidebook from the Association of Public Health Observatories on how to monitor and improve performance, systems or outcomes, is available online at http://www.apho.org.uk/resource/item.


32 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e

c h A p t e R 3

GeTTInG sTaRTeD: eQuIppInG youR lab anD hIRInG people

“ t h e c o n v e n t i o n A L d e f i n i t i o n o f m A n A g e m e n t i s g e t t i n g w o R k d o n e

t h R o u g h p e o p L e , b u t R e A L m A n A g e m e n t i s d e v e L o p i n g p e o p L e t h R o u g h w o R k .

A g h A h A s A n A b e d i

DesIGnInG anD eQuIppInG youR new lab

You may have discussed your space and equipment needs during your hiring process, or you may be moving into a laboratory that has already been in use and has some equipment. Either way, before you move in and start working, create a detailed plan for how you intend to work within the space allotted to you. This will help you hit the ground running once you start your position. You should: n

Envision the relationships between the various workstations, preparation areas, and any office space you may have been given. How can you best set up your space for the work you are going to do?


If applicable and possible, arrange for and help supervise any needed renovations or re-arrangements.


If you can, order equipment and supervise its installation.


Acquire any licenses required by regulatory agencies.


You may need to attend training courses before you can order radioactive or hazardous materials or use animals in your lab. Even the use of recombinant

DNA needs to be approved in some countries.


Put in place data management systems both for control of laboratory ordering and expenditures and for the documentation of your research.


Plan ahead. Expect major delays in delivery of bulky equipment, troubles with customs, fluctuations in currency values, etc., so that these predictably unpredictable factors will not derail you.

puTTInG The people you neeD In plaCe

Staffing your lab with the right people is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your research. The types of people you may bring on board include students, scientists who are not ready to lead their own lab and will work in yours, and technicians or other paid employees who offer technical support. g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e 33

This section reviews issues to consider when determining your staffing needs and suggests strategies to help you manage the process of recruiting, interviewing, and evaluating applicants.

The chapter also offers guidance on what to do if you have to ask someone to leave your lab.

For a discussion of the skills needed to manage the people in your lab day to day and get them to work productively, see chapter 4, “Managing Your

Many Roles.”

DeTeRMIne youR sTaffInG neeDs

Your decisions about whether and when to take on staff will depend on several factors, such as how much money you have to run the lab, the stability of your funding sources, the progress of your research, and even your personal preferences about performing various laboratory tasks. In some places, you will not actually hire new people, but will take on staff people who have already been hired by your institution and belong to a common labor pool. In other places, you yourself will be the new hire, and everyone else in the laboratory will already be in place.

Established scientists caution against rushing out and hiring people just to fill an empty lab. Before you bring on staff, think carefully about the consequences. Will you be able to hire the caliber of people you want? Can you make the time to train them? Remember, you need to preserve sufficient time and space to do your own work.

If you have a choice, the first person you might hire is a laboratory technician or equivalent. A person filling this versatile lab position can help you with time-consuming initial tasks such as setting up equipment and handling routine tasks that keep your laboratory working. Although an inexperienced person may be cheaper, you might benefit more by hiring an experienced technical person who can help train other staff as they come on board. Some experienced workers can also contribute in substantial ways to your research project. If there are trained technicians working at your institution and funding available for such positions, a technician who is familiar with the administrative processes of your institution can also be extremely valuable.

Quality used equipment seeding labs


org/), a Boston-based non-profit group that facilitates transfer of used laboratory equipment from North American universities to laboratories in countries that are building toward greater research capacity, may be a good source for equipment that would otherwise be unaffordable.

Purchasing research supplies is often a nightmare in most African countries. Often, no local vendor is familiar with the kinds of equipment and supplies that you need. In some cases, you have to find out yourself where and how to get required supplies and then teach a local vendor how to proceed. Often, even when one finds where to order supplies abroad, payment may become an almost insurmountable hurdle.

For example, currency exchange issues may arise: there are no project credit cards, suppliers often require payment up front while your financial office may require that the goods be delivered before initiating payment.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

Consider bringing a student on board once your lab is running and you have the time to invest in training him or her. You could also hire an already trained scientist, for example a postdoctoral fellow, who would like to work in your lab as a stepping stone to becoming qualified for an independent position. A good strategy is to do this when your main project is well underway and you have enough other projects to turn one of them over to this person and allow him or her to have a great deal of responsibility and independence.

Additional considerations for working with lab members can be found in chapter 10, “Expanding

Your Influence: Training the Next Generation of


34 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e

Q u e s t i o n

what’s in a name?


A n s w e R

The title “technician” means different things in different places. In some regions, a laboratory technician may be a manager or unit director. Throughout this book, however, a “technician” refers to a professional scientist who has a steady job focused on advancing the work in your laboratory.

wRITe The Job DesCRIpTIon

If you will hire staff from outside your institution, the first step is to develop a job description for the open position. First, identify and prioritize the initial and ongoing lab tasks for which you need support.

Then determine the qualifications needed to best complete these tasks and develop a general plan for allocating the person’s time. Bear in mind that the position will have to fit within your ability to pay and that the position’s level may also be something that is already set in stone. The process may be more complicated if unions represent identified groups of employees at your institution.

For example, you may only be able to consider hiring union workers for certain positions.

GeT The woRD ouT

Once you have a job description, the next step is to make sure that the people you would like to recruit will see it. There are several ways to do this.

Informal Methods.

Try to recruit by word of mouth. Ideally, you want people to seek you out.

If you work in a country with a fairly large scientific community, meetings and seminars where you present your work are good venues to reach students and scientists, as well as lab technicians who are not employed by your institution.

Another strategy is to include a statement on your Web site, if you have one, inviting people to contact you if they are interested in working with you. If you teach, you may find some students who are interested in learning more about your work and carrying out a research project in your laboratory.

formal advertisements.

Ask those working around you how and where the kinds of jobs you would like to fill are advertised. If you are hiring a scientist to train in your lab, it may make sense to place an ad in a science journal published in your own country. But placing formal advertisements in print publications can be expensive and may not yield good candidates, depending on who reads the journal or newspaper. It is a good idea to discuss advertising with senior colleagues who have had experience recruiting people into their labs.

Advertising on your institution’s Web site is usually a free service, and in some places has a high rate of success. Other resources for advertising for scientists with advanced degrees are Web sites and list serves maintained by professional associations. For any advertisements you place, make sure you follow your institution’s policies.

whaT Do you haVe To offeR?

As someone who has just started his or her lab, you may find it a challenge to recruit the people you want, especially trained scientists and experienced lab technicians. Here are some things you can do to increase your chances: n

Promote your vision.

When you talk to others, make sure you mention that you are hiring and take time to convey your vision of what your lab will be “about” (see next chapter). Your excitement about your work and your lab will excite and interest potential staff.


Communicate your lab culture.

Think about how to create a lab environment that allows you and your staff to work efficiently and harmoniously.

If good communication, collaboration, and cooperation are valued concepts in your lab, they can be selling points that will make people want to work with you.

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e 35


Convey your commitment to training.

Let potential staff know if they will be working directly with you and that you have an interest in helping them in their careers.


Offer flexibility where you can.

Flexibility, especially about assignments or research directions, is attractive to most job applicants.


Provide a realistic level of reassurance regarding the stability of your funding.

Potential staff members are likely to be aware that the money to pay their salaries may be coming from your research grants, or other sources that may increase or decline over time.

In Sierra Leone and more so in Papua New

Guinea, members of your extended family believe they are entitled to large parts of your time and attention. This is an enormous challenge for every working person in Sierra

Leone. You are likely to face requests for employment. My advice is that you avoid seeing extended family members at your work- place and ensure hiring is a very transparent process that is handled only by the appropriate staff in the administration section.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

whaT They aRe looKInG foR

lab Technicians.

Technicians may be attracted to a beginning laboratory because they are eager for the opportunity to work closely with the head of the lab and are interested in learning new techniques and being included on papers. Good salaries and status (related to publishing papers) may be of prime importance to more experienced lab technicians. Inexperienced technicians may place more value on the opportunity to gain experience, especially experience that will help them decide whether to continue with their studies.


Students may want to work in your lab because they want to pursue a career in science, or perhaps they are curious about research and want to find out whether they should consider a career in this area. On the other hand, they may be looking for academic credit, funding, or recommendations for further training. Try to select students who are motivated to contribute to the productivity of your lab. Students are often attracted to new labs because, like lab technicians, they are eager for the opportunity to work directly with the person who is directing the research. Educating these students in how to work in the lab can be time-consuming, especially for the first few months. Therefore, you may want to sign up your first student when your lab is running well and you have time to work with each student properly. At a university, thoughtfully working with students early in your career will help you develop a positive reputation and will increase your ability to attract other students. On the other hand, if your first students have negative experiences in your lab, they will quickly share this with their peers, and your ability to recruit good students will suffer greatly.

scientists Training in your lab.

It may take two to three years for you to recruit a scientist, for example a postdoctoral fellow, who wants to train in your lab before establishing his or her own lab. Most scientists in training are attracted to more established labs because they are usually better launching pads for their careers—the boss is more famous and the publications may come faster. Nevertheless, some might be attracted by your research area, your concern for furthering their careers, or your institution’s reputation and geographical location. If you have a good reputation from your own work, you may be able to recruit highly qualified individuals right away.

I would encourage policies to hire real postdocs, i.e. people who really want to do a postdoc in your lab and not people who for family reasons or else could not go abroad and seek your lab as a second option.

alberto Kornblihtt, argentina

36 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e

sCReenInG applICanTs

When you review résumés, check skills against qualifications and look for transferable skills.

Always review résumés carefully—some applicants may inflate their experience. Gaps in employment or job-hopping may be signs of problems, or may simply reflect the job situation in your region. If the degree of job-changing seems unusual, be sure to ask careful questions and check references, if you are able to.

For an applicant to a degreed scientific position, consider publication quality—not just quantity— and the applicant’s contribution. Although it may not be realistic for someone who has just started running his or her lab, try to find a scientist with a record of accomplishment—usually at least two first-author papers—that indicates he or she will be able to see a project through and perhaps will be competitive for obtaining his or her own funding.

If a technician has contributed to publications, you should evaluate the candidate to determine whether he or she has the ability to contribute intellectually as well as technically to the lab.

Q u e s t i o n

what’s in a name?


A n s w e R

Throughout this book, a “postdoc” refers to a researcher with a relatively recent doctoral degree and intentions to move on from your laboratory to a more independent position after working with and learning from you. A

“student” refers to a trainee who is enrolled for an undergraduate or graduate degree and is working with increasing autonomy in your lab. A “trainee” refers to a student or postdoc—someone who is both working for you and being educated by you so that he or she may advance into another position.

The résumés of less-experienced lab technicians may not show a record of contributions to published papers or other indicators of productivity.

Carefully check references to find out about their capabilities.

For a student, speak informally with other people who have worked with the student, including those who may know how the student has performed in a laboratory course. Talk to the student at length to see how articulate, bright, and energized he or she is. Remember, a smart but shy person may be tongue-tied in a conversation with you—you are an important person, after all! Try to talk long enough to draw them out and put them at ease so that you can really get a sense of their capacity.

When selecting students, remember that high grades are no guarantee of success in your lab.

CheCK RefeRenCes DIReCTly

For a variety of reasons, people rarely write neg- ative letters of recommendation. Therefore, if possible, you should directly contact the applicants’ references, preferably by telephone, or by email.

Checking references is an important part of the selection process. It will help to verify impressions gained during the interview and expose potential problems that may not have been evident in either the interview or CV.

what to ask a Reference.

When discussing an applicant with someone who has provided a reference: n

Describe the job and the work atmosphere you want to create.


Ask short, open-ended questions, and avoid asking questions to which the desired response is obvious.


You might want to ask: Why is this person leaving?

Is he or she reliable? What are this person’s strengths and weaknesses? What are you most disappointed in with respect to this person?

Also, “Would you rehire this person?” is a very important question to ask.


Probe for further information, and ask for examples.

Do not settle for yes or no answers.

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t y p e s o f i n t e R v i e w Q u e s t i o n s

Open-ended questions cannot be answered yes or no; for example, “Tell me about yourself.”

The applicant determines the direction of the answer.

Directive questions solicit information about a specific point; for example, “what skills do you have

for this position?” The interviewer determines the focus of the answer.

Reflective questions solicit information about a past experience that might serve to predict the applicant’s future performance; for example, “Describe a time when you demonstrated initiative.” n

Try to determine whether your lab values are similar to those of the reference, perhaps by asking about the reference’s lab and philosophy. This information should help you decide how much weight to give to the reference.

If possible, Contact all References.

You are trying to make a decision about someone with whom you may be spending many of your waking hours. Make sure you get the information you need. To correct for bias in the responses of any one reference, if you can afford it, make sure you call all of an applicant’s references, even those overseas. If possible, it is best to obtain information in person or by phone, rather than by email, though sometimes email may be the only option available to you (for example, if the reference is difficult to reach or lives in a place that is extremely expensive for you to call). You may be tempted to do less when hiring for a smaller job, but think about the damage hiring a poorly-trained, dishonest, or threatening person could do to your work, especially in jobs where firing is difficult.

Sometimes, applicants will not give the name of a current supervisor as a reference. If that is the case, you must respect their request for confidentiality—the most common reason is that they do not want to risk losing their current job.

However, you should ask why the applicant does not want you to call. You can also ask for additional references who can provide you with information about the person’s work habits, accomplishments, and history.

fuRTheR sCReen applICanTs by Telephone

If you live in a place where phones are reliable, easy, and everywhere, you may want to screen promising applicants by telephone before inviting any of them for a formal interview. As with interviewing references, focus on asking openended questions. The appendix (page 44) shows a sample outline that can help you in your phone interviews with applicants. (Consider developing a similar form for talking to applicants’ references.)

InTeRVIewInG applICanTs

InVITe applICanTs To VIsIT youR lab

After you have completed the initial screening, narrow your list of potential applicants to a reasonable number of good prospects. If possible, invite each person to visit your lab for a formal interview.

Remember, talking to someone by phone is no substitute for looking them in the eye. If possible, you might also arrange for the applicant to spend some time with other lab members so that the others in your lab can get a sense of this person.

If you are a department head yourself and you are to hire trained scientists who will work relatively independently underneath you, you might require that each applicant deliver a seminar to members of your lab or department.

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The goal of the structured interview is to use a standardized set of predetermined questions to gather key information in an efficient, equitable manner from all qualified applicants. You want to give each applicant a fair opportunity to compete for the position. Your questions should be: n

Outlined ahead of time so that you ask basically the same questions of each applicant.


Job related.


Short and open-ended, like those used when checking references.


Focused and designed to elicit information— avoid asking philosophical questions.

Tailor your follow-up questions to reflect each applicant’s responses and to encourage each applicant to provide examples from his or her own experiences.

DeVelop The InTeRVIew QuesTIons

As you develop your questions, think about how to determine whether the applicant has the knowledge, technical skills, and personal qualities that you need. Review the job description you created earlier, the applicant’s résumé, and your notes from your conversations with the references to identify any items or information gaps that need clarification in the interview.

Sample interview questions. At the Helm: A

Laboratory Navigator by Kathy Barker (see

Resources, page 44) contains a list of general questions as well as questions geared for specific laboratory positions and for determining specific personal characteristics. In addition, you may want to tailor the following questions to the position for which you are interviewing.

experience and skills


Tell me about your most significant accomplishments.


Tell me the part you played in conducting a specific project or implementing a new approach or technology in your lab.


I see you have worked with [insert specific technology or technique]. Tell me about its features and benefits.

Commitment and Initiative


Why do you want to work in my lab?


Where do you see yourself in five years?


What kinds of projects do you want to do? Why?


Tell me how you stay current in your field.


Describe a time when you were in charge of a project and what you feel you accomplished.


Tell me about a project or situation that required you to take initiative.

working and learning styles


What motivates you at work?


Would you rather work on several projects at a time or on one project?


Do you learn better from books, hands-on experience, or other people?


Tell me about a project that required you to work as part of a team. What was the outcome of the team’s efforts?


How would you feel about leaving a project for a few hours to help someone else?


If you encountered a problem in the lab, would you ask someone for help or would you try to deal with it yourself?


You may be asked to work after hours or on a weekend. Would this be a problem?

Time Management


How do you prioritize your work?


What happens when you have two priorities competing for your time?

Decision Making and problem solving


What is your biggest challenge in your current job?

How are you dealing with it?


Tell me about a time when you made a decision that resulted in unintended or unexpected consequences, either good or bad.


Give me an example of a situation where you found it necessary to gather other opinions before you made a decision.

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e 39

Interpersonal skills


How important is it to you to be liked by your colleagues, and why?


If you heard through the grapevine that someone did not care for you, what would you do, if anything?


Tell me about a situation in which your work was criticized. How did you rectify the situation?


Describe a scientist whom you like and respect.

What do you like about that person?

Cultural Differences.

You may find yourself considering applicants from different cultures whose beliefs, such as those about self-promotion, collaboration, and deference, may differ from your own. Take this into account when conducting your interview, especially if the applicant seems to be under-selling his or her achievements.

TIps foR ConDuCTInG an InTeRVIew


Before you begin, try to make the applicant feel comfortable. Make appropriate small talk, offer a beverage, and compliment the applicant on making it thus far in the selection process. Remember that the applicant is also deciding whether he or she wants to work for you.


Develop professional rapport and be friendly, but avoid a social atmosphere.


Explain how the interview will be structured.


Briefly describe the selection process.


Outline the responsibilities for the open position.


Convey your expectations about the job. Include values that may seem obvious to you, such as your commitment to lab safety and scientific rigor.


Know your own local laws and customs pertaining to what questions can and cannot be asked at job interviews, and keep in mind which (if any) topics must be avoided.


Take brief notes. Record actual answers to questions, not evaluative or conclusive comments.

Later, when thinking through whether to offer the applicant a job, you may find that these answers give you more insights into the applicant’s character and thinking than you were aware of when you were sitting and talking with the person.


Listen carefully. Let the applicant do most of the talking.


Develop a high tolerance for silence. Give the applicant a chance to think and develop thoughtful answers to your questions.


Give the applicant many chances to ask questions.

This will give you some insight into what is important to him or her.


Never make promises or give commitments, even ones that may seem innocent to you.


Ask the applicant about his or her timetable for leaving the current job, even if you asked it during the telephone interview.

Before ending the interview, do the following:


Give the applicant a chance to add anything else he or she thinks may be important for you to know in making your decision.


Make the applicant aware of the next steps, such as additional interviews and the time frame for hiring.


Thank the applicant for his or her time.

eValuaTInG applICanTs

Before you begin evaluating an applicant, make sure you have all of the necessary information.

Conduct any reference interviews you were unable to complete before the interview. Gather opinions from others who have met with the applicant. As needed, seek guidance from your department and other relevant departments at your university.


As in any situation that involves interpreting interpersonal behavior, objectivity in evaluation may be difficult. Nevertheless, try to avoid the following: n

Relying too heavily on first impressions.


Making a decision too early in the interview, before asking all questions.


Downgrading an applicant because of a negative characteristic that is not relevant to the job itself, such as a particular regional accent, or having come to the interview wearing clothes that have clearly been used by generations of the family’s job seekers.

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Allowing a positive characteristic to overshadow your perception of all other traits—an applicant’s posh accent, polished presentation, or tangential association with someone famous might make them seem impressive on meeting, but have little substance in the workplace.


Judging the applicant in comparison with yourself.


Comparing applicants with each other, rather than according to the selection criteria (e.g., if you have been interviewing poorly qualified applicants, you may rate merely average applicants highly).


Allowing factors not directly related to the interview to influence your estimation of the applicant (e.g., interviewing during times of the day when you may be tired).

whaT To looK foR

In addition to determining whether the applicant has the qualifications required to perform well in your lab, you should also keep the following points in mind: n

Consider the “chemistry.” Pay attention to your intuitive reaction to the person. Look for a person who is interested in and able to get along with others.


Ascertain whether the applicant is a good fit. Keep in mind that you are building your team and need people with the skills and personalities to get things done. Look for people who have a track record of productivity and have demonstrated an ability to learn new skills.


Seek someone who has a passion for science and a strong work ethic. Enthusiasm, a can-do attitude, and the willingness to go the extra mile are critical attributes.


Check the applicant’s career plans. Knowing what the applicant wants to be doing in five or ten years can give you insight into his or her scientific maturity and creativity, as well as his or her commitment to a specific research area.


Be certain the applicant is committed to good research practices. Recordkeeping and reporting results are even more important now than in the past because of patent and other legal issues.

Insist on the highest level of scientific integrity from anyone you are considering.

ReD flaGs

Warning signs during an interview that should alert you to potential problems include: n

Unwillingness to take responsibility for something that has gone wrong.


Complaining about an advisor and coworkers.


Demanding privileges not given to others.


Delaying answering questions, challenging your questions, or avoiding answering them altogether.

Humor and sarcasm can be tools to avoid answering questions.


Unless you have been rude, responding to an interview question with anger is never appropriate.


Incongruence between what you hear and what you see (e.g., grudging replies and slouching are not signs of an eager, assertive candidate even if he or she is saying all the right things).


Trying to control the interview and otherwise behaving inappropriately.

MaKInG The offeR

Before you make an offer, check with the appropriate people in your department or your institution to learn which, if any, items related to the job are negotiable and whether you are responsible for negotiating them. In some institutions, the initial salary that you can offer will be set for you. In others, you may be given some leeway within a predetermined range appropriate for the job description.

Once you have identified the person you wish to hire, contact him or her to extend the offer and discuss start date, salary, and other conditions of employment. Be sure to check with the appropriate office in your institution first to determine whether you or they will make this contact and cover these issues.

InfoRM all of The applICanTs

First, inform the person you have selected. If he or she turns down the offer, you can move on to your second choice. g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e 41

Multinational Organizations are hiring our people away!

Brain drain continues to be a major problem in the developing world, where NGOs and the private sector pay better salaries than government research institutes. Dealing with brain drain can be quite frustrating; however, one should continue to recruit appropriate personnel to fill in vacancies. Those recruited should be given an opportunity to train in short- and long-term courses that are relevant to their work areas. Once settled in the research programme, they should also be encouraged to be a part of the ownership of the research programme, and to make presentations on some of the research aspects of the work that is being done. Presentation of research findings at national and international fora is usually a big motivator, because it promotes collaborative linkages between personnel in your lab and other labs, and these linkages may generate a lot of research ideas between groups. Delegation with responsibility to junior researchers also builds confidence and gives them a sense of ownership of the research programme. In countries where salaries are low, personnel should be allowed to do part-time jobs that are related to research, e.g. teaching at the local university to supplement their salaries. All research ideas that are brought forward by research personnel, especially junior members, should be taken into consideration and explored for substance, no matter how silly they may sound.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe

Yes, it is a problem, but not a major one for now. The solution is creating an attractive

environment, clear career paths, stable social environment, etc. High salary is not always the most important incentive in keeping staff.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

Once you have filled the position, try to let the other applicants know of the outcome of the interview. You do not need to give a specific reason for your decision not to hire an applicant. However, you may state that the selected candidate had better qualifications or more relevant experience or that it is your policy not to disclose this information. Check with the appropriate people at your institution about their own personal policy or the institution’s personnel policy in this area.

The offeR leTTeR

After you and the selected candidate have confirmed the job details, you or your institution might send a formal offer letter that confirms the offer terms, including start date and salary. Coordinate with the appropriate administrative staff at your institution to determine what information to include.

If hiring does not involve an administrative office, make the offer and clearly establish the start date, salary, and allowances and pensions where these are applicable. It is a good idea to put the details on paper in case disagreements arise later.

asKInG sTaff To leaVe

Despite your best efforts, you may at some point need to ask someone to leave your lab. Before considering dismissal, be sure that you have tried various avenues to help the person be successful in your lab. This may include assistance with scientific techniques or counseling for behavioral issues. Also, be certain that your dissatisfaction is based on objective observations, not your personal biases.

Try to determine whether you think the person would be better off in another lab or should consider another career. For students and scientists, this usually means talking with that person and his or her advisors, if any. It may be best to suggest to someone that research is not for them if you truly believe the profession is not suited to his or her talents or personality. You can provide that person with encouragement and suggest other career options, especially ones of similar stature.

There are no hard and fast rules about how a manager should address performance or behavior problems in the lab. However, keep in mind the following, especially if you are thinking about letting someone go:

42 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e


Be fair.


No surprises.

Fairness dictates that lab members receive some type of notice about unsatisfactory performance.

Make sure the person knows your concerns and is given a reasonable opportunity to respond and turn things around.

when IT beGIns To looK lIKe fIRInG May be neCessaRy

In many places, an institution’s disciplinary and dismissal procedures are based on the country’s labor laws, and in some places workers are quite aware of their labor rights. Termination procedures must be correctly carried out according to the law, and so should be directed by someone who has experience with them—usually someone in a Human

Resources or other administrative office. When you believe that someone should be let go, consult with colleagues to determine whether there are legal procedures to keep in mind, and if available, seek help from whatever institutional office deals with personnel issues early on in the process, at least to advise you on how to move forward legally. Many academic institutions publish their procedures on their Web sites.

Keep in mind that delivering a warning or giving an employee a chance to “straighten up” may help you turn a bad situation into a good one without resorting to dismissing a worker.

Keep a ReCoRD

It is a good idea to outline and set expectations for the performance and conduct of everyone in your lab. Do not expect your employees to read your mind about what you want them to accomplish and how you want them to accomplish it.

DelIVeR a waRnInG

Warnings should be delivered by you, calmly and in private. Listen to the employee’s point of view and explanation. Develop a plan for addressing the problem with benchmarks and timelines. You may want to commit your action plan to writing. If you provide advance notice, employees will not be surprised when you take forceful action concerning unsatisfactory performance or behavior.

If you DeCIDe To TeRMInaTe

An employee with serious work-related problems is a disruptive force and, especially in a small lab, can significantly retard research progress.

Although it is not easy to decide to terminate someone, those investigators who have had to release staff say that in retrospect their biggest mistake was not doing it sooner.

Questions to ask yourself before letting someone go.

If circumstances permit, you should ask yourself the following questions and document each of the actions before proceeding: n

Have you given the person at least some type of notice or warning?


Have you made it clear to the person what he or she is doing wrong?


Has the person received counseling or assistance in learning new or difficult tasks? If so, how much?


Are you treating (or have you treated) the person differently from other staff in your lab?


Are you following written procedures and institutional policies?


Does the documentation in the personnel file support the reason for discharge?

how to Terminate.

Ask the appropriate individuals at your institution or department how to terminate staff. Often, a termination will involve a meeting between you and the individual you are terminating.

During the meeting, remember to: n

Be polite.


Stay focused on the issue at hand. Get to the point quickly. Explain the decision briefly and clearly. Do not apologize or argue with the employee in an effort to justify your decision.


Avoid laying blame.


Arrange to have scientific materials and equipment and supplies returned to you, including lab notebooks, protocol books (unless it is a personal copy), lists of laboratory resources and information on any experiments still in progress, and keys.


Let the employee have an opportunity to have his or her say, and pay close attention to what is being said.

g e t t i n g s t A R t e d : e Q u i p p i n g y o u R L A b A n d h i R i n g p e o p L e 43


If there is an office that handles employee benefits, refer the employee to them for a discussion of eligibility for any benefits the institution may have provided.


Take notes that document this meeting and convert them into an informal or formal memo to file.


Try to part on cordial terms. Science can be a small world, and your paths may cross again.

Termination letters and References.

As part of final documentation, a termination letter may be required by your institution or by law. In addition, you may be asked for, or may wish to offer, a reference. Check with the appropriate staff at your institution about proper procedures.

Immediate Dismissal.

Sometimes the reasons for dismissal are more acute: dishonesty, endangering others, or other unusual behaviors may make it necessary to immediately remove someone from the lab. You should get advice from your colleagues on how such a firing is normally done. How will you get any keys they may have or prevent them from re-entering the premises? It may be that you should have the person removed from the premises by local or campus authorities, for example, and that their personal effects will be sent to them later.


Barker, Kathy. At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator. Cold

Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2002.


Austin, Robert D. “Managing Knowledge Workers.” Science’s

Science.Careers.org (April 26, 2002), http://sciencecareers.

sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/ articles/1470/managing_knowledge_workers/.

HRhero.com. Extensive resources on firing: http://www.


Seeding Labs’ website is www.seedinglabs.org.

Siering, Marlene. “Hire the Best.” Denver Business Journal

(November 17, 1997), http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/


University of Michigan Employment and Executive Services.

“Conducting a Successful Employee Selection Process,” http://


University of Michigan Employment and Executive Services.

“Electronic Recruitment Resources,” http://www.hr.umich.


A p p e n d i x

Telephone Interview outline



Investigator’s Questions (Use open- ended questions, and ask for examples.)

To see if we might fit, give me an idea of what you are looking for.

What are your goals for this position?

(short-term expectations, long-term plans)

Tell me about yourself as a scientist: n

What are your strengths? n

What are your weaknesses? n

What do you want to learn? n

What are you looking for in a supervisor?

What is your preferred interaction style?

(with me, with others, on joint projects)

Timing, current job

Visa status

Investigator’s Comments

Background, interests, goals

The projects we are working on

What I am looking for

What I expect (enthusiastic, interested, communicative, a hard worker, responsible)

What I will offer (be there, help, communicate, support career with communication about goals, funding for

[e.g., length of time])

The university, department, town

Timing, constraints

This interview form is adapted from one developed by

Tamara L. Doering, Washington University School of Medicine.

44 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

c h A p t e R 4

ManaGInG youR Many Roles

“ i k n o w t h e p R i c e o f s u c c e s s : d e d i c A t i o n , h A R d w o R k , A n d A n u n R e m i t t i n g

d e v o t i o n t o t h e t h i n g s y o u w A n t t o s e e h A p p e n .

f r A n k l l o y d w r i g h t

The day has finally come when you take up your new position. At least in the space of your own bench (and in some readers’ cases, maybe across a whole institution), you are the boss! What got you here is your creativity and scientific expertise. But you will quickly realize that the day-to-day operation of the laboratory—the projects that get done, how time is spent, which needs get priority—also requires strong leadership and management skills.

This chapter describes the skills involved in leading and managing a group of people, but many of the principles here can be applied if you only manage yourself and your day-to-day work, even if you are still under the authority of a more senior scientist who directs the project of which your work is a part. It also offers some suggestions on how to build these skills.

Whether or not you are in charge of your own group of workers and thinkers, the basic ideas may help you as you think about how to get the most out of your resources. As you get ready to start your job, you should work through how you will manage things as your own research operation grows.

The chapter is organized in four sections. The first provides a definition of leadership in the context of directing a scientific laboratory. The second describes a process for developing a vision for your laboratory. Your main role as a leader will be to organize and motivate the people in your lab to enact this vision. The third section is about different leadership approaches and how you might proceed as you develop your individual leadership personality and style. The fourth discusses the role of the laboratory leader in building and sustaining an effective team—that is, how to communicate with the people with whom you work, how to motivate them, how to make decisions and resolve conflicts, and how to set and enforce expectations and rules of behavior.

This chapter draws from material developed by

Edward O’Neil, director of the Center for the

Health Professions at the University of California–

San Francisco, as well as from interviews with scientists with years of experience running laboratory research programs. m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 45

youR Role as a laboRaToRy leaDeR

whaT Is leaDeRshIp?

Before getting into the details of your responsibilities as the head of a lab or head of a project, it is probably worthwhile to consider the definition of leadership. Leadership is getting a group of people to turn a vision of what needs to be accomplished into a reality, a history of accomplishment. Leadership starts with a vision that a leader makes into reality by accomplishing tasks. A leader’s reach expands when he or she can sway others to help advance his or her own vision. Thus, building good relationships with others is a key element of leadership.

In practical terms, a leader must perform a number of functions, from understanding the scale and scope of the problems to be addressed to coming up with a scientific strategy; from motivating people to managing budgets and resources.


A leader must create a vision and set direction for the lab (see “Creating Your Vision as a Leader,” page 50). This means developing a clear idea of what you are doing, not just with your hands on any given day, but in a larger sense. It means thinking through and clearly stating what you want to accomplish over the course of your scientific career, and choosing the right people, projects, and opportunities to accomplish those goals.

Developing a vision is not a small effort. In fact, it is central to your success. All scientists have limited time and limited resources. Only by developing great research questions that fit your own individual strengths and the unique resources available to you at your institution or in your country can you thrive.


A leader enables others to come together to do the work at hand in a unified manner. Thus, a leader must: n

Build and manage teams, including people whose time and efforts you do not directly control (e.g., from other labs or groups).


Steer others to see things your way and to do their work in ways that can advance your projects as they advance their own.


Create an environment where people are able to give and receive feedback.


Motivate and support the people working on your project in your laboratory or performing work outside your responsibility but essential to your success.


Delegate responsibility to others when possible.


Make fair decisions and manage conflicts.


Communicate and listen.


Be sensitive to the motivations of people around you—understand what they want and need from their personal lives and their own careers and how those needs affect their behaviors.


Be an advisor and teacher to others, as well as seeking good advice for your own advancement

(see chapter 10, “Expanding Your Influence:

Training the Next Generation of Scientists”).


A leader also manages the activities of lab members, whether that means managing a large group or the activities of only yourself and perhaps a helper. This requires the leader to understand the core activity that he or she is responsible for directing. Beyond a basic knowledge of the scientific tools and processes used in the lab, to advance your work you must also be able to: n

Design projects and determine time frames for successfully carrying them out (see chapter 6,

“Project Management”).


Create budgets (see chapter 7, “Getting Funded”).

46 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s


Seek funding and publish papers (see chapter 7,

“Getting Funded,” and chapter 9, “Increasing

Your Impact: Getting Published”).


In some cases, teach courses

(see chapter 8, “Teaching and Course Design”).


Juggle many different demands at once

(see chapter 5, “Managing Your Time”).

It is not necessary to be a technical expert at everything. But a leader has to understand how and why various scientific approaches to a problem work and how to choose between possible strategies for solving the problems using the resources available.

leaDeRs anD ManaGeRs: whaT’s The DIffeRenCe?

Although the words leadership and management are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. A leader influences the opinions and attitudes of others to accomplish a shared goal. A manager, on the other hand, is primarily an administrator who makes sure that people and processes are in place to achieve the desired goal. Managers need to be able to plan, budget, organize, and solve problems, in order to keep a complicated system of people and technology running smoothly. As head of a scientific effort, you will need to be both a leader and a manager.

DeVelopInG leaDeRshIp sKIlls

Some of the leadership skills mentioned above, such as articulating your goals clearly enough to develop a vision statement, may come easily to you. Others, such as motivating people in your lab or delegating responsibility, may prove more difficult. “Leadership development” is the process of improving your leadership skills. Just as you set yourself a course for acquiring and improving your scientific skills, you can set yourself one or several goals for becoming a better leader, and make a plan for achieving them. Here are some tips on how to go about it.

Choose a behaVIoR you wanT To MoDIfy

Say a conflict arises between two people working in your laboratory—their projects have converged and now they are competing against each other over who should take charge. You realize that you should be keeping closer tabs on the experiments being done by everyone in your lab, and on the interactions among people. How could you train yourself to stay better informed on the progress of their work? What could you do that would help you stay more generally aware of the tensions between the people around you?

Choose a speCIfIC Goal foR ChanGInG youR behaVIoR

You should choose a goal that is as specific as possible, and state it in clear, measurable terms.

For example, a goal that states “I will become better at communicating with people in the lab” is not very useful, because it is neither clear how you will go about reaching that goal nor easy to assess whether you have succeeded. You will be more likely to achieve a goal that states “I will meet weekly with the person who is working on project x to discuss in a direct and open way progress on the project and any issues that might be affecting the work.” This way you will be able to tell if you have or have not followed through.

DeTeRMIne a TIMelIne foR CoMpleTIon

You should set realistic deadlines for assessing your progress. For example, “In one month, I will know what everyone in the lab is working on and will have set up regular scheduled meetings with each person so that it will become routine to talk about the progress of the work.” m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 47

assess youR pRoGRess

From the beginning you should have clearly stated the expected outcomes of your goal, so that you will know whether you have achieved them.

The questions you want to be able to answer are: n

How do I know I have been successful?


Who are the other people who will notice and be affected?


What difference will they notice?

You can gauge whether your leadership skills are truly improving. First, are you accomplishing more and moving more effectively toward achieving your goals? It may be useful to open channels for feedback. This involves asking people in your lab and your colleagues for feedback on how you measure up against your desired model

(see “Giving and Receiving Feedback,” page 59).

In some places, “the boss is the boss,” and it may seem paradoxical to suggest opening yourself up to feedback from those who work under you. But you can ask for helpful input about your own management style without undermining your authority.

For example, you can say explicitly, “I set up these regular meetings with you because I want to be sure that you and I are communicating well about your day-to-day progress. Now that we’ve done a few, what is your impression of how these conversations are changing things in the lab?”

You might see evidence of success when you learn that the lab is having a problem with an experimental protocol before it becomes a crisis, rather than after. It does not make you a weaker leader to ask questions that let you check whether you are communicating as clearly as you think you are. As your communications improve, people working with you might notice that overall, they are better informed about how research in the lab is proceeding, or they may notice that meeting regularly with you keeps their own project on course. If there are people supervising your work, they may notice that your lab has become more productive or that the people reporting to you are more engaged in their work.

how To IMpRoVe youR leaDeRshIp sKIlls

Improving leadership skills is often a process of trial and error, but there are some more systematic ways of going about it.

leaRn by obseRVInG

To help you define and achieve a specific goal, identify someone who does what you would like to do. For example, if one of your limitations is that those who work with you frequently seem to believe that you do not appreciate their work, you may want to observe how another leader recognizes and rewards the people in his or her group, and then try using the same kind of action in your own lab. Though everyone likes to be rewarded, you may be surprised to find that simply saying out loud things you think should be obvious—

“I am proud of your consistently excellent work” or “you set a good example for everyone when you do your work so carefully”—can go a long way toward solving the problem. Seeing a colleague make this kind of comment may remind you to do it more often yourself.

You will need to practice and probably cannot copy your colleague directly, because to be natural any approach you try will have to suit your own personality and situation. Similarly, you probably have colleagues and friends who are good public speakers, cool under pressure, effective at managing time, or skilled at running meetings. You can observe these people and identify factors that make them good at these things, and then try to adopt these behaviors yourself. You may also ask these colleagues for feedback on the skills you are developing and seek advice on your own behavior and progress. They will likely be flattered (see chapter 10, “Expanding Your Influence: Training the Next Generation of Scientists”).

It is always a good idea to stay in contact with the teachers who have shaped your life and work. But this is especially important if you are starting your career at an institution that is just beginning to build up its research training. The role models for you at your institution may be few and far between.

48 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

In fact, even though you yourself have just finished your training, you may be the senior scientist at your institution and thus the one that others look to for clues about how to manage their projects.

Those who trained you will be valuable collaborators and may also give you useful suggestions on how to run your laboratory, especially if you are building up a working group that will both do research and train students who themselves will need to learn to become successful professional scientists.

If your training was done almost entirely abroad, it is essential that you also follow the examples of laboratory heads in your own country, rather than coming to the institution and saying, for example,

“At the Pasteur we always did it this way, and so that is how I will run my own group.” Local senior scientists know how the system in the present country and in the present institution works. Their example will help you avoid making serious missteps as you develop your career. It is important to pay attention to them, learn from them, and not let your enthusiasm for other approaches come to be seen as signs of disrespect or feelings of superiority to them.

ReaD booKs anD aTTenD CouRses

Good leadership and good management are priorities for organizations of all kinds. You can aid your leadership development by reading books and taking university courses on the subject.

You could also take a World Health Organization workshop on management, or take advantage of similar career development activities offered at meetings sponsored by large professional societies, non-governmental organizations, or public-private partnerships. Many large scientific societies offer workshops on management as well as on scientific issues in the days just before their annual meeting. Tuition is often charged, but scholarships may be available—it never hurts to ask. Many academic institutions provide leadership/managerial courses through their business schools/economics faculties. Often such courses are offered at convenient times for busy professionals, such as one night per week.

GeT To Know youR sTRenGThs anD weaKnesses

In most cases, you cannot change your personal qualities, but becoming aware of them can help you lead more effectively. You can learn to make the most of your assets and work around or improve upon your liabilities. Also, thinking about your personality and preferences in a formal way can make you more aware of how your personality may shape the behavior of people around you, and help you direct and support them more effectively.

One useful framework for understanding persona- lities is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test or similar tools. This is not a test that hands out labels like “this person is neurotic” or “that person is paranoid.” It is a questionnaire that sorts out how one person compares to others with respect to four factors related to temperament.

The factors let you gauge quickly whether one is oriented toward looking inward or toward looking outward when surrounded by other individuals; whether one is more of an abstract or concrete thinker; whether one prefers logic or is more inclined toward trusting feelings; and whether the person is more comfortable with orderliness and structure or likes things that are “free form.” In each of these four areas, neither extreme is good or bad—everyone uses both logic and feelings, abstract thoughts and hard data—but knowing your preferences and those of the people around you will help you understand how people act in given situations, and understanding the preferences of the people around you can give you insight into what drives their habits of mind.

For example, someone who loves big ideas may frequently argue with another person who loves looking after page after page of data. One may think the other is “too obsessed with detail,” while the other may think, “it is all ‘what if’ to you

—what about the real situation on the ground?”

Once these people realize that the issue is not one another’s vision but rather that they look at the world in different and complementary ways, they may be able to take advantage of one another’s natural strengths rather than becoming bogged down in frustration about each other’s differences. m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 49

There is a great deal of commentary online about what these factors mean in terms of how you interact with other people or ideas. There are many questionnaires available online that will provide a

Myers-Briggs score. Searching for the phrase “free

Myers-Briggs” should find a few. Much of the development around these personality types has been done in North America and Western Europe, so some of what you read in these descriptions

(especially in the areas of introversion and extroversion—one’s openness to other people or preference for spending time alone), will be written with cultural assumptions that may be different from those in your own region.

A popular way to understand your on-the-job strengths and weaknesses is to seek feedback from those around you, including those above you in rank, your peers, and people you admire. You may be surprised to find that areas you consider your special strengths are viewed by others as your areas of weakness and vice versa. Feedback from others can help you recognize and see past your blind spots.

CReaTInG youR

VIsIon as a leaDeR

Most people understand that the president of a university or the head of a large institute must have a vision for what he or she wants to accomplish. But what about someone running a lab, or someone working on one project within a larger laboratory? Even in a very small working group— one researcher and a technician—if there is no clear vision of what drives the work and what its goal is, someone may head off in his or her own direction, wasting time and potentially generating ill will.

Without a clear shared goal, small disagreements and normal human differences may become magnified as individuals’ own preferences may come to overshadow what is really important for driving the work forward. Developing a vision for everyone in the lab to share does not limit innovation. Instead, it provides a foundation for creativity from which new directions may be taken. If you have many people working under you, a shared vision may help them better understand how you set priorities.

how To CReaTe a MIssIon sTaTeMenT

Writing a formal mission statement can provide you with a cornerstone for building the vision for your lab. This statement describes the kind of research you want to do, the motivation for your research, and the kind of atmosphere in which you want to work. It should take into consideration the history and current challenges of your lab and what you want to accomplish in the short and long term, with an eye to your future work.

If your position is one of higher responsibility, your vision and mission will be oriented toward the achievements of a department and institution as a whole. The exercise of writing down a mission and a vision may seem artificial, but it can be useful to capture “the big picture” and to refer to it now and then to see if you are spending your time and effort in ways consistent with moving you closer to your long-term intentions.

As you develop your mission statement, keep in mind the following points: n

Decide what values you want for your lab (e.g., scientific excellence, discipline, teamwork, competition). You might think, “These are all good things, so why not just aspire to greatness?” But the values and strengths you see as leading to great science may be different from those someone else would pick. Someone who enjoys being focused might thrive by picking a single scientific problem and focusing great efforts to solving it.

A different person might thrive on devoting great efforts at many different problems connected by a common thread. Some people want to have a lab where everyone collaborates on projects; others may prefer to have each lab member work on distinct aspects of a scientific question without much interaction. Knowing yourself—your strengths and weaknesses—will help you determine what you want to accomplish and how to get it done.


Consider your social, financial, and family goals, in addition to your scientific ones. They will not be elements of your mission statement, but they should help you understand what efforts and resources you can put into your research. This, in turn, will help determine the scope of what you hope to achieve.

50 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s


Craft a statement that you feel comfortable communicating to your peers, superiors, and lab members. It does not need to be flowery language; it should be ambitious but not a grandiose overstatement of importance.

Here are two sample mission statements: n

The goal of our laboratory is to be among the most successful and respected researchers in the area of cancer genetics. The ultimate goal is to help develop better therapies and cures for cancer. Our access to patients with a unique type of cancer gives us an unusual opportunity to do excellent molecular and population work. We will publish our work internationally and seek out excellent collaborators. We will be recognized for being fair and collegial colleagues in the broad cancer field and as the world’s experts in the cancer that is our specialty.


Our lab aims to understand the mechanisms by which cells transport proteins. In particular, we will focus on technical challenges that others have not been able to overcome. A main focus of the lab is to train the next generation of scientists. We will create an environment that is conducive to learning and testing new skills.

Keep in mind that mission statements are not operating plans or strategic maps for the lab, but do serve to shape those essential elements. In addition, they are not static—they evolve and change with time. One could read them cynically.

But why do that? You are setting out in words your hopes for your career and maybe for your country’s role in advancing science. Think realistically, but think boldly about what you can do, and think proudly about doing it where you are.

If you have written a mission statement you are pleased with, try saying it over and over to the people in your lab. State it at lab meetings, when people first join the lab, and when you sit down to write a paper. Every decision you make from now on, from hiring staff to choosing scientific projects for the people in the lab to establishing how communication flows, can be made with this statement in mind. It will help remind you to ask yourself whether an action being considered is in keeping with what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it.

DeVelopInG youR leaDeRshIp sTyle

Your mission statement is what sets the course for your lab, but how do you go about directing and motivating people to accomplish this vision? The way you carry out your role as a leader is called your “leadership style.” It will depend largely upon your own personality and the types of experiences you have had up to now. For example, you may find you feel more comfortable making decisions on your own, without seeking the input of others in the lab or colleagues. Or you may find it difficult to give unsolicited feedback to your students and postdocs. After a few months, you will most likely develop a style that you feel comfortable with. But management experts tell us that different styles are required for different situations and different individuals, and that you should practice using a variety of such styles to help you navigate through different problems and challenges.

American management gurus Ken Blanchard and

Paul Hershey have written about leadership styles in terms of a continuing spectrum of directive and supportive behavior. Directive behavior involves clearly telling people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, and then closely monitoring behavior.

Supportive behavior involves listening to people, providing assistance and encouragement, and then facilitating their involvement in problem-solving and decision-making. According to this model, the degree to which you direct and support people who work for you is influenced by their level of competence and their commitment to completing a given task.

blanchard and hershey Model of leadership styles

suppoRTInG CoaChInG


low high

Directive behavior

(Adapted from a concept developed by the Center for Leadership Studies, Inc.)

m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 51

In their model, the four styles of situational leadership are:



This style puts a high focus on getting tasks done and a lower focus on relationship. When the person you are supervising is not yet qualified or is not sufficiently motivated to carry out a task independently, then you need to tell him or her precisely what to do at each step. For example, you may take this approach with a technician who has just started working in your lab and needs to learn an important technique that he or she will be doing routinely.



This style puts a high focus on both task and relationship. You would continue to direct the actions of the person you are supervising, but would also take the time to explain decisions, solicit suggestions, and support the individual’s professional development. This leadership style is the most demanding. It requires a lot of time and emotional investment on the part of the leader.

For example, soon after a graduate student joins the lab, you may have to show him or her different techniques and help the student decide which experiments to do, but you would explain why and how they fit in with the lab’s mission, so that over time the student will be able to work creatively, confidently, and independently.



This style puts a low focus on task and a higher one on relationship. In a lab, the supervisor is likely to adopt this leadership style with most trained scientists and experienced graduate students. For example, you would give a trained scientist working in your lab the responsibility to choose what experiments to do, but continue to discuss what they are. You would also facilitate progress by, for example, helping this person find someone to collaborate with so that he or she can get the next step of a project accomplished.



This style puts a low focus on both task and relationship. You would turn over responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving to an individual who has become more independent. For example, you might allow a fully trained scientist who is doing very well in your lab to take responsibility for the day-to-day progress of one of the lab’s projects, and to function within the context of that project as a fully independent researcher.

DeleGaTInG TasKs anD auThoRITy

Many heads of laboratories are reluctant to delegate because they fear losing control or power.

Delegation is important, because it will relieve you of some of the lab’s day-to-day responsibilities.

Assigning responsibility does not lessen your role in the lab. It merely gives you time to handle more tasks that suit your position than you could if you had not passed along some of the work that can be done by another person. Also, delegation serves to empower and motivate the people who work for you, and helps prepare them for the responsibilities that will someday fall to them.

In deciding whether there is something you could delegate, ask yourself the following questions:

What am I doing now that I would like to see someone else do? Is there a person in the lab who is capable of handling some of what I do and willing to take on a new responsibility? What could

I do if I had more free time? One of the tasks you may want to consider delegating is ordering supplies. Although you may want to continue to involve yourself in approving purchases, someone else can look up catalog numbers and fill in order forms. If you make all of the reagents in the lab, you may be able to delegate that work to a trusted, careful worker. Other activities, such as washing dishes or feeding research animals, could be passed along to less-trained individuals if you are doing these tasks yourself.

Once you have decided to delegate the responsibility for a given task, you need to: n

Be sure you delegate the necessary authority with the responsibility. You may have to explicitly tell others, “This person is acting in my stead and must be given the priority and access to resources that you would give me if I was carrying out this work myself.”


Give clear directions and make sure they are understood; keep two-way communication channels open.


Clearly define the responsibilities assigned to each lab member, and make this information known to everyone in the lab.


Once you have delegated, follow up to make sure the job is being done, without interfering with it.

52 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s


When you delegate authority to someone, be sure to back that person up when his or her authority is called into question.


Distribute responsibilities fairly among members of the lab.

Keep in mind that the people to whom you delegate may view problems that arise as personal failures or as letting you down. They may therefore put off telling you about problems. Taking the time beforehand to communicate what should happen, and anticipating any potential problems, may save you headaches later. You do not want to add to your own burden by having to micromanage your delegations, but sometimes putting some time into seeing to it that the work starts off well is all it takes to ensure a successful transition to your delegates’ ability to work independently.

buIlDInG anD susTaInInG an effeCTIVe TeaM

Today, more than at any other time in history, science is a team sport—and the teams keep getting bigger. Your job as a leader includes maintaining good working conditions so that your group can be productive. Recognizing and dealing with low morale or bad feeling arising among your workers (or between your workers and yourself) requires most people to pay more attention to human relationships than they did before taking on a leadership role. For many kinds of work, you need to integrate people who have different kinds of technical expertise and backgrounds. Regardless of the size of your lab or your group, there are some general guidelines for keeping the team members motivated and working effectively, from communicating and giving feedback to setting specific rules of behavior. They are discussed in the sections below.

CoMMunICaTInG wIThIn The lab

You should communicate with laboratory members on a daily basis if possible. If you are still doing experiments at the bench yourself, you will be accessible to your lab members. But if you spend most of your time in your office writing papers and grants or handling other responsibilities, it will make a big difference to your group’s research productivity if you make an effort to walk around the lab frequently (on the scale of at least once a day, if you can) and informally chat with people.

Keeping your office door open when you do not need privacy or quiet sends the message that you are approachable and available for scientific and practical questions about the work in the lab. If you would like to be approachable but your many obligations prevent you from having an “open door policy,” try establishing a regular schedule of hours during which people from your lab group can reliably get a moment of your time without the formality of setting up an official meeting.

In addition to these informal interactions, formal meetings are an organized way to ensure that everyone is kept informed of the group’s activities and results and for you to reiterate your expectations and values. If you have time, it can be valuable to hold regular goal-setting and evaluation sessions—an annual lab retreat for discussing big picture issues, regular lab meetings involving the full staff, and scheduled one-on-one advisory meetings and performance evaluations for your trainees and employees. Group activities such as lab dinners or outings, held periodically, can also be important for building morale and encouraging lab members to think of themselves as part of a team.

I would add that it is important that the boss, except when out of the lab for meetings or other academic commitments, spend most of his time in the lab, arriving early in the morning and staying late. Not to give the impression that being the boss one has the privilege to work less, no matter the nature of your work

(desk or bench).

alberto Kornblihtt, argentina

m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 53

GooD pRaCTICe foR laboRaToRy noTebooKs

Scientists everywhere are expected to keep daily records of their work. These records allow work to be reproduced by others and serve as a record of your progress and the evolution of your ideas.

A well-kept lab notebook documents failures just as thoroughly as it documents successes, not only because it is meant to be a fair record but also because sometimes what seems to be a failure turns out to be an important insight and the beginning of a new success. Even routine procedures should be documented each time they are carried out. This not only reinforces the habit of keeping notes but also preserves a record of how shortcuts, “tweaking”, or individual’s way of carrying out the work changes with experience.

why aRe noTebooKs so IMpoRTanT?


Spotting problems quickly.

Having a look at everyone’s notebook a few times a month, and reviewing your own periodically, will help you ensure that the work in the lab is being done up to your standards, and will let you find out quickly when things are not working or when a worker is struggling to achieve an expected result.


Avoiding technical drift.

When working in the lab, one often comes up with “tweaks” and

“work-arounds” that make work go faster. When these changes evolve, they should be noted, especially if they improve the work process and should replace the original method. Keeping an eye on the lab’s notebooks will also help you spot when an attempt at efficiency or convenience causes an established procedure to become less accurate or reliable.


Avoiding fraud.

You will be responsible for the integrity of all of the work that comes out of your laboratory. Checking notebooks and setting a good example by keeping exemplary records yourself will help prevent fraud.


Defending patents.

In many countries, whoever patents an invention first has rights to it. But in some places, including the U.S., if you can prove you thought of an idea first, you own it, even if some-one else tries to patent it before you. Careful record-keeping can help prove your claims of priority.

New electronic tools for laboratory record–keeping are increasingly coming into use. So far, they have not been exposed to much legal scrutiny or been part of many controversies. For this reason, many labs continue to use paper records even if they are also using electronic systems.

ensuRe ThaT DaIly ReCoRDs aRe

KepT of all of The woRK In youR lab

The precise way in which to document scientific research varies from field to field and from place to place, but some general rules apply: n

Use a permanently bound book, with consecutive dated entries. Never remove pages. Sometimes, especially when you have written down a bold new insight or done a profoundly important experiment for the first time, entries should be signed by you. Periodically, they should be witnessed by a scientifically competent reader in case you later need to prove that your work came before another scientist’s.


Use only pens, preferably with waterproof, solvent- proof, and fade-resistant ink that does not smear, to write in the notebook.


Make sure that your handwriting is clear and that others can read it.


Each entry, even for a routine task, should stand on its own, to permit others to replicate the work.

Entries in the notebook should be written in order of the time the work was done, not grouped together with related work done on various dates.


Loose items like photographs, drawings, or machine printouts should be permanently attached to the notebook pages using glue or staples.


Lab notebooks should not leave the laboratory area

(including the researcher’s office, if it is close to the lab). They should not go to anyone’s home. If safety and security of the notebook is a concern, a locked, fireproof box in the lab is a good place to store notebooks overnight.


Laboratory notebooks usually stay with the lab in which the work was done. For this reason, it can be useful for researchers to keep a personal notebook full of procedures, methods, recipes, and other useful information using a second, sturdy book which they have purchased themselves. This personal book, which will leave the lab, should never function as a separate lab notebook.

KeepInG a well-oRGanIZeD ReCoRD


Organize material with sections and headings.


Identify and describe reagents and specimens used.


Identify sources of those materials (e.g., reagent manufacturer, lot number, purity, expiration date).


Enter analytical instrument serial numbers and calibration dates.


Use proper names for items and real verbs to describe how you used them.


Write all entries in the first person, and be specific about who did the work.


Explain nonstandard abbreviations.


Use ink and never obliterate original writing; never remove pages or portions of a page. If you write out an experiment and do not carry it out, make a note that it was not done, including a brief explanation.


Write down some analysis of your results and outline new experiments, including their objectives and rationale, suggested by your observations.

ReseaRCh GRoup MeeTInGs

Many research groups hold weekly or monthly meetings. People in the lab take turns presenting what they have done since they gave their last presentation. They give an introduction to the purpose of their individual project or activity, provide some background to get others “up to speed,” share their results and their interpretation, and then discuss what they plan to do next. Comments and suggestions from the research team usually follow.

In some labs, a group meeting is a semiformal presentation; in other labs these meetings may be more informal. For example, each person discussing what he or she did that week. Informal meetings tend to be much more interactive, but it can still be useful to schedule occasional formal presentations so that the individuals training in your lab can perfect their ability to speak about their research and learn to look and act like a professional scientist. Another idea is to have joint research meetings with other labs. It is good experience for your lab members to give presentations to scientists outside your lab. It can help to clarify presentations and may bring out new ideas from those who are not so closely involved with the projects. It extends your network and that of your students, which is especially useful when they are looking for jobs or letters of reference.

one-on-one MeeTInGs

Regardless of the frequency of research group meetings, it is useful to meet often with each of the people working or training under your supervision so that you can keep current with their progress and any problems they may be encountering in getting their experiments to work.

Invite them to come into your office with their lab notebooks and show you what they have been working on. Many heads of labs meet with lab members for an hour each week. They may meet with them more frequently immediately after lab members have finished a series of experiments or when they notice that a lab member is struggling.

Depending on your circumstances, you may not have the time to meet with your lab members that often, but it is important that you make an effort to communicate with them as often as possible. If you run a very large group working on several projects, teach individuals who are leading these projects to meet regularly with students or technicians working under them; you will help them learn how to supervise and at the same time make your workload more manageable.

It is valuable to carry out formal reviews of a person’s progress during these one-on-one meetings once or twice a year. These reviews, sometimes called “performance reviews,” spell out in writing the progress the individual has made since the last review and set future goals. See the Appendix at the end of this chapter (page 72) for a sample six-month performance review. The review can give you an opportunity to acknowledge and comment on the person’s hard work, make note of new skills acquired, and restate your expectations for the trainee or employee’s work in the lab.

sMall GRoup MeeTInGs

Some large labs also have meetings of subgroups working on specific projects or working with specific techniques. This gives everyone who is working hands-on with the project a chance to consider and choose different experimental strategies to generate the best results, and together consider logistics and technical matters.

Small group meetings give everyone an informal opportunity to share tips and tricks, and can help keep morale up when members of the group run up against technical challenges. The benefit of small groups like this for getting new technologies and techniques working is so large that it may be worthwhile to put together “user groups” of personnel working on the same approaches in other nearby labs.

56 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

sTRaTeGy sessIons

Should you decide that your research needs to take a new direction, you may want to call an official strategy session. A strategy session helps the group identify the next most important questions and what experiments will answer these questions. Such a meeting also helps the group develop a shared understanding of the lab’s direction and clarifies what needs to be done and who within the group is interested in what aspects of the new research area. These meetings also help you determine how potential conflicts and competing interests can be avoided. d e v e L o p i n g A d A t A m A n A g e m e n t s y s t e m t o t R A c k y o u R L A b o R A t o R y ’ s w o R k

Having an orderly system for maintaining lab procedures and information can be very useful, especially as the personnel in your working group change over time. Think about what kinds of things, from ideas to pictures of laboratory results, you would like to be able to find quickly. Then develop a system for labeling these things so that you can find them again. Once you have developed a systematic way of labeling everything you’d like to be able to find, you can use the search capacity of a personal computer to make your life much easier.

A good system might name things in a way that indicated the date the item or information was generated, who generated it, what kind of resource is stored, and where more information can be found, as well as other information that may suit a given laboratory.

One might index a new plasmid named pJD03, made and purified by Jane Doe on May 22, and described and recorded in the third volume of her notebook on page 79 as n

20092009-05-22 /jd /plasmid prep/ pJD03/III:79

Even with this simple system, if 20 years from now you would like to remember something about a plasmid you vaguely remember a student making sometime after the Olympics in China but before the

World Cup in Johannesburg, you will have a quick, simple way to find it.


Integrate research and clinical activities and use departmental academic meetings to promote the

clinical relevance of your research program.

w h A t t o s t o R e

lab protocols primary data in a form that will survive into the future


CDs/DVDs n

Handwritten data in pen in laboratory notebooks or other high quality paper n

Laser-printed computer documents on high quality paper

lists of specimens and reagents

Information about instruments

m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 57

JouRnal Club MeeTInGs

These meetings are an integral part of training new scientists, and can vary in frequency from weekly to monthly, or as desired. The discussion of a scientific report serves to illustrate how to

(and how not to) construct and test a hypothesis, what constitutes effective analysis, and how to report scientific findings. A journal club meeting also reinforces the idea that reading current papers is essential to keeping up with the field. In addition, these meetings provide an opportunity for you to communicate your values about science when discussing other people’s work.

Finding Good Papers for Journal Clubs

Our journal club, which focuses on infectious diseases, has identified 10 leading journals from which presenters are encouraged to select articles for presentation. Presenters do have the freedom to occasionally select interesting or relevant articles from non-preferential journals.

brian eley, south africa

h o w t o R u n A J o u R n A L c L u b

In many research institutes, members of different labs will get together to discuss published articles in a particular field or subject. The subject can be very specialized, such as “chromatin,” or broad in scope, such as “molecular biology.” Reading and discussing articles with others who share your interests and background will really help you and the people in your lab stay abreast of current developments. It will also help more junior scientists stay motivated about their own work and learn about the elements of a sound scientific paper and study.

There are many ways to hold a journal club, but in general, these meetings work best when: n

The group meets regularly in the same location at the same time. n

Responsibility for leading the discussion of articles is rotated among all of the regular participants. n

Articles selected for reading and discussion are of interest to the majority of the group. n

Everyone participates actively in the discussion of the articles.

In some groups, everyone in the group reads the paper ahead of the meetings. In other journal clubs only the person leading the discussion reads the paper ahead of time and the others learn about it through his or her presentation. Most journal clubs last about an hour, with a portion of the time allotted to a presentation, followed by a question-and-answer or discussion period. Some journal clubs take place over lunch; others at other times of the day. Regardless, these meetings are more popular if some food and drinks are provided.

Typically, the person leading the discussion of a particular article will review the background of the study, the rationale for doing it, the data presented, and will evaluate both the results and their interpretation. In the process, the discussion leader should address the following questions: n

Is the paper clearly written? n

What is the quality of the work described? n

What is the quality of the materials, methods, and instrumentation used? n

Is the analysis and interpretation of the data valid? n

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen experimental design? n

Are there any errors that the authors may have missed? n

What is the impact of these errors on the authors’ data, interpretations, and/or conclusions? n

What is the overall significance of this work to a particular field of study? n

Do the conclusions follow from the data? n

Are there other, perhaps better interpretations of the data than those presented in the paper?

58 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

Finding Good Papers for Journal Clubs


Search on Medline for your field/subject

of interest.


Look through relevant journals that the

research institute/university department

subscribes to.


Look at papers that your collaborators

have published.


Discuss papers of interest that have just

been presented at a recent conference,

especially if full papers are available.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe

InfoRMal GRoup aCTIVITIes

Organizing social occasions to celebrate a major accomplishment—publication of a paper, a team member getting a new job, the group getting a new grant, and so on—is important for promoting your shared vision of the lab and building morale.

In some groups, a souvenir like a copy of the newly successful grant or celebratory champagne bottle signed by the whole team, a group photo, or some other lasting sign of the day is kept and proudly displayed for continued inspiration. Also, most heads of laboratories agree that it is important that lab members occasionally socialize in a relaxed, non-work environment. Such get-togethers can help promote a team feeling and enhance communication among lab members. As you are establishing your lab, you might have to arrange these outings. After a while, they will occur more spontaneously. Do not feel that you always have to participate, and do not feel offended if you are not invited to all after-hours occasions, especially if your role in your organization puts you at a much higher level of seniority and responsibility than those on your team.


Giving and receiving feedback is a critical leadership skill. Receiving feedback from individuals in your lab will help you improve as a leader, and will help you steer people toward your vision. In turn, giving them feedback will help them develop as scientists and will ensure that your expectations are met. Even if you have a very formal manner with your lab, feedback should be given informally on a daily basis, as well as during formal meetings.

You do not have to be everyone’s friend in the lab to do this—providing small comments will do.

Remember that although one often notices criticism and correction more, positive feedback, for example “Thanks for making sure this got done on time,” or “Keep trying, this is a tough technical problem that we need to get through, and you are using a good, systematic approach to do that,” is also important.

When you give feedback to people in the lab, try to: n

Time it well.

Feedback delivered during stressful times (e.g., when a grant deadline is looming) is rarely helpful, especially when either party is angry or elated, or when someone walked into a discussion not expecting to hear critique, good or bad, about the work.

g u i d e L i n e s f o R e f f e c t i v e m e e t i n g s n

Solicit agenda items and distribute an agenda before the meeting. n

Have clear assigned roles for the meeting—that is, who will speak, who will take notes, who will

lead the discussion. n

For each action item on the agenda, go over discussion points, make a decision, and determine

post-meeting actions. n

Discuss what should be on the next meeting’s agenda. n

Follow up the meeting with a meeting summary and a to-do-by-what-date list. m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 59

Components of an especially useful agenda


Meeting title, group title,

where it will be held, date, time n

Meeting purpose n

Desired outcome n

Expected preperation n

Attendees and known absences n

Minutes from the last meeting n

New business n

Other business n

Date and content of next meeting n

Be specific and objective.

Focus your comments on first-hand data, actions, and behavior and not on the person or speculation about his or her intentions. For example, instead of saying “You are not focused enough on your work,” or “You do not seem to care about your experiments,” think of a specific instance that you thought was a problem.

“We decided at our meeting that you would do these three experiments, but you only did one.”


Reinforce expectations.

Provide feedback in terms of previously outlined goals and decisions

(“We decided at the last meeting...”).


Avoid subjective statements.

An example of such a statement is “I do not like the fact that you show up in the lab whenever you feel like it.” Try instead to stick to objective arguments. “If you arrive at unpredictable times, it is difficult for other people in the lab to know when they can talk to you. Many people depend on your expertise and need to know when you are available.”


Be very clear about what you want your discussion to achieve.

Sometimes when people receive negative feedback, they feel defeated.

But that outcome may not help you achieve your intended goal. If you have an excellent worker who is failing to meet your expectations for working regular hours in the lab, for example, you may need to say explicitly “In the long run, this is the kind of problem people get fired for. But we are not at that stage yet and we will not be as long as we can work together and solve the problem. You and I both know that you are a good worker and that you struggle with family responsibilities. What can you do today that will help you get here on time for the next five days in a row?” Working toward small goals can sometimes help good workers meet your standards.


Present it in a constructive way.

Feedback should be seen as a method for improvement rather than as a punitive step. To this end, ensure that the student or other trainee in the lab has a plan for dealing with any problems you have identified, and arrange a way to monitor progress.

Why does a person come to the lab late in the day and have an erratic work schedule? Does she have a problem with getting transportation to and from the lab? Has he taken an additional job? Suggest ways to overcome these problems and agree on a deadline for re-evaluating the problem. You cannot organize a person’s life for them, but you can point out solutions, saying, for example, “Maybe staying closer to the lab during the week or catching a ride with someone in another part of the institution would help?”


Make sure it registers.

Feedback is often subject to distortion or misinterpretation. You may want to ask the student or postdoc to rephrase what you have said and talk about his or her assessment of the issues you raised.


Avoid too much.

Select the highest priority issues to start with, and remember that time and space are needed for integrating feedback. Even positive, well-motivated people sometimes have to think a few days to assimilate your message.

Receiving feedback.

In some cultures it is not acceptable for someone working or training in your laboratory to give you feedback on any aspects of your own performance. In such systems, you are The Boss, and that is the end of the story. So how can you get feedback if you want it?

60 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

If possible, invite people in your lab to provide feedback on specific issues by asking questions during lab meetings or scheduled one-on-one meetings. This feedback will make you a better manager. Make it a point to meet with your own supervisor, if you have one, on a regular basis, and have lunch with senior colleagues to get a sense of how they think your work is progressing and whether you are on track for achieving your scientific and career goals. If you are a very senior scientist at your institution despite having only recently finished your own training and have little hope of getting honest feedback from your colleagues, it may be that old friends or trusted relatives can help you work through your growing pains. Past advisors may also be able to help with some issues. If you have entirely trained abroad, however, you also need to find someone in your current social and scientific culture who can help you maintain your perspective and sense of humor.

Regardless of where you get your advice, remember that to get honest comments and suggestions, you must be receptive. If you respond angrily or defensively, those in your lab and other colleagues will be reluctant to give you their true opinions. As you are listening to a comment, try to understand what the other person is saying. If something is not clear, ask for clarification. If the feedback is negative, take time to think about what you heard, even if you do not agree. What behaviors might have caused these perceptions? What changes, if any, do you need to make?

MaKInG DeCIsIons

As the head of a new laboratory you will be making tens if not hundreds of decisions a day, from determining which emails to open and how to answer each one, to deciding what experiments to do, to choosing to hire a new researcher to work in your lab. In each case, the first step in making a decision involves understanding the demands of the situation by answering the following questions: n

How important is the decision I have to make?

For example, the decision involved in hiring a new technician is a serious one. You will have to interview the candidate and carefully research his or her background before you make a decision.

Whether or not you give a talk at the departmental seminar next August may be a decision that will not carry very serious consequences.


When do I need to make the decision?


Do I have enough information to make the decision?


How critical are the consequences of this decision?


Who needs to know or cares about the decision I am about to make?


Will I need assistance or approval from others?


If I made the same kind of decision before, can I use the same approach?

Answers to these questions will help you choose the most appropriate decision style, that is, the degree to which you go at it alone or include others.

MaKInG a DeCIsIon

In CoMpleTe IsolaTIon

This decision style works best when you are under severe time constraints, when there is no need for buy-in from other people, when you alone have the best insight, or when you are dealing with highly confidential information. For example, if another scientist approaches you to collaborate on some experiments for a paper he is in a rush to publish, you may quickly decide whether it is worthwhile for you to get involved. You can make this decision without consulting anyone else if the work can be done by yourself or a technician.

Another example would be to decide whether to referee a paper or write a letter of reference for someone working in your laboratory.

MaKInG a DeCIsIon afTeR

ConsulTInG wITh oTheR InDIVIDuals

You would use this decision style when you need input from others and have sufficient time to gather information. In general, this approach improves the quality of the decision, but you run the risk of involving people who are not really participating in the decision-making process, which may lead to resentment or misunderstanding. For example, if approached by another researcher to collaborate on a project, you may ask your colleagues whether m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 61

they know this person and what his or her reputation is. The head of a laboratory considering taking on a new research direction may consult with the head of the research institute or other colleagues.

But the decision ultimately rests on the shoulders of the laboratory head. Do not let those you consult believe that they have control of your decision.

MaKInG a DeCIsIon wITh The GRoup

This decision style is helpful when you have few time constraints, need the buy-in or technical experience of the group, or need a creative response. It is more time-consuming than the two discussed above, but in some cases it improves the quality of the decision. For example, when deciding whether or not to invite an individual to join your lab, you may decide jointly with existing lab members. Another example is if you have to decide whether or not to buy a new piece of equipment you have little experience with. There may be other scientists working in your lab who are more knowledgeable and can make a better decision on which particular model to buy. It does not diminish your authority to say to a trusted subordinate, “Since you are the one who will be the most involved in running this machine, get the one that suits you best.”

passInG The DeCIsIon on To oTheRs

This happens in cases when the decision is more important to other people in the lab, or when you have little competence in the area or other more pressing priorities. The most important thing to consider in this case is that you will have to live with the decision, whether you like it or not. The last thing you want to do is overturn a decision once it has been made. For example, you might let a senior scientist training in your laboratory decide on his or her own whether to collaborate with another scientist or where to submit a paper, if you believe that the trainee has good judgment and enough experience to make a mature, informed decision.

seTTInG anD

CoMMunICaTInG Rules of behaVIoR foR MeMbeRs of youR laboRaToRy

A key element of your role as a lab leader is to effectively convey expectations that reflect your vision for the lab. Some expectations may apply to a particular group of lab members (e.g., postdocs); others may be unique to each individual. You might be formal about stating your expectations, or you may want to work with your lab members to set these expectations. This can increase the likelihood of buy-in and help increase motivation. The best way to communicate expectations is to convey them continually—at the first interview, on the first day on the job, at lunchtime if you eat with your group, during lab meetings, and, most importantly, by setting a good example yourself day by day.

It is also a good idea to communicate in writing your expectations about everything from expected work hours to dress code to how one gains access to training opportunities and advancement. Having these standards written down is especially good for new lab members and will be useful when you are conducting periodic performance reviews. As a general rule, you should live by the expectations you set for your lab members. Show your workers that you enjoy what you are doing. Especially in the early years, be present in the lab, working side by side with them if your position still includes bench work, or showing interest in their work if your role is more administrative. They will be able to see how you work and what is important to you.

Below are some general areas you will want to consider when setting expectations for people in your lab.

woRK houRs

Some heads of laboratories feel they should stipulate a specific number of hours per week that they expect people in their lab, especially trainees, to work. But that strategy does not necessarily work well and can generate resentment if the hours

62 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s


Q u e s t i o n

how do I avoid potential misunderstandings among lab members regarding work hours and time off?

A n s w e R

The best way to handle this is to convey your expectations about work hours and time off to applicants during the employment interview or their first day on the job. For example, the amount of vacation leave varies from country to country, and the degree to which civil and religious events affect work also varies.

You should let applicants know about your institution’s and your lab’s policies.

demanded are far beyond normal expectations.

Focusing on productivity will prove more successful than focusing on the number of hours or on the specific hours an individual works. Nevertheless, you will probably want the members of your laboratory to be present during certain hours, to make sure they can interact with you and the other lab members. Generally, your own work hours set the pace for your group. In some places, laboratories may be capable of running around the clock. While in others, work is confined to the normal business day. If you want people to have access to the lab at unusual hours, you will need to think through issues of key control and your workers’ security as well as that of your laboratory and the supplies and equipment in it.

pRolonGeD absenCes

Communicate your expectation that lab members should give you several weeks notice about an upcoming vacation or their intention to spend a holiday or harvest period away from the area.

Inform them of any vacation and personal leave limits set by your institution. Your institution may also have guidelines about sick leave, study leave, maternity and paternity leave, funeral leave, and other adjustments for family needs. It is best to follow these guidelines rigorously to avoid perceptions of favoritism.

auThoRshIp of papeRs

The inclusion and order of authors on a paper are often sources of discord in the lab. In deciding who should be an author on a paper, the

Principal Investigator (PI) must consider who has contributed to particular aspects of the work. All lab members who are involved in a project should express their expectations concerning authorship and credits on the resulting paper, and provide their rationale for being considered as an author.

This topic is discussed at greater length in chapter 9.

Here are some guidelines to consider: n

The first author is normally the individual who is primarily responsible for the project.


Occasionally, two individuals may share that responsibility. Most journals permit a statement that indicates that the first two or three authors listed have each contributed equally to the publication. This can be helpful, but remember that the author lists when cited in publications or on one’s

CV will not have this statement attached.


It is unwise to make upfront promises about authorship. You may choose to make it a policy in your lab to wait until you know how much each person has actually contributed to any given paper before authorship is assigned.

m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 63

w h e n t h e “ b i g b o s s ” e x p e c t s t o b e A n A u t h o R

Depending on the protocol of your country or your particular institution, you may have little choice deciding whether your boss should be on the paper. At some research institutes, the head is on every paper, period. This may be the reality at some institutions, but around the world it is regarded as scientifically dishonest and quite unethical. There may be no other topic in this book where the gap between the right thing to do and the pragmatic thing to do is so large.

Of course, if the “big boss” provided ideas or suggestions that were crucial to the development or completion of the study, he or she should be listed as an author. However, in many cases your boss will have had little input into your work. And listing this person as an author may communicate to readers that you are not an independent scientist. So how do you decide whether or not to list him or her as an author? Here are some things to consider:

If this person is a recognized authority in the field of work of your study, listing him or her as an author may actually help you get the paper published. Would an accompanying letter to the journal editor from the authority, rather than the authority’s name on your paper, help as much? It is hard to know. Finding ways to truly involve the authority as a collaborator in your work may give you a strategy for maintaining your integrity.

If listing your boss as an author will win you his or her favor and will help you advance in your career, it may be to your advantage to do so. If leaving the boss off your papers will ruin your position at your institution, what can you do? This is a difficult problem, though, and in some places a politically dangerous issue to confront directly. But setting aside your integrity is never the right thing to do. n

In deciding whether to include someone as an author, ask: “Could this project have been done without this person’s conceptual or technical contribution?”

If you are running a lab and overseeing all of the work conducted in the lab, you may always be an appropriate author on any paper the lab publishes.

However, if you have a more senior position and are in charge of several labs, you should consider carefully about when it is appropriate to be an author. The importance of your name being on the paper will vary from place to place and situation to situation.


The best way to communicate responsible research conduct to your lab members is to live by those values yourself. As a leader, you should talk about important ethical issues (e.g., scientific rigor and reproducible and discrepant results) in a lab meeting or in a more informal setting.

Some institutions offer lectures or seminars in scientific ethics, and you should encourage your staff to attend. This material is also sometimes delivered at large scientific meetings or in workshops offered by the World Health Organization and other agencies.

64 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

t h e i n t e R n A t i o n A L c o m m i t t e e o f m e d i c A L J o u R n A L e d i t o R s c R i t e R i A f o R A u t h o R s h i p o f s c i e n t i f i c w o R k

Authorship credit should be based on 1) substantial contributions to conception and design, or

acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) drafting the article or revising it

critically for important intellectual content; and 3) final approval of the version to be published.

Authors should meet conditions 1, 2, and 3.

When a large, multi-center group has conducted the work, the group should identify the individuals who accept direct responsibility for the manuscript. These individuals should fully meet the criteria for authorship/contributorship defined above and editors will ask these individuals to complete journalspecific author and conflict of interest disclosure forms. When submitting a group author manuscript, the corresponding author should clearly indicate the preferred citation and should clearly identify all individual authors as well as the group name. Journals will generally list other members of the group in the acknowledgements. The National Library of Medicine indexes the group name and the names of individuals the group has identified as being directly responsible for the manuscript.

pRoJeCT owneRshIp

The head of the laboratory, with input from individual members, usually decides what projects people in the lab work on. Some labs have strategy discussions every three to four months, during which everyone talks about what projects they would like to continue or initiate. Work in the lab is most effective and productive when members have clearly defined projects that are sufficiently distinct for each person to carry out some indepen- dent work, but at the same time the projects are interrelated so that no one is working in a vacuum.

This way, everyone in the lab can consult with and motivate his or her lab mates.

KeepInG lab MeMbeRs


One of your key roles is to motivate people to work hard toward achieving your shared vision and your shared interests. While different people respond to different types of internal and external motivation, most people are motivated when their contributions to the laboratory are recognized and appreciated. According to Edward O’Neil, to feel motivated, most people require: n


People want to make some decisions.

As the leader of your group, large or small, make sure you give people appropriate responsibilities, involve them in discussions about general scientific strategy, and listen to their ideas.



People need the skills to do the work that is expected of them. Check competencies by asking someone to do an experiment with you, or ask appropriate questions that will help you judge the individual’s development.



People need to understand the importance of their role in the lab and in the scientific enterprise. It is important for you to set goals that define success for those working under you and make sure they match with what the person is doing. This matters for everyone. The scientific needs of your trainees are obvious, but remember, an excellent technician may be driven by goals in and outside science, and that even dishwashers and other less-skilled helpers are working with you for reasons that are important to them. It is important to listen to what each person wants to do and understand what his or her goals are. If a postdoc has decided to pursue a career in government or in industry, trying to motivate him or her to follow in your footsteps into academia will not work. As a lab leader, you need to address your lab members’ individual goals while you work together to realize your shared vision.

m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 65

p o L i c y o n L e t t i n g p R o J e c t s L e A v e t h e L A b

You should develop a clear policy concerning whether you will allow scientists who train in your lab, and then leave to establish their own research programs, to take their projects with them. Communicate this policy to all scientists who join your lab. Some heads of laboratories let scientists who trained in their labs take whatever they had worked on during their stay, with no strings attached. Others will let them take only portions of a project. When you develop your policy, think about how you would want to handle a situation in which the research results are different from what you anticipated, or a situation in which the results lead to interesting new avenues of research. If you have a small research group and a focused area of research, you may not be able to allow departing researchers to take their projects with them. In that case, you might need to develop some alternatives to benefit them.



You need to provide continuous feedback to those who work with you. Criticism, comments, and suggestions should be provided in the context of the given expectations. Special accomplishments, such as publishing a paper or getting a difficult technique to work, require special recognition, such as a lab outing.


Feeling Comfortable.

To be able to focus on their work, people must feel comfortable in their environment. One example is that some lab members like to play music in the lab, while others are distracted by it. The working environment needs to be safe and, if possible, comfortable, so that your lab members look forward to coming to work every day and enjoy conducting research in your lab with their colleagues.



Satisfaction from achieving goals should not be in the distant future. It is a good idea to schedule individual meetings as often as once a week to set deadlines, solve problems, and plan future experiments. A paper is a big goal but may be several years into the future. But getting an enzyme to work correctly or processing a given number of samples can be goals that are attainable much sooner, and are encouraging.



You undoubtedly love science for the thrill of discovery, of finding the answer to an important scientific question that has never been answered before, or helping find solutions to an intractable health problem. Share your enthusiasm and passion and soon others in the lab will follow your lead.

Unless also wrestling with personal problems, poor health, or family problems, when these factors are in place, people should feel motivated to work. A lack of motivation may manifest itself as a decrease in productivity. For example, someone who was productive will stop producing results consistently week after week. You will first need to determine the cause for this decrease. Is it an interpersonal problem in the lab, an experimental obstacle, or a personal crisis? Discuss the problem with the lab member and see whether you can jointly develop a strategy to address the issue or minimize the impact of the lab member’s actions or distress on others.

66 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

ManaGInG ConflICT

In The lab

Conflict is any situation where one person’s concerns or desires differ from those of another person. In the lab, conflicts often arise over “turf wars,” when two individuals are interested in the same project. By staying on top of what each member of your lab is doing, you can often spot potential problems and deal with them before they become too serious.

Many people tend to avoid conflict. But we should think of conflict as a creative part of our lives.

Conflict has the potential to produce both positive and negative effects. Depending on how it is man- aged, conflict can be constructive or destructive, stimulating or unnerving. It can produce higher quality results or stifle a project; it can lead to original thinking or cause destructive power struggles.

sTyles of hanDlInG ConflICT

Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann provide a useful model for evaluating an individual’s behavior in conflict situations. The Thomas-Kilmann

Conflict MODE Instrument describes a person’s behavior in a conflict situation along two basic dimensions: assertiveness, that is, the extent to which an individual attempts to satisfy his or her own concerns, and cooperativeness, that is, the extent to which an individual attempts to satisfy the concerns of the other person.

These two basic dimensions of behavior can be used to define five specific modes of dealing with conflict that everyone is capable of using.


. This conflict-handling mode is assertive and uncooperative. A person who handles conflict in this manner pursues his or her own concerns at the other person’s expense.

They use whatever powers seem appropriate to win their position, including their ability to argue or their rank. This conflict mode works when you are dealing with a vital issue, an unpopular decision, or a decision that needs quick action. Although it sometimes seems justified, the mistake many scientists make is to stay in an individualistic, competitive mode all the time. For example, if the head of another lab asks you for a reagent that you have not yet cited in a publication and that one of the people in your lab is using for a project, you may decline to share the reagent until your lab has published a paper referring to it. The decision will probably make you unpopular with the other scientist, but you are safeguarding the interests of your lab.


This mode is unassertive and cooperative. In other words, it is the opposite of competing. Accommodators often neglect their own concerns in order to satisfy the concerns of others. The accommodating mode may be appropriate when you want to build political capital or create good will, and for issues of low importance.

However, keep in mind that the accommodating mode can be a problem if you keep a tally and expect that the other person will be accommodating next time. For example, you and your collaborator are sharing a piece of equipment that just broke down. He is insistent that you pay for the repairs since your lab uses it more. You do not agree, but you give in on this one because you know that his lab uses all the other shared equipment more—so it will be his turn next time a piece of equipment needs repair.


Avoidant behavior is both unassertive and uncooperative. Those who avoid conflict do not immediately pursue their own concerns or those of others. The conflict is never addressed by avoiders. Many times people will avoid conflicts out of fear of engaging in a conflict or because they do not have confidence in their conflict management skills. However, avoiding can be a good strategy in cases where the person with whom you are in conflict has much more power than you do or when issues are not that important. It is also a good strategy when you need to buy time. An example of how to do this is to say

“These are serious changes. I will need some time to think about them.” m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 67


This conflict-handling mode is both assertive and cooperative. It is the opposite of avoiding. Collaborators attempt to work with the other person to find some solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both persons. They dig into an issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two conflicting individuals and try to find an alternative that meets both sets of concerns. With such a positive outcome, some people will profess that the collaboration mode is always the best conflict mode to use. But collaboration takes a great deal of time and energy, so it should be used only when the conflict warrants that investment of time and energy. For example, if two students in your laboratory are arguing over who should do a particular experiment, you might want to spend the necessary time to carefully carve out different projects in a way that will satisfy both students.

On the other hand, if your students are in conflict about which day to hold a lab meeting, it is probably not worth the time and energy necessary to collaboratively resolve the conflict.


On the negotiating continuum, this mode lies somewhere between assertiveness and cooperativeness. The goal of the compromiser is to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. The compromiser gives up more than the competitor, but less than the accommodator. He or she addresses an issue more directly than the avoider, but does not explore it in as much depth or detail as the collaborator. This mode of conflict resolution is useful for decisions of moderate importance, when you have equal power status, or when you are faced with an issue that needs to be resolved quickly. In general, academics tend to underutilize this mode of handling conflict.

For example, say you are invited by a collaborator to give a talk at his university in a different country, but you do not want to add more days of travel to your busy schedule. You may agree to do it, but time it so that it coincides with a meeting or other event in that country. Another example is if the head of your department or university goes back on her agreement to give you a semester free of teaching responsibilities. She tells you that she is desperate and needs you to teach a course for 200 students, including labs, during your first semester. You point out that it is stipulated in your contract that your first semester would be free of teaching responsibilities; however, you are willing to teach a smaller, graduate-level course.

You of course would rather not teach anything and are not contractually bound to teach in your first semester, but you also know that it is in your best interest to accommodate your chair’s wishes as much as possible.

Each of these conflict-handling modes has value; none is intended to be good, bad, or preferable in all situations. A worthwhile goal for you as the head of a laboratory or project is to increase your repertoire of responses to conflict, with the flexibility to use various modes in different situations and in appropriate ways.

The people who work for you in your lab will also tend to adopt one style of handling a conflict over another. You will have a mix of competitors, accommodators, and avoiders. Show them by example that there are different ways of handling conflict, depending on the situation.

Resolving a conflict between lab members. When conflict occurs between two or more members of the lab, determine whether it is necessary for you

(or someone you delegate) to step in and facilitate a resolution. Usually, people will be able to resolve their own conflicts, but make sure a conflict does not fester to the point that it affects morale and the atmosphere in the lab. Here are a few tips for how to help resolve conflict in the lab: n

Try to create an environment that accepts conflict, as long as the difficulties are faced openly and honestly by the people involved. Although different cultures differ in how they deal with conflict, open disagreement and its positive resolution is a key part of science. When it comes to matters of technical work issues and data, it is good to have an environment where people feel free to express differences, even if those differences are between individuals who are at different levels of power,

68 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s

s t e p s f o R d e A L i n g w i t h c o n f L i c t

when faced with conflict:


Access the problem. n

Identify your interests. n

Assess the other person’s interests. n

Select a strategy that balances the importance of the problem, time constraints, power differences,

and the relationship of the people involved.

status, or seniority. The head of the laboratory can actively reinforce openness by lab members, especially the participants in a conflict episode. It is up to you to make sure that people’s pride and dignity do not become too wrapped up in matters of nature. In the end, the data are the data, no matter which person harvested it.


Help the individuals involved get together to discuss and settle the disagreement. The head of the lab may, for example, invite the people involved in a conflict to the office at a designated time to discuss the problems openly and honestly, and come to a resolution.


Make sure each person understands the other’s point of view. The head of the lab can do this by summarizing, clarifying, focusing questions, and encouraging listening by each person.

ResolVInG ConflICTs beTween you anD oTheRs In The lab

Conflicts between the head of the laboratory and the lab members also occur. Such conflicts are important and influential in developing the future course of the lab, particularly during the early stages. The leader can demonstrate interest in receiving and understanding negative feedback and show a willingness to learn from it, when appropriate. The leader must avoid the trap of dropping his or her leadership responsibilities and responding to the challenge by becoming “just another lab member.” In other words, as the head of your laboratory, you never have just your interests at hand but always those of the lab as a whole. m A n A g i n g y o u R m A n y R o L e s 69


Barker, Kathy. At the Bench: A Laboratory Navigator. Cold

Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press,


Baron, Renee. What Type Am I? Penguin, New York, NY,


Boice, Robert. The New Faculty Member: Supporting

and Fostering Professional Development. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Committee on Assessing Integrity in Research

Environments, Institute of Medicine. Integrity in

Scientific Research: Creating an Environment that

Promotes Responsible Conduct. Washington, DC:

National Academies Press, 2002.

Drucker, Peter F., The Essential Drucker: The Best of

Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on

Management. New York, NY: Collins Business, 2001.

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books,

New York, NY, 1995.

Harmening, Denise M. Laboratory Management:

Principles and Processes. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Prentice Hall, 2003.

Kanare, Howard M. Writing the Laboratory Notebook.

New York, NY: Oxford University Press 1998.

O’Neil, John. Leadership Aikido: 6 Business Practices

That Can Turn Your Life Around. Pittsburgh: Three Rivers

Press, New York, NY 1999.

Reis, Richard M. Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for

Academic Careers in Science and Engineering. New York:

IEEE Press, 1997.


Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to

Biomedical Journals by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) lays out a widelyaccepted set of criteria for authorship of scientific papers.


The U.S. National Academy of Engineering has a range of materials relating to scientific ethics available online at


A p p e n d i x

performance Review form

Please complete part A in advance and bring it to our meeting or email it to me.

We will discuss part B together at our meeting, but you might want to look over the topics.

part a. six-Month Review of Goals



I. accomplishments

II. Goals for the next six months

III. long-term goals part b. Joint feedback Meeting

I. feedback on training


Frequency of interactions n

Quality of interactions n

Level of involvement n

Positive aspects of interactions n

Areas for effort/improvement

II. Comments from advisor


Quality of work n

Organization and efficiency n

Knowledge base n

Communication skills n

Working relationships n

Leadership/supervisory skills n

Areas for effort/improvement

III. summary of discussion n

Strengths/achievements n

Areas for effort/improvement n

Scientific goals n

Long-term plans

lab Director:

lab Member:


(This form was created by Tamara L. Doering, Washington University

School of Medicine.)

70 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h A p t e R 5

ManaGInG youR TIMe

“ s u c c e s s i s n o t t h e k e y t o h A p p i n e s s . h A p p i n e s s i s t h e k e y t o s u c c e s s .

i f y o u L o v e w h A t y o u A R e d o i n g , y o u w i L L b e s u c c e s s f u L .

A l b e r t s c h w e i t z e r

Science can move very fast and the demands it places on your time will sometimes become large.

On top of the work itself, there will someday— maybe now—be invitations to present your work, serve on peer review and advisory committees for grant makers and publishers, provide advice to government and international bodies, and more. All of this spent time, from working hard on a problem that has finally begun to unravel to going away to share your expertise, advances your career. And much of it is exciting and pleasurable and helps make the world a better, safer, healthier place. But there are only 525,600 minutes in a year, and science is not the only part of your life that requires your time. How can you balance science’s demands with those of the rest of your life—home, family, community, and self?

Learning to manage your time will help you make the most of every work day during this phase of your career. Life goes through phases—in the next few years you may be laying the foundation of your career, raising your children, and growing in responsibility within your institution, your country, and your community. It is important to tend to your work life and home life during these start-up years. Try not to be overwhelmed, and at work and at home take life “one step at a time” without worrying too much about the distant future. Your hard work during this start-up time will pay off, and the dividend will be a better and much less hectic life.

From a practical perspective, one of the most daunting challenges for beginning investigators is learning how to fit all the things that make up your life into a 24-hour day and a 12-month year.

You will need to deal with the practical aspects of running your lab, such as hiring staff and writing grants. There will also be the needs of your personal life, such as maintaining a household and seeing to your children’s education and caring for your extended family. You will also need to spend time establishing relationships with colleagues and competitors in your own country and beyond.

Such demands may be even more pronounced if you trained abroad, because you will have already sacrificed months or years by going away, and may have also gotten used to not having to account for yourself to your institution or your family quite so often.

m A n A g i n g y o u R t i m e 71

If you have left your own country to train, on your re-entry you may go from being a trainee to being a leading expert in your field, or you may come back and find yourself relatively low in the pecking order among the trained scientists at your institution. Before you even have a chance to set up your own lab, you may be pulled away by travel, sitting on panels, or advising other colleagues.

Similarly, if you have trained in your own country and now have been promoted to new responsibilities, or moved to a new institution, you will face new challenges.

Many returning scientists come home to substantial demands from extended families who have made large sacrifices and have placed great hope in their success. The needs of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and communities who have made such an investment in one’s career are very important, but these needs can also create large time demands. In the end, trying to build a successful career at the expense of the things that make life worthwhile does not work.

Even though you will have to work very hard when you are an early career scientist, you also need to preserve time and energy for the other things that are important to you.

Finding ways to manage all of these demands can be a challenge for a scientist starting out in a career. This chapter discusses planning strategies that are critical for successful time management, such as defining long- and short-term goals and setting priorities. Tips for day-to-day time management are also presented. The chapter also offers guidance on managing institutional committee service commitments, balancing research and teaching, and juggling the demands of home and work. In addition, it covers some issues specific to physician-scientists, who may also need to be spending considerable time in the clinic and may be called on frequently to help family and friends get appropriate health care.

sTRaTeGIes foR plannInG youR aCTIVITIes

DefInInG Goals

Planning is a process that starts with a goal. Once you have set a goal, you can identify the steps necessary to move toward it. Goals come in descending sizes, each of which informs the next: long-term goals (years), intermediate-term goals

(months), and short-term goals (weeks and days).

Long-term goals are likely to be a combination of tangibles (e.g., promotions within your institute, service to the government, service at a high level to an international organization such as the World

Health Organization or the Pan American Health

Organization) and intangibles (e.g., a satisfying personal life and the various milestones that define such a thing for you) that may change over time, making goal-setting an ongoing process that you should revisit periodically. In defining your long-term goals, you are also defining yourself— who you want to be, and how you want to be perceived.

Intermediate-term goals, such as publishing a paper, are often composed of many short-term objectives, such as preparing figures and writing text. Short-term goals are the ones written on your weekly and monthly calendars—the small, concrete, finite tasks that can swallow your time.

GeTTInG fRoM heRe To TheRe

Take the time to craft a formal plan, beginning with your long-term goals. Then set interim goals along the way that are realistic indicators of progress. By setting achievable goals, you avoid having too much to do and not knowing where to begin. Accomplishing just one goal can serve as a powerful motivator to tackle the next goal.

Write down all of your goals, with each achievement tied to a specific time frame. Putting your ideas into words can help refine your thinking and provide a concrete checklist to keep you on target.

Every so often, take a look at your plans, reflect on them, and revise them as appropriate to changing circumstances. Priorities shift; be prepared to reevaluate yours, but also to defend them.

72 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h e c k y o u R w o R k : t h e 9 0 - y e A R t h o u g h t e x p e R i m e n t

Imagine how old you will be at the end of your life, if you are lucky and healthy. Now think backward.

In other words, what do you want to be able to see when you look back at your life at age 90? What will you need to be doing in your life at age 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30 for that dream to come true? What needs to be true about your life and your career this year, or ten years from now, if you want to be on track to be the person you picture yourself to be at 90? If what you are doing today does not get you there, how can you change course a little (or a lot) to make sure you achieve what you want to achieve? If your track clearly leads away from your vision, does this tell you that what you think you want to be doing at

90 is not really what is right for you? Or does it tell you that what you are doing today might not be your heart’s desire? How can you prepare yourself and those around you for a life that may lead you somewhere quite different from the common assumptions? Or if you want a life much like those of your parents and grandparents, how can you make science fit into that tradition?

lIfeTIMe Goals

At the end of your life, looking back, what do you want to see? Accomplishments? Wealth? Happy, healthy great-great-grandchildren? It is important to check in with yourself now and then to make sure that the things you are chasing are really the ones you want to catch.

lonG-TeRM Goals

These goals can be achieved in three to five years.

Before jotting down your long-term plans, first ask yourself where you want to be after this stage in your career. For example, if you are training in a foreign lab, do you plan to return to your home country or remain abroad? If you wish to remain abroad, for how long? A lifetime? A career?

Until you are well-established? At what type of institution? At a research-intensive institution?

At a university much more dedicated to teaching students than to doing research? At a government ministry? An international organization? When you have those answers, then ask yourself, “What will

I need to accomplish to make myself competitive for that job?” If you are an assistant professor, you probably want to work toward promotion. “What will I need to do for that—how many papers, invited seminars, professional meetings, and other accomplishments?”

InTeRMeDIaTe-TeRM Goals

These goals can be achieved in six months to a year. For example, you might be thinking about the experiments needed to complete your next paper or to put together a poster. Completing publishable chunks is an essential intermediateterm goal for faculty. Other goals of similar scope include obtaining preliminary results for a grant, putting together a new course, or organizing a scientific meeting.

shoRT-TeRM Goals

These goals can be achieved in one week to one month. They include preparing figures for the paper you are writing, completing an experiment, preparing reagents for the next set of experiments, or writing letters and making phone calls to secure a seminar invitation. If you find it hard to get organized, make a daily or weekly to-do list and check tasks off as you complete them. m A n A g i n g y o u R t i m e 73

MaKInG ChoICes

sayInG no, sayInG yes

One of the simplest things you can do to streamline your life is also one of the hardest for many people—learning to say no. Remember, you can- not do everything, please everyone, be available to everyone, and at the same time be a successful scholar. There are certain tasks to which you must say no, and others for which it is fine to deliver a less-than-stellar performance. Making such choices will allow you to focus on doing an outstanding job in what is truly important to you. Establishing these priorities depends on the intermediate- and long-term goals you have set for yourself.

Saying yes judiciously will make it easier for you to say no to things you do not want to do. Since in most jobs you must accept some administrative assignments, try to make them work for you.

Explore the options, and sign up early for duties that either interest you or will work to your advantage professionally. This may give you leverage to turn down administrative duties that have less value to you.


Given the ever-increasing demands on your time, it is impossible to do everything perfectly. Decide which projects need to be completed to near perfection (e.g., your grant application) and which do not (e.g., a draft of a manuscript you are reviewing for a collaborator).


Part of saying no is also not being available on demand. Today’s technological “conveniences” are often needless interruptions to concentration.

Any sound strategy for time management involves learning to disconnect and become the master of those tools rather than their servant.

ManaGInG youR

TIMe Day-To-Day

Many people find long-term goals easy to set— for example, “I want to be a professor by the age of X.” More difficult is the daily multitasking

—managing the flood of small chores that can threaten to drown even the most organized professional. This section covers how to make the most of the time you have.

fInDInG soMe exTRa TIMe

To be able to focus and think creatively, you need blocks of uninterrupted time. Here are some tips to help you do this: n

Get your email under control. If you are lucky enough to have administrative help, have an assistant screen messages and flag time-sensitive ones for you. You can also print email messages that require a personal reply and hand write responses during short breaks in your day. Then have your assistant type and send them later. If you do not have an assistant, set aside specific times of the day for reading and responding to emails or take hard copies of your emails home and read them in the evening.


Use a telephone answering machine or voice mail service.


If one is available to you, invest in a family cell phone plan—one which provides a few family phones and makes calls between them inexpensive—to make sure you are available for family communication and emergencies when you have silenced your office phone.


Close your office door or come in early. A sign on your door that reads “knock if important” lets your students and colleagues know you are in and working but do not want to be disturbed. Working during the early hours of the day, whether at the office or lab or at home before the family is awake, might buy you precious focused time away from clamoring students and colleagues.


Close your lab door if you are still working at the bench yourself. Securing uninterrupted time in the lab is important if your advancement depends on what you can get done with your own hands during the day.

74 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Make and keep appointments with yourself: Find a quiet hideaway for thinking, writing, and reading and use it on a scheduled basis. This practice trains people to expect that you will be inaccessible at predictable times.

You might select some milestone during the year

—your birthday or name day, New Year’s Day, or some other day that normally provokes some reflection—and use that as a day to consider whether your career and life are going in the right direction. Similarly, in addition to your regular day- to-day conversations with them, it can be useful to establish for yourself a time each year for assaying your spouse and family to be sure that you understand whether you are moving your life and theirs in ways that conform to what matters most to you.

RoTaTInG youR TasKs

If you tend to find it difficult to focus on one task for long periods, you can turn this potential weakness into a strength through multitasking.

Always have several things to work on (e.g., the introduction to a grant, a paper to review, or a recommendation letter to write), perhaps three or four, and cycle through them with increasing lengths of time. Make sure they are clearly arranged on your desk so that you do not waste time figuring out what you should do next.


On the basis of your goals, decide what you need to do and when, and follow the ‘keep it simple” rule. A grid that allows you to rank short-term claims on your attention according to urgency and importance can be a useful tool (see Time

Management Grid below). Try to control the not urgent/not important quadrant. You get relatively little value for the time spent doing tasks in this quadrant. The urgent/important quadrant puts you in crisis mode, where few people operate best.

For maximum efficiency, you should be spending most of your time in the upper right-hand quadrant, on tasks that are important but not urgent.

If it is important but not urgent, remember your priorities and schedules: n

Plan ahead and know your deadlines.


Set aside blocks of time for specific tasks.


Break large tasks into smaller tasks.


Delegate tasks.


Complete tasks on time.

Time Management Grid

noT uRGenT uRGenT noT IMpoRTanT IMpoRTanT

Most Email

Discussing weekend plans, the day’s weather, the latest gossip, etc. with lab members

Watching World Cup matches (though in some situations clearly this is important and urgent!)

Ongoing experiments

Preparing to speak at an upcoming meeting

Working on a grant that is due next month

Maintaining strong relationships with family, friends, and lab members

A rumbling stomach 20 minutes before lunch

Ringing telephone

A salesman who wants a minute of your time

An earthquake

A grant due tomorrow

Accidental exposure to pathogen

Time Management Grid – Adapted from Stephen R. Covey’s time management matrix in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful

Lessons in Personal Change.

m A n A g i n g y o u R t i m e 75

MaKInG The MosT of The TIMe you haVe

It is important to find ways to make efficient and productive use of your time. Be aware that for some activities, it may not be immediately apparent that your time spent is worthwhile. For example, attending seminars in your department can actually be a productive and efficient use of your time. Not only will you learn new information, but if you ask questions, you will also boost your visibility.


Successful people tend to be efficient.

They have evolved practices to create blocks of uninterrupted time for “brain work.” Here are some tips to help you make the best use of those parts of the day you control: n

Create an environment conducive to productivity.

Make a place for everything, and put everything in its place. Clutter is inefficient. Do not make yourself look for the same piece of paper or pocket calculator over and over again.


Find or make a quiet space (or time) to work.


Know your biological clock, and protect your most productive hours for your writing and designing experiments and other critical tasks.


During your protected work hours, focus and do not allow interruptions.


Set time limits. Give yourself predetermined amounts of time to complete tasks (e.g., two hours to review a paper).


Eliminate unnecessary tasks.


Avoid procrastination. Start tasks early—at least in outline. If you have a grant due, write your goals early enough to let your lab staff start gathering relevant data without last-minute panic. If a critical reagent requires a long lead time to produce, start it early enough to make sure it will be ready when you need it.


Structure and supervise meetings.


Delegate work.


If it is possible and inexpensive, make a quick phone call instead of having an often less efficient back-and-forth email conversation.

Technology Changes everything

Better communications—from email and web applications to wireless phone service have made it easier for laboratories in relatively resource-poor regions to play a larger part in the international scientific community. If you work in a place where

Internet access is slow, and you are interested in computers and technology, it may be worthwhile for you to form a committee with like-minded individuals to find opportunities for upgrading to faster technologies. Foreign and domestic governments, non-government organizations, and technology companies from both the telephone and computer sides might be willing to develop the infrastructure to improve your speed and connection quality.

fitting It all In.

Successful people also learn to use small units of time, capitalizing on free minutes here and there (in professions such as law, people sometimes bill their time in increments of 15 minutes or less). Returning phone calls, drafting memos, and reviewing your weekly schedule are just a few ways in which you can put a few minutes to work for you throughout the day.

The trick is to be prepared when those moments arise by having messages or email, students’ homework, a notepad, and perhaps a cell phone with you. Some tasks, such as reviewing papers and reading science magazines, adapt well to commuting time if you do not drive.

IMpRoVInG youR lab sTaff’s TIMe

ManaGeMenT sKIlls

Here are some tips for helping your staff work more efficiently: n

Establish clear goals and expectations early, starting with simple tasks your staff can handle.

Make sure they understand the tasks. Reward and correct them as appropriate, expand the tasks, then repeat the process.

76 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Help them seek advice without taking up unnecessary time. Teach them how to describe projects, issues, and problems accurately and efficiently.


Develop an agenda for every meeting, and stick to it. Start meetings with a clear description of the purpose of the meeting and when it will end.


After lab meetings, send a follow-up email containing a summary and to-do list. Use these informal minutes to start the next meeting and gauge progress. Meeting minutes are also useful for patent protections in establishing proof of an idea, attribution, and date.

Once the members of your lab learn the importance of time management, you can also delegate to a key staff person the task of summarizing meetings and assigning follow-up actions.

ManaGInG non-ReseaRCh TasKs

In some institutions, scientists are required to take part in committees or groups that meet on a regular schedule. Such committee duties can connect you with interesting people in your department, your institution, and beyond. They can also help bring your research to the attention of your colleagues— a genuine plus for a beginning faculty member. On the other hand, they can take valuable time away from your research. If you have some influence over which committees you will serve on, be pro- active and seek out committee service that suits your interests and schedule so you can turn down other requests with the legitimate excuse of previous committee commitments. As you begin to build an international reputation, you may find you are asked to sit on more committees (including in other countries), collaborate more, and perhaps be called on for service to your government. Consider such opportunities carefully. Though many may be good for your career and your reputation, they may also be exhausting because of the travel involved.

As with opportunities close to home, you should pace yourself when accepting these obligations.

The local government authorities should not expect you to attend the opening of every road, school, or health center. Many public servants take pleasure in performing such functions, but you may not have time for it.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

Time management is a major challenge for clinician-scientists based in resource-limited settings. Clinical demands are high, which may on occasion severely compromise protected research time.

brian eley, south africa

In some institutions, you will be required to teach courses to students. This can be a very rewarding experience for many scientists, but can also take a large portion of your time at the expense of everything else.

If research is of primary importance for your promotion and career goals, you will have to set limits for non-research tasks and stick to them.

When time is up for one task, move on to the next item in your daily planner. This way, you start each day anew without carrying forward serious work deficits that accumulate through the week.

m A n A g i n g y o u R t i m e 77

t h e t R i p L e L o A d o f t h e p h y s i c i A n - s c i e n t i s t :

L A b , c L A s s , A n d c L i n i c

Physician-scientists may have some teaching duties, but the larger challenge for a physician who is running a research lab is balancing lab and clinical time. An even split between the lab and clinic is increasingly rare; it can be as much as 80% lab and 20% clinic, but this varies considerably from person to person and by nature of the work. The following are some tips for working in both the lab and the clinic.

In the lab:


If feasible, consider hiring a lab manager, or training a strong worker to assume that role—a welltrained, responsible, seasoned researcher who can help move things along when you cannot commit your time to being in the lab yourself. Such a person may be relatively expensive compared to other kinds of workers you could hire, but what they can add to your productivity can be well worth the money. A good lab manager can help keep the lab on track while you are on clinical duties. n

Establish a system where you can review the lab members’ notebooks and data even if they are not

there (e.g., if clinical duties keep you from being in the lab until late in the evening).


Explain to your lab members that you will not be around much when you are on clinical duty. Try to

schedule times when you can meet with your technicians, students, postdocs, medical residents, and

other trainees to keep yourself apprised of their research and educational progress.


Focus your research program on what you are uniquely qualified to do. Avoid overextending yourself

with work that you could delegate to a worker with less training than you yourself have.

In the clinic:


If appropriate, tell patients and clinic staff how you want to be contacted during times when you are

not in the clinic, especially if messages from the clinic rarely reach you when you are involved in your

other duties. n

If you have access to support staff (many junior faculty do not), use them effectively. Educate nurses

or other staff to do as much of the preparation as possible before your appointments, as well as the



Learn to tell patients when you are running out of time to spend with them or must turn their care

over to another clinical worker. n

Make colleagues aware of your dual roles, and tell patients about your divided schedule when it is

relevant to them (for example, when research-related activities will call you away from the clinic for

several days during their course of treatment).

Remember, in the lab, in the clinic, and at home—the most important thing you need to learn is to be flexible with your time so that you can serve all of your priorities well.

78 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

faMIly MaTTeRs

Many scientists face great demands from their extended families and communities. Although these demands matter and these relationships are centrally important, to be successful at any profession one may need to find ways to contain and manage the time involved.

The issues can be practical—how can you be in two places at one time? But they can also be very emotional. If it has always been a tradition that you will go home to family to help prepare for a holiday or a change of seasons or to help with a harvest, deciding to make another use of your time, or to come in only for the feast and leave the work to others, is not easy. It is even harder when you consider that your parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, and neighbors will all have an opinion and will likely express it! This is a matter that is very specific to your own life, but it is also universal. There are no perfect solutions.

But you can try to separate the practical aspects of the situation (for example, what work requires one more set of hands, and can you provide some help without providing your own hands?) from the emotional ones such as the perception that you care more about your career and what it gives you than about the people who love you, or that you have gotten “above yourself,” or that you look down on those who make your life possible.

hoMe anD woRK:

Can you haVe IT all?

This question applies to many professionals in high-pressure careers, including both male and female scientists pursuing academic, government, institutional, and industrial career tracks.

It helps to start with a supportive partner and family. Have clear discussions about career and personal goals—yours and those of your family— early on. To avoid the resentments of unspoken and unmet expectations, be as explicit as possible about your aspirations with those who are important to you. Shared goals for work and family make compromises easier. In some families, your career will be a primary driver of your family’s future.

For others, both spouses may have professional

In Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea, where peer group discussions are the biggest pastime activities, rumors are rife. People do not believe in innocent relationships between men and women and working at night is always suspicious. Attending meetings/workshops in hotels with staff members easily creates stories. To ensure a happy home life and avoid confusion regarding after-hours lab work, meetings, and international travel, I treat my lab staff and their families as one big extended family. Spouses are encouraged to attend seminars. They are educated about the need for working late at night and attending meetings. Selection criteria for international meetings and other perceived privileges are made clear to everybody, including family members. I have learnt that once your family trusts your relationship with your workmates and students, other family issues will be easy to manage.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

ably true that if your family understands what you are doing, why it matters, and how it will improve the family’s future, things at home will go better than if everyone is kept in the dark about things.

In addition to sharing your long-term goals, keep your family aware of your short-term plans and projects. Letting them know in advance about an impending grant deadline can buy some understanding. Here are some ways to keep your family informed of your schedule, and keep you involved with your family: n

Post a calendar at home with your travel dates and big deadlines.


Schedule activities with your family and keep those commitments


Turn business travel into a vacation. Have your partner or family join you after a scientific meeting and take a few days together to unwind.

m A n A g i n g y o u R t i m e 79


Having papers and grants that are free of typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors is so important that having “more eyes” on a document is very valuable. If your spouse is interested in your work and familiar with your field’s jargon, he or she may be a helpful reader for you. As children advance in their education, those interested in science might also enjoy being given a chance to read your work.

balanCInG woRK anD ChIlDRen

Unquestionably, children complicate the equation, but they can also provide the sanity, personal satisfaction, and motivation to make you a more focused and efficient scientist. Here are some tips for balancing work and family life: n

If they are available to you and affordable, consider taking advantage of options for assistance in cooking, cleaning, and other domestic chores that take your time and energy, especially if you are having trouble personally living up to your own standards for good meals and cleanliness.


Seek out the help of family members if they are nearby.


Teach your children to take appropriate pride in being “self-starters” at their schoolwork and home chores.


If you and your spouse both work outside the home, make the best child care arrangements you can. If you are away from your family all day, it is especially important to carve out and protect family time on evenings or weekends.

Is it possible for ambitious scientists to have it all?

For those who learn to balance competing demands, the answer is a qualified yes. The key is to identify what matters most to you and then to apportion your activities throughout the day and week to address your true priorities.


Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of

Stress-Free Productivity. E Rutherford, New Jersey:

Penguin USA, 2003.

Barker, Kathy. At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator.

Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Press, 2002.

Boss, Jeremy M., and Susan H. Eckert. Academic

Scientists at Work: Navigating the Biomedical

Research Career. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum

Publishers, 2003.

Blanchard, Kenneth H., and Spencer Johnson. The One

Minute Manager. 10th ed. New York NY: Berkeley

Books, 1983.

Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective

People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York:

Fireside, Simon & Schuster, 1990.

Drucker, Peter. Managing Oneself. Harvard Business

Review, March-April 1999.

Ridley, Matt. The Origin of Virtue. Penguin, New York,

NY, 1996.

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c h A p t e R 6

pRoJeCT ManaGeMenT

“ w e m u s t h A v e p e R s e v e R A n c e A n d A b o v e A L L c o n f i d e n c e i n o u R s e L v e s .

w e m u s t b e L i e v e t h A t w e A R e g i f t e d f o R s o m e t h i n g A n d t h A t t h i s t h i n g

m u s t b e A t t A i n e d .

m A r i e c u r i e

To increase the output of your laboratory, you can either increase resources by somehow obtaining more money, equipment, and supplies and finding a way to bring more people to work with you, or make better use of what you already have. Often it is not easy or possible to get more resources.

Project management is a formal approach to better managing the resources that you do have.

“Project management” is a term that has come to mean something beyond simply being in charge of a project. It means allocating, using, and tracking resources to achieve a goal in a desired time frame. There is a set of terms and a group of planning tools strongly associated with the project management approach. The approach itself is heavily used in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as in software, construction, and other industries because of its usefulness in helping managers coordinate complex operations and bring scarce resources into place exactly when they are needed.

It can be tempting to over-promise when you plan, even if you are only making promises to yourself.

Project management’s tools help a manager keep track of resources and worker effort, which can help ensure that even if multiple delays and scheduling changes occur, your work will still go forward smoothly. In a scientific setting, goals may include publishing a paper, obtaining a research grant, completing a set of experiments, or even getting promoted. While keeping creativity intact, project management can help reduce wasted effort or inefficient use of reagents. It can track progress (or lack of it), and respond quickly to necessary deviations from important aims.

This chapter highlights some of the techniques of project management and how you can use them.

Though one may think, “I live in an unpredictable place!” project management can help overcome some of life’s unpredictability, particularly by laying out which tasks can go forward when other tasks have stalled. If you need more detailed information, refer to the resources listed at the end of this chapter.

p R o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t 81

whaT Is pRoJeCT ManaGeMenT?

Project management is a series of flexible and iterative steps that gives you a system for laying out what you want to achieve and a reasonable way to achieve it, with specifics as to who will do what and when. Formal tools have been developed for complicated time-sensitive efforts such as constructing large buildings with all of the site preparation, building materials, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters and other kinds of workers moving through at the right times and in the proper order.

The strategies used in project management can be useful for anyone in any size project, and the tools

(especially software) that have been developed to keep track of fluctuating resources and active workers can be useful for managing complicated projects in the laboratory. Project management capabilities are increasingly becoming required components of clinical research projects and multi- site projects. Formal training in project management may be available to you through your institution, government, or international NGOs.

It should also be borne in mind that biomedical research in the South, especially in diseaseendemic communities, relies heavily on field surveys involving several people and complicated logistical issues. Personnel and transport management and financial administration are major components of project activities involving field surveys. However, many emerging science centers in low- and middle-resource regions do not have sufficient human resources with adequate skills in project management.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

DeCIDInG on a pRoJeCT

You may have an endless number of ideas for projects, but your resources (i.e., research funds, number of students and other people working in your lab, time, etc.) are limited. Deciding which projects to pursue within the limits of your resources and considering your laboratory mission

(see chapter 4) will help you get the best use out of what you have.

Finding funding can itself be a complex project.

Though finding money is seldom easy, you may decide that to accomplish the research or public health goals you would like to achieve, you will need to look for more funding. Imagine that you have identified a grant program that seems to fit the work you would like to do. The grant deadline is in eleven months, but you see that it is a very competitive program. To have a chance of being funded, you will need to have at least one publication that connects the work you are proposing to do with the new grant money to work you have done in the past.

So you have two complicated but fairly welldefined tasks in front of you: to get a new paper accepted for publication and to submit a grant proposal by a given deadline. If you decide to use formal project management tools to organize your efforts as you work toward submitting the proposal, you should ask yourself the following: n

What experiments do I need to conduct to write a research paper and submit it for publication before the grant deadline?


Do I have enough time to obtain the necessary data?


Are there members of my group who could help generate these data, or a student or trainee to whom I might delegate the work?

Once you have defined your overall objectives, how to get there, and from whom you need buy-in and participation, you can start the process of planning your project, working backwards from your stated objective:

82 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

My project is to get a grant funded within a year-and-a-half.

Thinking from the goal backwards, you can put down what steps will make that dream a reality.

You might say:

I will need to:


Submit the grant with preliminary data

(11 months).


Submit a paper for publication (6 months).


Integrate data and start writing a manuscript

(5 months).


Complete the initial set of experiments

(1-5 months).

The sections below outline the tools that can help you plan each step of this multipart effort. One of the most important benefits of project management is that it helps you accurately anticipate how much time a project will take and what resources you will need. Even if some back-of-the-envelope thinking convinces you that a project is worth pursuing and that you can generate preliminary data for your grant in five months, you will need to plan each step more carefully to answer the following questions: n

How long will the project really take? n

Do we really have the people to do this?


Do we really have the funds to do it?


Can we get it done in time?

Think of these questions as tools for your own use. You are not trying to convince a funder or impress an influential scientist—you are realistically considering what you will be able to get done, given other demands on your time and resources, in the next week, month, year, and beyond.


Q u e s t i o n

Do the strict definitions you impose when you set up a project management system limit scientific creativity?

A n s w e R

Not necessarily. All projects, including highly innovative ones, rely on defined resources. Project management helps you take stock of resources before you start working. If a creative idea comes along, you will have a better idea of how much money, materials, and “spare hands” you have to follow the idea through, or which sub-projects you might delay to free up the resources you need. Knowing what you have available helps you bring your best ideas to completion, rather than leaving them foundering when you run out of some critical resource. Regardless of the scientific goals of a project, project management helps you determine whether your ideas can be implemented with the resources at hand and how best to approach these ideas. If you realize ahead of time that you do not have the resources you need, you will know you need to get them.

p R o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t 83

Q u e s t i o n

Does project management discourage us from trying high-risk projects?


A n s w e R

Scientists must work within the limits of their resources. This does not mean high-risk projects should not be attempted; it just means that one should know the risks involved before starting the project. Project management helps define what the risks will be. For example, you may use up all available funds before you get an additional grant or you may produce one paper in three years rather than one a year. Once you know the risks involved, you can plan for them. Project management can also help you conserve some of your resources to use for high-risk projects. The more information you have at the outset of a project, the better you will be at allocating resources. The better you are at allocating resources for the work that has to get done (e.g., the experiments proposed in your funded grant), the more likely it is that you will be able to save some funds for more speculative projects.

Q u e s t i o n

Given the uncertainties in science, is project management feasible?

A n s w e R

Project management is not meant to be rigid or blindly restrictive. By reexamining goals and circumstances in a systematic way, project management encourages you to reconsider which path is best many times during the course of a given project. When resources are limited—and they almost always are, everywhere—this approach helps you achieve your goals by keeping track of factors that could lead you to spread a resource too thin.


The statement of work is a written document that clearly explains what the project is. It should include the following sections:




Why the project was initiated and by whom, what happens if it is not done, and what else relates to it.


Scope of work:

What you will do. This is a brief statement describing the major work to be performed.



How you will perform the work, who will do it, and what funds are available for the work.

84 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Objectives are the end results to be achieved by the project. Each objective should include: n


A description of the desired outcome when the project is completed.



Indicators to assess how well you have achieved the desired outcome.



Target values of the measures that define successful results.


These are the restrictions on the project, which fall into two categories: n


Constraints set by others, such as limited funds for your laboratory, or teaching responsibilities that will limit your research time.



Constraints set by the project team, such as wanting to complete a project three weeks early because one of the key people will be leaving the lab, or finishing a field project early enough to avoid problems with seasonal weather.


These are statements about uncertain information you will take as fact as you conceive, plan, and perform the project. For example, you might assume that your clinical or teaching loads will not increase in the next year, or that no one will leave the project before a certain milestone is reached.

Be aware that as your project progresses, your goals, constraints, needs, and assumptions may change. Build into your planning periodic reviews of results against objectives, and then revise the objectives if necessary. If a reagent has been delayed and a whole project has been stalled as a result, you can re-visit the plan and think through how to move forward. Are there later scheduled steps that you could do sooner while you wait for the delayed material? Should you change the project’s future milestone dates, given the delay? No matter how much you have invested in a project, it is never too late to redirect or stop work altogether if you discover, for example, that another route is more promising than the main avenue of research, or a key premise was off-base, or that someone else has gotten very similar work published before your project has come to a conclusion.

See Appendix I, on page 92, to see a real-life example of a statement of work.

DefInInG The auDIenCe

Project management also uses the concept of an

“audience.” Any of your audiences—the people and groups who have an interest in your project, who are affected by it, or who are needed to support it—can sink the entire enterprise if their needs are not considered. Early on, you should make a list of the project’s audiences, both within your institution and outside it. Although you can do this in your head, a written list serves as a reminder throughout the project to touch base with these stakeholders as you proceed. If you must maintain the good favor of your department chair, head of institute, minister of health, or another high figure (or if you yourself are that high figure and must maintain the trust of your audiences), it is useful to think about those who have interests in your project and how to keep them apprised of and supportive of your work.

Divide your audience list into three categories:



People who tell you what to do, defining to some degree what your project will produce and what constitutes success. You are the main driver for your research. Additional drivers may include competitors and collaborators in your field, the editors of scientific journals (if they are advising you on what experiments should be done in order to get a manuscript published), and the scientists or administrators who will be reviewing your application for funding (if their feedback is shaping the course of your research project).

If possible, keep those people abreast of how the project is going, or consult with them before changing direction or branching out in a different area. For example, if an editor at a scientific journal has requested specific experiments in a revised manuscript but you decide to do different ones that you think are more appropriate or easier to do given the expertise in your lab, contact the editor to make sure that the proposed experiments will satisfy his or her requirements.

p R o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t 85



People who will perform the work or make the work possible (e.g., the students and other people in your lab, as well as the program director for the organization funding the project).

Make sure these people are motivated to do the work and understand how what they are doing relates to achieving the overall scientific goal (see chapter 4, “Managing Your Many Roles”).



People who have an interest in your project but are neither drivers nor supporters. They are interested in what you are doing, but they are not telling you what to do or how to do it (e.g., other scientists working in your field, mentors, and potential supporters). It can be helpful to your career to inform as many scientists as possible of what you have accomplished. This can be done by giving presentations at meetings and conferences, by asking colleagues to review a manuscript you are preparing to submit for publication, or by sending scientists in your field copies of a paper you have published.

As you work on the project, revise the list as necessary. Categorizing audiences is less difficult than it may look, and you do not have to start from scratch for every activity. Many of the same people are likely to be on your audience list over time for different activities.

DefInInG who Does whaT anD when

The work breakdown structure (WBS) is an outline of all of the work that will have to be performed for your project. To develop a WBS, start with broad work assignments, break them down into activities, and divide them into discrete steps (see Appendix

II, on page 94, for an example). On your timeline, you will want to list resources and the people who will carry out the activities, so that you can successfully complete some milestone event—for example, getting a paper accepted, a grant funded, or a difficult technique reduced to practice.

The WBS is one of the most important elements of project management as it will help you schedule the project and its parts, estimate resources, assign tasks and responsibilities, and control the project.

When you develop a WBS, think in one- to two- week increments. You probably wouldn’t want to include detailed plans for activities that take less time, such as experiments to be done each day. However, the level of detail you include in your WBS depends in part on who is doing the work. Most students just starting in the lab will need more detail than an experienced scientist or technician. It may be useful to teach your trainees to think in this time- and resource-aware way, perhaps quite early in their stay in your lab, by having them write out detailed weekly plans or design flow charts for how they intend to work through a difficult technical issue at the bench.

To decide whether your understanding of a particular part of the project is detailed enough, ask yourself these three questions. Based on the

WBS: n

Can you determine a reasonable estimate of the resources (including people) required for this work?


Can you determine a reasonable estimate of the time required to do this work?


Can anyone charged with one of these activities understand it well enough to perform it to your satisfaction?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” more detail is necessary.

In basic science, it is unlikely that you will be able to make a detailed plan very far in advance. Much of the detailed planning will be done “on the fly” as the project proceeds. Try a rolling approach, in which you revise estimates in more detail as you progress through the project.

In addition to planning experiments, you can use the WBS to set up the lab and divide big tasks into smaller ones—for example, ordering equipment, hiring staff, and dealing with any regulatory issues.

86 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Q u e s t i o n

If I have experiments a, b, C, and D, is it reasonable to do detailed planning only for a first and deal with the others later?

A n s w e R

That may be reasonable, but what if B is not entirely dependent on A, and you could have done some work for B or any of the other experiments without waiting until A was done? Project management tools and software can help you see where timelines may overlap, so that you can use your time most productively.

TRaCKInG The woRK anD The ResouRCes

Complex projects require a series of activities, some of which will need to be performed in sequence and others that can, in theory, be done at the same time. Project schedules outline the order in which activities are to be performed, and include estimates of how long each activity will take. For each step of the schedule, you will need to assign the necessary resources, including people, funds, equipment, supplies, facilities, and information. To effectively schedule your activities and resources, you will need to follow these steps:


Identify activities and events (from the WBS).


Identify constraints (from the statement of work).


Determine the durations of different activities and, if more than one person will be involved, who will be performing them.


Decide on the order of performance.


Develop an initial schedule.


. Revise your schedule as necessary.

Tools foR DeVelopInG sCheDules

You may have seen some of the schedules, timelines, flow charts, and other tools used in project management before. Here are some popular ones: n

Key events schedule

—a table showing events and target dates for reaching them. Remember, events are milestones signaling the completion of one or more activities.


Activities plan

—a table showing activities and their planned start and end dates (see Appendix III, on page 95).


Gantt chart

—a graph consisting of horizontal bars that depict the start date and duration of each activity (see Appendix IV, on page 96).


Program (or Project) Evaluation and Review

Technique (PERT) chart

—a diagram in which activities are represented by lines and events on the nodes (typically depicted as circles or bubbles).

The acronym PERT, rather than the full name, is universally used.

p R o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t 87

The key events schedule and the activities plan display dates better; the Gantt chart and the combined milestone/Gantt chart give a better overview of how long activities will take and where they coincide. Regardless of which format you use, if you use these tools, take the time to develop a schedule you have a reasonable chance of meeting. Think realistically and estimate how long each step will take, how many uninterrupted hours you have available during the day, and how other demands on your time will affect what you or your lab can get done. If your plan includes mastering a new subject by reading a vast literature, divide it up—how many papers do you normally read in a day like today? Just because you can read 15 papers in a day does not mean that you will (or should) bring yourself to read that much each day for a month, even if there are 500 papers in a pile in front of you.

To determine how long a very complex process may take, think about similar things you have done before. Flip through your notebook or calendar and try to remember—how many hours did it really take you to write, edit, get feedback on, make figures for, revise, revise again, and submit that last paper or grant? Try to be conservative


Q u e s t i o n

It sometimes takes longer than I think it will to complete new experiments. how do I plan accordingly?

A n s w e R

The work breakdown structure will help you see where inherent difficulties in experiments or bottlenecks in the procedures are; you can then add time and resources to address those issues. For example, you might pair an experienced member of your lab with a new student who is responsible for a step in the protocol, or give a technician who has to establish a new technique in the lab time for several trials and revisions of the procedure. in your estimates. When it comes to planning bench work, an accurate assessment of the skills, experience, and limitations of your staff will help you match the right people to each task. Stretching to accomplish more than before is good, but failing because of overreaching is not. If your team lacks the expertise required to complete a specific goal, you may need to find a suitable and willing collaborator. Collectively, these scheduling tools will: n

Provide ways of tracking the work.


Identify the order of experiments that will define how long it will take to complete the project.


Show the relationship of experiments to each other (e.g., do they need to be done sequentially or can they be done in parallel?)


Identify bottlenecks.

As the work progresses, make adjustments to your schedule or the resources needed. For example, time estimates can be replaced with actual times. In cases of delays in the schedule, additional resources, more money, or more helpers may be needed to make up for the time that has been lost. If you can get those resources, you may be able to finish within the time frame you initially planned. But if you cannot get those resources, at least you can accurately revise your estimate of how long it will take to finish the project.

Do I haVe The ResouRCes?

Once you have made an outline of the activities to be done in a given time frame and who will perform the work, you may want to know more precisely how much of a given resource the project will use up. For example, how many hours a scientist in your lab will have to work each week to complete his or her activities (see

Appendix V, on page 96), or how much money will be spent. This will help you identify potential bottlenecks that have been created by your starting assumptions. For example, even the best, hardest-working, most committed scientist cannot work 37 hours a day!

88 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Q u e s t i o n

I have done some experiments so many times that I already know how long it will take and the resources I need. should I add these experiments to my plan?

A n s w e R

Not for your benefit, but you should consider whether others need to know what you are doing—the sequence of steps as well as the materials and time required. If they do, a written work plan can also be a useful part of the record. Project management is not just a planning tool, it can also be a training and communication tool.

Q u e s t i o n

Despite the best explanations, inexperienced students may focus only on their part of the work. are there devices to help them get the big picture?

A n s w e R

It is important that they do get the big picture, and project management may be part of the solution.

Although it is true that project management encourages a focus on details, it also encourages you to consider the big picture. Think of a project’s detailed plan as being like a metabolic map—if students can see how their work connects to a greater whole, they may be more motivated to think about their own small projects and to ask bigger questions about the lab’s work and the broader field. Young students may be reluctant to admit what they do not know. By walking them through the field’s complicated issues and ongoing controversies, you can convey to them that it is alright not to know everything, and customary to ask others to explain things. Get them to talk about what they are doing, and paraphrase what they say, highlighting the places where their work intersects with other work in the lab. Or, you could ask them to write a statement of work for their part of the project, which will require them to learn the background on the project as a whole.

pRoJeCT ManaGeMenT sofTwaRe

As you can see from the figures, many of project management’s tools can be produced by hand or with a spreadsheet program like Microsoft

Excel. If you are keeping track of a simple project involving only one or two individuals, you can probably use a network diagram drawn on a board or in an electronic document. But as the number of projects and responsibilities you juggle grows, you may want to make use of one of the many software packages available. They can help you spot, for example, resource conflicts (such as one person assigned to three overlapping activities), and identify which activities can be delayed to accommodate that problem without jeopardizing the schedule. Good software helps you brainstorm the organization of activities on screen, create a

WBS, link activities, develop a schedule, identify resources, maintain information on progress, and generate reports. When you make a change, the software reflects the impact of that change throughout the project. p R o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t 89

Microsoft Project, a program that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Office applications including

Outlook and its calendar, is a very popular choice.

The software lets you enter any number of tasks and schedule them. You can then view the data using multiple formats (e.g., Gantt charts or

PERT diagrams). You can also enter cost for each resource and the software will automatically track the spending of the project. Other popular choices are the packages Act! (Symantec Corp.) and Now Up-to-Date (Qualcomm, Inc.). Free Open

Source packages including Open Workbench and

OpenProj are now available. For information about other products available, see http://www.project-


Like other software, project management programs come with bells and whistles you may never need or use. Remember that software is merely a tool to help you plan and organize your work. It should not become your work, bogging you down in complex manipulations or fancy graphs and charts that look impressive but do not improve on simpler presentations of the information.

After some short training on these software packages, it is straightforward to build new plans.

Several fields, including construction and some areas of business management, make extensive use of this kind of software. If these programs are in common use in your area, you may be able to find undergraduate students, especially in engineering or business schools, who would be eager to polish their skills (and get a line for their resume) by doing the work needed to transfer already established plans onto the computer.

ConTRollInG The pRoJeCT

Effective project management demands that the components of a project be constantly monitored and revised with new information. The head of a laboratory typically plays this role in addition to the following tasks: n

Championing the project for the project audience

(e.g., through seminars and informal updates to supporters) and maintaining their support for the work being done.


Clearing away obstacles for the project team, for example by minimizing other responsibilities for the team members and providing a supportive and comfortable work environment.


Providing resources such as funds, access to essential equipment, and technical skills.


Communicating the project vision to keep the team motivated and focused.


Communicating with the head of the institution, individuals from funding agencies, journal editors, and the external collaborators.


Q u e s t i o n

how do I finish projects when key people are recruited away before our work is finished?

A n s w e R

Project management can help you anticipate and plan for their departure. Identify who is most likely to leave and the places in the project when loss of key personnel would be especially damaging. When it does happen, stop and assess the impact on your project and determine steps you can take to minimize the effects.

90 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

The principles of project management can be applied to many day-to-day tasks. I completed a course with the University’s Faculty of Engineering in 2004 and since then have used the principles of project management to complete many small and large projects successfully.

brian eley, south africa

KeepInG youR woRK on TRaCK

It is hard to predict how the course of a project will run. Flexible planning is needed to help you deal with the unexpected and still keep your many projects moving. Here is a list to help you stay on track: n

Consider different scenarios to identify what may not unfold as you anticipate, and identify the range of ramifications and how you would address them.


Select aspects of your project that are most likely to slow things down, for example, a student who is not familiar with interpreting experimental results and thus may slow progress, or a technician who does not aggressively follow up on maintaining equipment or placing orders with supply and reagent companies. Monitor them closely to avoid roadblocks.


Develop strategies to reduce the likelihood of deviations, as well as contingency plans for any that occur.


Create indicators or defined results (such as a completed Western blot or a clearly interpretable experimental finding) that will help you evaluate the project against your stated objectives. The indicators should be clear and should directly relate to your objectives. Poorly chosen indicators are worse than none at all, and may cause you to abandon a project when in fact the objective may be sound.


Monitor the project carefully and consistently to promptly identify detours from course.


Implement contingency plans and revise your master plan as necessary.

As a scientist, you want your work to be worthwhile, even if it does not proceed the way you planned or produce the expected outcome. To get the most out of your investment of project resources, learn to work through the “what-ifs” by positing multiple possible outcomes and timelines and planning ways to deal with each one.


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/previous_issues/articles/1750/project_management_ for_scientists.

Portny, Stanley E. “Project Management in an Uncertain

Environment.” ScienceCareers.org (August 23, 2002),


/previous_issues/articles/1820/project_management_in_ an_uncertain_environment.

NICEF/ UNDP/ World Bank/ WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR).

Effective Project Planning and Evaluation in Biomedical

Research (Training Manual). Geneva, Switzerland: World

Health Organization, 2005.

Effective project planning and evaluation in

biomedical research, a training manual and step by step guide to project management from WHO/TDR


A p p e n d i x i :

s t a t e m e n t o f w o r k : A r e a l - l i f e e x a m p l e

s e c t i o n 1 : p u R p o s e


Teresa, a scientist training in the laboratory, wants to examine the possible role for alterations in the gene Sumacan in prostate cancer. She noted that Sumacan, which encodes a growth factor receptor, maps to a genetic region involved in human prostate cancer. Current studies in the lab focus on the role of Sumacan in brain tumors. Robert, another scientist training in the laboratory, is screening drugs that block Sumacan function; Anna, a graduate student, is elucidating the functional pathways

Sumacan is involved in; and David, a graduate student, is performing a mutational analysis of the

Sumacan gene. These same studies can be applied to prostate cancer, thereby opening up new potential avenues for funding through prostate cancer foundations.

92 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

A p p e n d i x i c o n t i n u e d

scope of work


Examine whether the functional pathway for Sumacan is present in human prostate cancer cells. n

Compare the expression of Sumacan in normal human prostate tissues and prostate cancers, and

correlate expression levels with clinical outcome in prostate cancer. n

Identify mutations in Sumacan in patients with prostate cancer.


Each person in the lab is already working on different aspects of Sumacan biology in brain tumors. In each case, the work will be applied to prostate cancer cell lines that we will obtain from Mike, a colleague in our department. We have identified two additional potential collaborators—Rajiv, a pathologist who studies human prostate tissues and cancers, and Kathy, a geneticist who studies human prostate cancer families. We will use funds from our current grant to obtain preliminary findings. We plan to use these findings to obtain another grant to the laboratory. s e c t i o n 2 : o b J e c t i v e


Investigate the possible role of Sumacan in prostate cancer.


Measure #1. Our experiments will provide preliminary evidence to either support or deny a role for

Sumacan in prostate cancer.

specifications n

We will receive several requests for information about the research. n

We will publish at least two research articles in the scientific literature. n

We will present the research results to at least two conferences in one year.

s e c t i o n 3 : c o n s t R A i n t s

limitations n

The grant proposal is due June 1 next year. This means that the first research manuscript must be

submitted for publication by approximately January 1, and accepted by mid-April. n

Our lab has limited funds to cover the generation of preliminary data, which means that productivity

must be reviewed monthly.

needs n

Our lab needs to be able to grow prostate cancer cells. n

Our lab needs to be able to handle human prostate cancer specimens. s e c t i o n 4 : A s s u m p t i o n s n

The current research team will be willing and able to perform prostate cancer studies in addition

to their brain tumor studies. n

The collaborators we have identified will be willing and able to work with our group or will provide

the name of another person who wants to collaborate.

Based on a real-world example provided by Milton W. Datta, Medical College of Wisconsin.

p R o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t 93

A p p e n d i x i i :

e x a m p l e o f a w o r k b r e a k d o w n s t r u c t u r e

A c t i v i t y 1 : d e t e R m i n e w h e t h e R s u m A c A n i s e x p R e s s e d i n t h e p R o s t A t e

1. Determine where to obtain human prostate cells.

2. Determine how to grow human prostate cells. n

the type of medium and serum they require, and n

the optimal conditions for growth

3. Determine whether we can isolate RNA and protein from human prostate cells. n

try the same technique we use to isolate RNA from brain cells, or n

develop a different technique

4. Determine whether we can perform quantitative RT-PCR for Sumacan expression. n

primers and positive and negative controls

5. Determine whether we can perform a Western blot for Sumacan expression. n

test whether the antibody we use in the brain works in the prostate and determine what size

protein band(s) is identified, and n

identify positive or negative controls for protein quality and Sumacan identification

Note: Steps 1 to 3 must be done sequentially, but once step 3 is completed, steps 4 and 5 can be done at the same time.

A c t i v i t y 2 : d e t e R m i n e w h e t h e R s u m A c A n i s e x p R e s s e d i n p R o s t A t e c A n c e R c e L L s

1. Determine where to obtain human prostate cancer cells.

2. Determine how to grow human prostate cancer cells. n

the type of medium and serum they require, and n

the optimal conditions for growth

3. Determine whether we can isolate RNA and protein from human prostate cancer cells. n

try the same technique we use to isolate RNA from brain cells, or n

develop a different technique

4. Determine whether we can perform quantitative RT-PCR for Sumacan expression. n

primers and positive and negative controls

5. Determine whether we can perform a Western blot for Sumacan expression. n

test whether the antibody we use in the brain works in prostate cancer cells and determine what

size protein band(s) is identified, and n

identify positive or negative controls for protein quality and Sumacan identification

Note: Steps 1 to 3 must be done sequentially, but once step 3 is completed, steps 4 and 5 can be done at the same time. In addition, activities 1 and 2 can be done at the same time, although this may result in higher resource costs if both tasks fail.

94 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

A p p e n d i x i i c o n t i n u e d

A c t i v i t y 3 : d e t e R m i n e w h e t h e R t h e R e i s A d i f f e R e n c e i n s u m A c A n e x p R e s s i o n b e t w e e n n o R m A L A n d c A n c e R c e L L s

1. Determine the difference in RNA expression.

2. Determine the difference in protein expression.

3. Determine the relationship between RNA and protein expression.

Note: Activity 3 involves analysis of the data collected in activities 1 and 2, and thus cannot be performed until those two activities are completed.

A p p e n d i x i i i :

e x a m p l e o f a n A c t i v i t i e s P l a n

A c t i v i t y / p e R s o n ( s ) R e s p o n s i b L e / s t A R t d A t e / e n d d A t e n

Identify sources of prostate cells/Teresa/August 1/August 5 n

Identify sources of prostate cancer cells/Robert/August 1/August 5 n

Grow prostate cells/Teresa/August 5/August 26 n

Grow prostate cancer cells/Robert/August 5/August 26 n

Isolate RNA and protein from prostate cells/Teresa/August 26/September 26 n

Isolate RNA and protein from prostate cancer cells/Robert/August 26/September 26 n

Perform RT-PCR from prostate cells/Teresa/September 26/October 26 n

Perform RT-PCR from prostate cancer cells/Teresa/September 26/October 26 n

Perform Western blots on prostate cells/Robert/September 26/October 26 n

Perform Western blots on prostate cancer cells/Robert/September 26/October 26 n

Compare the levels of Sumacan RNA in the prostate and prostate cancer cells/Teresa and Robert/

October 26/November 5 n

Compare the levels of Sumacan protein in the prostate and prostate cancer cells/Teresa and

Robert/October 26/November 5 n

Compare the levels of Sumacan RNA and protein to each other/Teresa and Robert/October 26/

November 5

Note: Each of these activities can be broken down further if more detail is needed. For example, if the activities are being performed by a new graduate student, you may want to explain the different protocols to use to perform RT-PCR from prostate cancer cells and what controls should be used, as well as alternative protocols to use in case the first ones do not work.

p R o J e c t m A n A g e m e n t 95

A p p e n d i x i v :

e x a m p l e o f a g a n t t c h a r t pRoJeCT: Role foR suMaCan In pRosTaTe CanCeR activity august september sumacan expression in prostate Cells find Cells

Grow Cells

Isolate Rna and protein

RT-pCR and western blots sumacan expression prostate Cancer find Cells

Grow Cells

Isolate Rna and protein

RT-pCR and western blots

Compare Results

Data analysis october november person Responsible




Teresa and Robert




Teresa and Robert

Teresa and Robert

A p p e n d i x v :

e x a m p l e o f a l o a d i n g c h a r t

This chart displays Teresa’s workload. She is responsible for the first three steps in determining

Sumacan expression in prostate cells. Step 1 (looking for prostate cells) is done in week 1, step 2

(trying to grow the cells) in weeks 2-4, step 3 (isolating RNA and protein) in weeks 5-8, and step 4

(doing RT-PCR on normal and cancer cells) in weeks 9-13. In addition, during the time the project is being run, she will be teaching a microbiology lab course (5 hours/day with monthly exams).


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

ReseaRCh houRs

MICRobIoloGy lab houRs

7 10 10 10 8 8 8 10 25 25 25 25 25

25 25 25 35 25 25 25 35 25 25 25 35 25

ToTal TIMe

32 35 35 45 32 32 32 45 50 50 50 65 50

96 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h A p t e R 7

GeTTInG funDeD

“ d i v i s e R c h A c u n e d e s d i f f i c u L t é s Q u e J ’ e x A m i n e R A i e n A u t A n t d e p A R c e L L e s

Q u ’ i L s e p o u R R A i t e t Q u ’ i L s e R A i t R e Q u i s p o u R L e s m i e u x L e s R é s o u d R e .

r e n é d e s c A r t e s


The ReVIew pRoCess

Once you have started your career as an independent scientist, have put your laboratory in order, and perhaps have hired some people, an important next step if you would like to have an international career is to find international funding for your work.

exaMple of peeR ReVIew: funDInG a u.s. nIh R01 ReseaRCh pRoJeCT GRanT

It is beyond the scope of this book to address funding in all of the countries of the South, since the funding situation is different everywhere and in some places can change quite quickly. Instead, this chapter will concentrate on international funding sources and how best to present your work so that you may tap into these sources. This chapter also uses the U.S. NIH funding process as an example of a two-level peer review system. Not all international funders use the same system—in fact, each major funding body has a system that is distinctly its own. But the example used here will give you a good idea of the how’s and why’s of peer review, which we hope will give you insight into how to prepare the strongest grant application you can, no matter what funding body you are approaching.

This chapter includes advice on how to turn your concept into a solid research plan, and discusses what to do if your application is not funded.

Though the U.S. NIH is sometimes an international funder, it is (as are your own country’s government agencies focused on health) an organization whose mission primarily focuses on the health of its country’s citizens. For this reason, its spending on many problems of interest in other parts of the world is relatively small.

There is no grantsmanship that will turn a bad idea into a good one, but there are many ways to disguise a good one.

william Raub, former deputy director, U.S. NIH

The quote above: Descartes, in the second rule of his Method, says to break each difficulty down into smaller resolvable component parts.

g e t t i n g f u n d e d 97

b e h i n d c L o s e d d o o R s : w h A t g o e s o n i n A p e e R R e v i e w m e e t i n g

peer review committees:


Are managed by a scientific review administrator (SRA), a professional NIH employee at the M.D. or

Ph.D. level with a scientific background close to the study section’s area of expertise. n

Have 12-24 members recruited from active scientists, generally people who have (or have had) R01s

themselves. Most members are academics. Some have long-term appointments to the study section

and others are temporary members. n

Will review as many as 60-100 applications per meeting. n

Usually assign three reviewers to very closely review each application, though the whole panel should

read all of the applications.

study section meetings:


Are closed—the discussions are not made part of the public record and spectators are not allowed. n

Include a discussion of general business, provisional approval of the list of applications which are

declared uncompetitive and thus not scored, and discussion of the remaining applications. Reviewers

who have a conflict of interest with a given applicant are asked to leave the room when that

applicant’s grant is discussed.

Discussion of applications includes:


The three reviewers most closely linked to each grant providing discussion of that grant’s strengths,

weaknesses, and their preliminary scores. n

Other members discussing scientific and technical merit. n

All members stating their scores, which are recorded. n

Any recommendations for changes in the budgets of individual grants.

After each meeting, the SRA documents the results in a summary statement, which is forwarded both to the appropriate institute or center that would support the grant (if budget is available) and to the principal investigator. These summary statements, which are often called “pink sheets” because they were once given back to the applicant as the pink layer from a multi-sheet carbon-paper form, are the key to understanding what was said about your grant during the review.

summary statements may vary somewhat depending on the sRa, but all contain:


Overall résumé and summary of review discussion (for applications that were discussed and scored). n

Essentially unedited critiques by the assigned reviewers. n

Priority score and percentile ranking. n

Budget recommendations. n

Administrative notes (e.g., comments on human subjects or animal welfare).

The major grant that funds most U.S. health scientists’ work is called an “R01.” There is no special reason these grants are called R01—it is not an abbreviation for any longer term. The letter

R conveys that it is a Research Project Grant, but there are other types of NIH research grants that begin with other letters.

R01 grant applications are usually investigator- initiated—that is, the researcher proposes a topic to study rather than the agency indicating what kinds of topics it would like to see. Other approaches are also common among large funders. Many funders

(including NIH) use Requests for Proposals (RFPs),

Requests for Applications (RFAs), or Program

98 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Q u e s t i o n

where do research funds come from?

A n s w e R n

National governments, including both that of the country where you will work and those of other

nations that have taken an interest in supporting work in your area of science or your geographical



Non-governmental organizations—a very broad group of national and international organizations.


Multinational organizations such as the United Nations and its agencies (for example, UNICEF), the

World Health Organization, etc.


Public-Private Partnerships such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the

International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, etc.


Private foundations such as the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard

Hughes Medical Institute, etc.


National and multinational corporations such as mining companies, oil companies, etc.

Announcements (PAs) to alert researchers to grant opportunities that will fund research around particular topics.

Applications to NIH are submitted to the agency and then immediately sent to a division that specializes in managing the review of applications

—the Center for Scientific Review (CSR). There the grant is reviewed on two levels: one is a peer review level meant to evaluate the proposal’s scientific and technical merit, the other is review by staff members from a few of the agency’s many institutes and centers to determine where the grant might best fit into the agency’s interests.

For example, a grant that focuses on atherosclerosis would face peer review by a panel of experts in heart disease and, after review by the institutes and centers, would likely find its way to the institute that focuses on heart disease. Within the overarching agency NIH, that is a section called the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. A grant you might write with an American collaborator to fund research on Chagas disease (a parasitic infection with considerable impact on the heart) might make its way to that institute, or to the NIH institute that focuses on infectious diseases, or, if it is a Fogarty International Research Collaboration

Award (FIRCA), it might be funded by the Fogarty

International Center, which is also a section of

NIH. The Fogarty Center’s work focuses on global health and international partnerships.

At NIH, the level of review that focuses on scientific and technical merit is carried out by one of many “study sections,” each of which is organized around a general scientific area. Each study section has a specific scientific focus. Individual reviewers who are members of the study section review a grant application for scientific merit. Each rates it with a numerical score, and then the whole committee comes to agreement on the proposal’s final score, a three-digit number.

In this system, 100 is the best possible score, and 500 is the worst. After reviewing the proposal as individuals, proposals that the committee members agree are not of high enough quality to be competitive are often not even discussed at the peer review meeting, and will not receive a numerical score. g e t t i n g f u n d e d 99

Who might be interested in supporting your work?


Disease control programs that require

evidence-based information in order to

implement appropriate control measures

in disease-burdened areas.


Policymakers who require quality research

results for policy formulation, policy guide-

lines and informed decisions in the control

of various diseases.


Chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing

companies wanting to know the efficacy of

their products against target vectors and



Construction companies may require

assessment of the impact of their projects,

for example, the construction of an irrigation

scheme in an arid area.


Communities themselves are interested in

research results so that they can understand

their population’s health status and the prob-

lems associated with it, as well as where

they may need to improve it.


Waterworks and sewerage institutions

constantly need to monitor the quality of

water and sewage in order to keep harmful

organisms at minimal levels, thus averting

epidemics of waterborne diseases.


Research funders who will want to know if

their funds are being used in the manner in

which they are intended and the outcome of

the research conducted using these funds.


Investors also have an interest in some of

the research results produced, because they

will guide them in what health care systems

to adopt if they do decide to invest in an

area. These health care systems should of

course be in sync with the health policies of

that country.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe

when pooR sCoRes aRe GIVen

Applications may receive poor priority scores for any number of reasons, including: n

Lack of original ideas.


Absence of an acceptable scientific rationale.


Lack of experience in the essential methodology.


Questionable reasoning in experimental approach.


A diffuse, superficial, or unfocused research plan.


Lack of sufficient experimental detail.


Lack of knowledge of published relevant work.


An unrealistically large amount of work for the given time frame or funding level.


Uncertainty about future directions.

pRepaRInG a sTRonG

GRanT applICaTIon


Successful grant applications begin with a good idea. See page 102 for the sequence of steps that can guide you from your good idea through the submission of an application to the final decision about funding. You can send the same application to multiple funding sources, but you must disclose your multiple applications to each potential funder.

If two or more funders agree to support the same application, you must let them know that the work has already found support. This may cause some funders to withdraw their support, but others will only ask you to propose some new work that will go beyond the original proposal. Although it may be tempting to keep both, you do not want your supporters to find out later to their surprise that they have “bought” the same work as another funder.

Once you have a good idea, you can get started in two realms: your own institution and an appropriate funder. Information about potential funders is contained in the Resources section of this chapter.

100 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

seek input at your own institution.

If no one at your institution has been successful at getting funded, look for others as close to you as possible who have gotten international grants. In some places this may mean approaching people who are across the country from you, or even in another country in your region. Colleagues from farther away may be able to give you helpful insight on scientific issues and the overall logic of the work you are proposing, but get as much input as you can from people who face the same kinds of funding challenges that you will.

Keith Yamamoto, a well-known cell biologist, recommends this to his younger colleagues: ask three colleagues who have written fundable grants to serve as a “grant committee” to help you get your own work funded. If you have found a group of colleagues who are willing to help you this way, set a time to talk with them, as a group if possible, about your research goals, aims, and ideas.

Prepare yourself beforehand—you should be able to brief them on your specific goals, grant ideas, and potential funders in approximately two hours— not two days.

After you have sharpened your thinking by preparing for the conversation and talking with your grant committee, read the grant solicitations that seem to fit you best and choose one on which to focus. List three to five specific aims, and explain in writing for yourself why each aim is important.

Then discuss this limited group of aims with the same small group of experienced colleagues, and then refine your aims according to their comments.

Again, this conversation or group of conversations should be short—on the order of two hours—because you will have focused on what is important and will not be discussing other topics.

Once you have finished, you are ready to write a grant. The specific aims are the hardest part and are the true heart of a grant, and at this point, you have them well in hand.

In general, a good grant application will answer for a reader: n

What do you want to do?


Why is it important?


Why do you think you can do it?


Has this area been studied before? If so, what has been done?


What approaches will you use, and why?


Why do you think it is feasible?


What will you do if your initial approach does not work as planned?


What resources and expertise are available to you from your institution?

Keep in mind that your reviewer may pick up your proposal after reading tens of others. You need to do a very good job of writing and of arguing for your ideas, because your reader may be distracted, disinterested, grumpy, hungry, or in a bad mood by the time he or she begins looking at your grant. Start working on the writing well ahead of the deadline so that your grant will put your work forward well. Prepare your application with care— use your computer’s spell check but also read your work over many times and give it to others to get “fresh eyes” looking for simple errors. No matter how strong the science, typographical and grammatical errors leave a poor impression. Do not try to evade the page limit by using small type or narrow margins. Do not feel you must write up to the full page limit; you get points for strength, not length.

In the specific aims, be specific about reagents and quantify whenever possible. You may be trying to leave your options open, but a reviewer may see a lack of detail as a lack of knowledge on your part. At the same time, be brief—try to keep your specific aims to two or three sentences each.

Use language and formatting to create signposts for overworked reviewers, for example: n

The long-term objectives of this project are…


The general strategy of the proposed research is to…


The specific aims of the present study are to…


Four goals are envisioned:…


In these experiments, molecular genetic, biochemical, and structural approaches will be used to…

Do not put anything that is critical for reviewers to read, such as key graphics, in an appendix, because reviewers are not required to read g e t t i n g f u n d e d 101

c A L L y o u R p R o g R A m o f f i c e R

Program officers are generally PhD or MD staff members of funding organizations. Their job involves connecting researchers with grants. It is always appropriate to call or write to the program officer who manages a funder’s grants in your area of research interest. A good program officer will tell you more about a grant program you are considering applying to, can recommend other funding opportunities that may also fit you or may fit you better, and can give you some sense of whether your planned application has a good possibility of being supported by the agency.

Before you call, be sure to have an abstract of your research project ready (see box “Tips on Writing an

Abstract”). The program officer will probably ask for a copy. If not, you can offer to send one.

The program officer will not evaluate the quality of the research idea or the science. That job is left to your institutional colleagues and the study section. But the program officer can be your best advocate and advisor at a funding agency throughout the application process and beyond. This book was conceived and helped along by program officers from different agencies, all of whom wanted to provide you with a resource that will help you become an even more successful researcher.

appendixes. Do include clear tables, figures, and diagrams (along with legends). Put them in the body of the text, not in pages following it as you might when submitting a paper.

The particular format of a given grant may vary, but just like scientific papers, scientific grants have predictable structures. Draft an abstract, research design section, and methods section. Then draft the section on your current relevant work, and the sections on the background and significance of what you propose to do. Conduct a thorough literature search and cite all relevant literature

(omissions here are often a source of criticism).

Be sure to discuss your work in the context of these published results. Conclude each section in the research plan with a few sentences stating what you will learn and why that information is important—for example, “These experiments are important because nothing is known about X, and they will enable us to distinguish between two controversial models that are widely discussed in the field.”

Reviewers will look for your record of getting related work done, so if you do not yet have published work showing your success with the required methods, do some preliminary work and present a short summary of the results in your grant application. Re-read the funder’s instructions very carefully, paying particularly close attention to whether you have done everything the application requires and whether your work matches well with any criteria for selection listed.

If you will be using human subjects, collecting human samples, or using animals, make sure to give yourself time to discuss the project with the people who will be responsible for approving the project’s ethics and determining that your use of animals is in accordance with international standards.

If new data become available after you have submitted the application, contact the appropriate program officer to see whether you will be allowed to submit this additional information, and if so, how to do so.

The application: from Concept to submission


In the beginning: have a good idea.


Find a home for your research; investigate funding agencies that may support the kind of work you propose.


Seek input at your own institution.


Write an abstract describing your proposed work in clear language suitable for an educated layperson.


Contact program officers at the agencies you would like to approach for support.


If the conversation is encouraging, send an abstract to the program officer.

102 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


If the conversation is discouraging, and if it is a large agency, contact another program officer and have the same kind of conversation with a different person. If you are discouraged a second time, your idea is likely not a good fit for the agency.


Prepare your application; refer frequently to any instructions on what will determine which grants are funded.


Draft a one-page cover letter in which you express why you believe your application fits the agency or the particular solicitation to which you are responding. Suggest potential reviewers for your work, and mention your conversation with a supportive program officer.

The application: from submission through funding Decision


Submit your application on time; follow instructions carefully.


Check by email to make sure the application was received.


After peer review, carefully read any feedback given by the review committee. At some agencies, this feedback may come before funding decisions are made.


If revision and resubmission are recommended, consult colleagues at your institution and program officer for guidance, address all critical comments thoroughly, and resubmit your application. Learn from the summary statement and the program officer: negative comments will contain information that could help you write a stronger proposal in the future.


If appropriate, consult the program officer about challenging a review you think is flawed, especially if the reviewers’ comments seem to miss the point of your proposal.


If the application is funded, first, celebrate. Find out when and how the grant will be paid, and then wait expectantly—soon, you can begin the proposed work!


If the application is not funded, consult your program officer for guidance and either revise and resubmit the application, or apply what you have learned to write a new application.

Components of a Generic

Grant application abstract

Research plan


Specific Aims n

Background (like a review article) n

Significance or Relevance n

Preliminary Results

Research Design and Methods

Resources and facilities

Including description of your lab and

the equipment in it, as well as shared

equipment and equipment you have

access to at nearby facilities


Reviewers focus on the four Cs


Cross-reference current literature in laying out your premises.


Organize your ideas around associated aims linked to your central hypothesis. (The mission statement of each funding institute or review committee sets forth its areas of emphasis.)

Coherence of concepts.

Present a coherent set of ideas predicated on previous work.

Cutting edge.

Be ready to take legitimate risks, preferably based on preliminary data, to move the science forward.

Tips on writing an abstract

The abstract should convey the big picture

—the general hypothesis and aims, the methodological approach, and the significance of the research. Try to avoid technical jargon, and write the abstract in language an educated layperson can understand.

g e t t i n g f u n d e d 103

d i R e c t c o s t s v s . i n d i R e c t c o s t s

Direct costs comprise those expenses that are directly related to conducting a research project.

They include salaries, employee benefits, equipment and scientific instruments, consumable supplies such as printer paper and pipettes, reagents, laboratory computers, and postage. Indirect costs

(informally termed “overhead”) comprise the expenses that are paid to your institution by the funding organization to support your research but cannot easily be charged directly to a specific grant. These include administration, utilities, computer infrastructure, building maintenance, security, and custodial services. These items can add significantly to the cost of doing research. Generally, an institution’s administrators, on behalf of the investigator, will negotiate indirect costs with funding organizations that allow these costs. The organization then provides funds for indirect costs to the institution, along with funds to cover direct costs charged to the research grants.

Some organizations, especially foundations, do not allow indirect costs, but often will allow many of the items listed above to be included as direct costs of the grant.

Criteria for Rating.

Here are some questions that reviewers will ask about your proposal: n

Significance: Does it address an important problem? Will it advance scientific knowledge? Will it affect concepts or methods in this field?


Approach: Are the experimental design and methods appropriate to the aims? Does it acknowledge problem areas and consider alternative tactics (in other words, is there a thoughtful backup plan)?


Innovation: Does it employ novel concepts, approaches, or methods? Does it challenge existing paradigms or develop new methodologies?


Investigator: Is the investigator appropriately trained to carry out the proposed work? Is the work appropriate to the experience of the principal investigator and collaborators?


Environment: Does the institutional environment contribute to the probability of success? Is there evidence of institutional support?

ThInKInG abouT a GRanT’s buDGeT

The budget is a categorical description of the proposed costs. Generally, it explains staffing and supply/service consumption patterns, the methods used to estimate/calculate these items, and other details such as lists of items that make up the total costs for a category. The budget should address each of the major cost categories, such as: n



Number of positions and level of expertise for each position


Percent effort for each position


What each member of the proposed research team will be doing




Why you need this piece of equipment


What equipment you used to get preliminary data


Why the above equipment is not sufficient to support R01-level effort

104 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

n o t c h o s e n ?

Occasionally, mistakes are made during the review process. If you believe that the reviewers criticized you for information they overlooked in your application, or think the review was flawed for other reasons, consult the program officer about the possibility of appealing the study section’s decision.

Although this action is sometimes appropriate, it is usually better to address review comments and resubmit your application. Follow the program officer’s guidance on this matter.

If the reviewers thought your starting hypothesis was seriously flawed, do not waste your time revising and resubmitting the application. Instead, learn as much as you can from the summary statement and discussion with the program officer and your colleagues, reconsider your project and approach, and write a stronger application the next time.

If the program officer thinks it is worthwhile for you to revise the application, keep these points in mind: n

Reviewers of amended applications get to see the summary statement from the previous reviews. n

Always treat review comments respectfully. n

Respond to all suggestions and comments, even if you do not agree with them. n

Be explicit about changes. Mark each section of the revised application where you have addressed

reviewer critiques.


Provide any additional data that are now available, and update your publication list if necessary. n

Resubmit the revised application by the due date. Your revised application now begins its journey

through the review process all over again, along with the next batch of new submissions from other



Cost sharing for new equipment is advisable






Explain large expenses




Describe proposed meetings, travelers, and estimated cost/trip


Justify any foreign travel




Detailed description of animal per diem costs


Categorize other expenses

The most important challenge for a scientist in my country is that funding for research is limited. Although new private foundations and business companies have started to offer grants for scientific research, there are fewer sources of funding than in developed countries. Additionally, salaries at universities are relatively low. The most important way of facing this challenge is, first, to learn how to apply for grants as early in one’s career as possible. It does not matter if the applications are not successful, but starting to learn the process is very valuable.

Gilbert brenes Comacho, Costa Rica

g e t t i n g f u n d e d 105


Allen, Ernest M. “Why are research grant applications disapproved?” Science 132:1532-1534, 1960.


Example of a Funded RO1:

Annotated RO1 Research Plan and Summary Statement

(NIAID): http://www.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/grants/app/.

GrantsNet (http://www.grantsnet.org), maintained by the

American Association for the Advancement of Science, is a well-maintained database of funding opportunities worldwide.

Other Sources of Funding Information:

FedBizOpps, an evolving database of all U.S. federal government granting programs of more than $25,000:


Major Sources Of International Funding:

The Fogarty International Center produces and updates its

Directory of Grants and Fellowships in the Global Health

Sciences, which lists international funding opportunities from all over the world. It can be found at www.fic.nih.gov.

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c h A p t e R 8

TeaChInG anD CouRse DesIGn

A t e A c h e R A f f e c t s e t e R n i t y ; h e c A n n e v e R t e L L w h e R e h i s i n f L u e n c e s t o p s .

h e n r y A d A m s

If you are associated with a university, college, or medical school, teaching may be an important part of your work. You might have mixed feelings about taking your place in front of a class. You may find yourself staring out at a sea of faces and thinking,

“What am I doing here? I am a scientist, not a teacher.” If you have done little or no teaching before, but now find yourself cast in the role of

“The Professor,” you have no choice but to learn as you go.

This chapter focuses on some strategies for becoming a more effective teacher by using a variety of methods, including “active learning.”

By experimenting with different teaching methods, continually assessing their effectiveness, and modifying them based on feedback from students and other teachers, you can become a “scientific teacher” who is as rigorous at teaching as you are at research. This chapter focuses on teaching undergraduates at large research universities and students at medical schools, but the methods described can easily be adapted to other settings.

The chapter suggests ways to improve your current teaching style by assessing your strengths and weaknesses and learning from colleagues and other professionals. It also offers advice for revising and designing courses, helping graduate students and other trainees who may someday find themselves in charge of a classroom learn how to teach, creating a “teaching portfolio”

—a coherent presentation of your experience with teaching and your ideas about your work in the classroom—and balancing your teaching and research responsibilities.

why TeaCh well?

Science is about learning—both learning what is already known and learning from the questions your experiments ask of the natural world. Gaining the varied skills required to become a good teacher will benefit you professionally by enhancing your communication skills, adding a whole new range of activities to your resume, and making you rethink the most foundational ideas that underlie your field. When you prepare your lectures and when students ask you naïve questions, you will look in new ways at your assumptions about how things work. Thus, teaching can bring new energy to your lab investigations. You will also contribute to the greater good of society by educating t e A c h i n g A n d c o u R s e d e s i g n 107

the next generation of students (those who become scientists as well as those who go into other fields), and you should take great personal satisfaction from giving students the knowledge, insights, and enthusiasm they need to succeed as well-educated members of society. These reasons are explored in greater depth below.

For me, the best thing of being a scientist is that one is capable of understanding information that might seem complex to others, and then one is also capable of translating this information to others to spread the knowledge.

Gilbert brenes Comacho, Costa Rica

Reasons To TeaCh

love of learning.

Teaching completes the

learning cycle. It is a logical extension of your own studentship.

a strong Teaching Record Can help your

Research Career.

If you are at a university that values teaching, the fact that you are knowledgeable about teaching will help you advance in your environment. Taking on your fair share of the institution’s teaching load will help establish your reputation as a valuable peer and colleague.

Get to Know potential students for your lab.

Teaching will likely give you access to students who may want to join your lab. Teaching an important class extremely well will help spread your reputation among the best and most serious students.

Increase science literacy.

Increasingly, scientists are called upon to communicate effectively with the public about complex and practical issues ranging from health policy to the philosophical and real-world quandaries of crop engineering, embryonic stem cell research, or preservation of scarce resources. Delivering class-room instruction will improve your communication skills. Also, by teaching students who will choose many careers beyond science, you may influence future policymakers, business leaders, corporate decisionmakers and others. Thus you will increase science literacy and the general perception of science among those who affect how things move forward.

science and other Technical fields need to

Retain excellent students.

By adopting a teaching style that engages students, helps them become excited about the discovery process, and creates in their imaginations the possibility of a rewarding life in science, you will excite many more students about pursuing scientific careers.

Intellectual Growth.

Ongoing interactions with new students will prompt you to rethink “the basics” in ways that give you a deeper understanding of your work. Their questions may push you to acquire new skills and improve on existing ones, so that you yourself can extend your experimental reach.

Increased Job satisfaction.

Your scientific experiments and other aspects of laboratory work are not always going to go according to plan, and at times you may become frustrated with the pace of research in your lab. Teaching can provide muchneeded balance that re-energizes you and can give you a sense of accomplishment. When you teach, you build the future, give individual students a chance for better lives, and increase the community’s knowledge. It is often a much more sociable and direct experience than your progress through laboratory science.

It is important to tell the history of certain experiments and talk about the personal knowledge one has of some of the “actors” who made important contributions to, for instance, molecular biology. Make the science we teach alive. Foster enthusiasm. I usually say that I cannot teach any subject that does not interest or fascinate me. When I am fascinated by the subject I am teaching, I manage to get fascination in the audience.

alberto Kornblihtt, argentina

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Giving back.

Teaching allows you to give something important back to your country, as well—you transmit the knowledge that you have attained to new generations of students who may, in turn, have a role in moving science and the country forward.

beCoMInG an effeCTIVe TeaCheR

Teaching the lecture component of a basic science curriculum for medical school students or a course for undergraduates can be daunting. You want to be well-prepared for this new responsibility. How do you become a capable and effective teacher whose students really learn the material you are presenting? There are several steps you should take before you even set foot in the classroom.

assess youR sTRenGThs anD weaKnesses

Research has shown that the best teachers are not only knowledgeable about their subject matter, but also show a concern for students and know how to stimulate interest, encourage discussion, explain topics clearly, and show enthusiasm. Think back to any previous teaching experiences you may have had. Even if they are only presenting at lab meetings, nervously giving talks in your own student days, or sharing a new skill with a friend, they may give you some insights into what teaching skills you could improve.

The type of course you are asked to teach may not mesh with your scientific interests, but you should take the time to assess your strengths and weaknesses and take those into account when planning your classes. Since good teaching is part art, part technique, and part personality, you will need to find techniques that will both fit your own personality and will address your students’ varied learning styles.

For example, if you are an outgoing person who takes great joy in sharing what you know, conveying your enthusiasm for science to students should be easy for you. But your enthusiasm may be overwhelming. You might need to avoid presenting students with a tidal wave of complex ideas, and instead give them more time to pose questions and reflect upon solutions. If you are a less gregarious person, you might find teaching in a large lecture to be so intimidating that you retreat behind your lecture notes and have difficulty interacting with students. If you are given a choice of how to organize your course, you can build your confidence by starting with a topic you know well and feel passionate about.

Whether you are bold, shy, or somewhere in between, after you have established some rapport with students, stimulating discussion around the subject matter might become easier for you.

obseRVe anD be obseRVeD

Just as you learn to improve your scientific work based on the critiques that editors give to your submitted manuscripts or comments that reviewers make about your grant applications, you can also learn about teaching from peers, senior colleagues, and others at your institution as well as from feedback provided by your students.

ask a peer for feedback.

You might want to consider a reciprocal arrangement with another junior professor in which you visit each other’s classes, staying in the back and just watching the lesson and how students respond to it. When you are being observed, ask your colleague to provide a frank assessment of your teaching skills. He or she can give you information and advice informally or by completing a written checklist that contains specific categories, such as structure and goals of the class, teaching behaviors, rapport with students, and subject matter and instruction.

observe a senior Colleague.

Seek out senior colleagues who are reputed to be good teachers, and ask them if you can attend their classes to see what they do that is effective. If you would like a faculty member to observe your teaching, and possibly serve as a guide for you as you learn this skill, choose someone who seems enthusiastic and knowledgeable about teaching and who has a reputation among students as a good teacher (not just as a giver of high marks).

Experienced colleagues can offer suggestions for dealing with particular topics and can give you additional ways to clarify and enliven the material. t e A c h i n g A n d c o u R s e d e s i g n 109

seek feedback through a formal peer Review project.

As you become a more experienced teacher, you might want to participate in more formal peer review of teaching projects, which aims to engage faculty in capturing the intellectual work of teaching by helping instructors document, assess, and reflect upon ways to improve student learning and performance.

ask your students for feedback.

Student evaluations of teaching effectiveness can offer valuable clues as to what you are—and are not—doing well. However, many standard assessments, which contain quantitative questions designed to be analyzed by computer (e.g., “Overall, how would you rate the quality of the instructor’s teaching?”), may not provide enough specific information.

You might want to create an informal survey, with plenty of room for comments. The students’ critiques can help you make any necessary course corrections. Bear in mind, though, that student ratings for your first course might be low. They should quickly improve as you gain experience and confidence as a teacher. Some students may use an anonymous evaluation as an opportunity to make cruel remarks, but if you emphasize that this is a practical evaluation meant to improve their classroom experience, there should be useful feedback on what you are doing wrong, from speaking too softly to asking unclear examination questions, as well as some encouraging acclaim for the things you are doing right.

The pRInCIples of aCTIVe leaRnInG

Whether you teach at a large research university, a medical school, or a smaller school, you can aim to create a classroom that reflects the process of science and captures the rigor, iterative nature, and spirit of discovery of science at its best. Even in courses where you expect to stand at the front of the room and lecture, there are ways to get students thinking and asking questions. (See the box “Active Learning in Small and Large Settings”)

whaT Is aCTIVe leaRnInG?

Active learning uses a variety of problem-solving techniques to help students become active participants in the learning process, giving them the chance to clarify, question, apply their knowledge and consolidate what they have learned.

The concept was originated by John Dewey, a philosopher of education who contended that learning must be built upon the experience of the learner, who actively integrates new knowledge into an existing conceptual framework. A growing body of research supports that supplementing (or replacing) lectures with active-learning techniques and engaging students in discovery and scientific process can improve their abilities to understand concepts, think critically, and retain the knowledge they have gained in the course.

A c t i v e L e A R n i n g i n s m A L L A n d L A R g e s e t t i n g s

Active learning presents opportunities and challenges for the teacher. If you have small classes and frequent, relatively informal contact with the students both in and out of class, that will make some approaches easier to employ. At a larger or more formal institution, some active learning approaches may be very difficult to apply, but related ideas, such as students forming small study groups or frequent quizzes to check student understanding, may be useful.

Upper-level courses and other small-sized classes are excellent opportunities for departures from straight lectures. In the instances where you teach labs in connection with your science courses, you can introduce inquiry-based experiments in your lectures from the start. Because undergraduates, graduate students, and technicians will contribute substantially to your research agenda, the time you spend training them and helping them organize their projects will present many opportunities for experimenting with active learning approaches in the lab.

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In the classroom, the principal tools of active learning are: n

Cooperative learning, in which students work in groups, helping each other understand the material they are grappling with.


Inquiry-based learning, in which students ask and answer questions and engage in the process of science, by doing laboratory exercises, for example.


Assessment, in which the teacher very regularly assesses what students are learning and what parts have gone “over their heads.” The teacher uses the feedback to make revisions as the course progresses so that students spend adequate time on ideas that are critical for their understanding of the material.

IMpleMenTInG aCTIVe leaRnInG In

The ClassRooM

Most scientists will have experienced learning as undergraduates or even graduate students via the

“sage on the stage” approach of lecture classes.

Delivering a lecture may be the teaching style that will be most natural for you. Some active learning approaches integrate well into lectures and can make the material more engaging for your students. You might lecture for 10-15 minutes and then carry out an activity. For example, ask students to work in small groups on a problem or equation, and then resume the lecture by solving the problem at the board in the front of the room.

You might present the results of a scientific study and ask students to make a prediction, based on their understanding of the material, of what the next step would be. Asking the students to write on a note card the most important concept they learned in the day’s lecture and hand it in as they leave can let you quickly gauge whether the class is struggling with the material. Similarly, asking students to jot down questions, and then answering them at the beginning of the next class session, can help ensure that most students are keeping up with the material.

If you use active learning in your classroom, keep the following pointers in mind:

Do not Try to Cover Too Many Topics at once.

To make active learning work well, especially within the large lecture format, pare down each lecture to the core concepts you want or are required to introduce, and organize the concepts in a meaningful sequence.

provide an appealing Context for the

Concepts you highlight.

While you might find a lecture on metabolic pathways exciting, your students might learn even more if you present an absorbing case problem to which an understanding of the metabolic pathway will hold a key.

start Gradually and Then add More.

If you are comfortable with an informal style and it is acceptable at your institution, you might try introducing active learning components slowly, experimenting with different ways of teaching the material to engage students. For example, you could start by stopping your lecture for a few moments to ask students questions (which you can formulate in advance) about the content you are teaching: n

Description: What do you see? What happened?


Common purpose: What is the purpose or function of…?


Procedures: How was this done? What will have to be done?


Possibilities: What else could…? How could we…?


Prediction: What will happen next?


Justification: How can you tell? What evidence led you to…?


Rationale: Why? What is the reason?


Generalization: What is the same about…and…?

What could you generalize from these events?


Definition: What does…mean?

t e A c h i n g A n d c o u R s e d e s i g n 111

encouraging student Questions


Do not ask, “Any questions so far?” Rather, answer a question with a question to encourage students to define concepts in their own words.

For example, if a student asks, “What is polymerase chain reaction (PCR)?” answer the question. but then ask a related question that will test the student’s ability to apply the knowledge that you just gave them. “Can anyone think of why a researcher would want to use PCR?”


Encourage students to question concepts, ideas, and theories by using examples from your own research or research important in your scientific field to explain how the scientific process is carried out.


One of the problems with asking questions in class is that it can become a private conversation with just a few students who volunteer answers.

Instead, you might try asking students to write the answers individually, or to work on the answers in a group.


At the end of a class, ask students to write down two good questions or test problems related to the material you presented, and start your next lecture with a reference to those questions. You can also ask a question that can be answered by those who read the material for the next class, and then ask any student to present his or her answer at the beginning of the next session.


If home internet use is common for your students, consider using web-based resources such as a discussion board to encourage students to ask and answer each other’s questions.

use Real-world examples


Use current newspaper and magazine articles to show the relevance of the topics students are studying. For example, if you are teaching about

DNA sequencing, bring in articles about genomics and post-genomics or ask students to bring in relevant articles they may have seen.


Involve the class in assessing the biological implications of a real or planned community project, such as a plan to control communicable diseases or an animal population. Assign student groups to investigate various aspects of the project, collect data, and present evidence-based recommendations to the class.

use Technology to enhance Teaching.

If you have access to a computer or to the Internet during your class, there are ways to use technology to make classes more engaging.


Provide some historical background to key discoveries in biology by showing films or news clips of early, groundbreaking experiments.


Q u e s t i o n

how do I get students to respond to my questions and not be met with silence?

A n s w e R

Make it clear that you expect participation, but develop the patience to deal with at least 10-15 seconds of silence when you ask a question. Even if you feel frustrated when no one speaks up, refrain from answering the question yourself, or you will set the wrong tone for the rest of the course. If students are very reticent to ask and answer questions, you might try framing an opening question in the form of

“Choose one of these answers.” Call for a vote by show of hands, then ask one of the students who knew the answer to explain to the others why that answer was correct.

112 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


Integrate new media technology such as animations or virtual labs to make the subject more vivid.

Slides, photos, and film clips will also get your students’ attention and may open familiar material to surprising new questions.


Use interactive demonstrations and simulations to illustrate concepts. Or show maps, photographs, or diagrams and ask students to make their own observations and interpretations.


If you decide to use PowerPoint slides in your class, learn to make your presentations visually dynamic and engaging to students. Reading a lecture aloud from a series of slides is painfully dull for both the teacher and the students.

set the stage for active learning


Set the pattern for active participation from the very first day. Remind students of the value of active learning, ask questions that call for genuine discussion, and get students talking several times during the first session or in separate discussions later.


Learn the names of as many of your students as you can. At the first class, tell students to choose their seats for the semester and then make a seating chart, which you can study while students are working on in-class exercises.

aCTIVe leaRnInG In The lab

The teaching laboratory associated with a course is a perfect place for students to actually practice science by designing experiments, gathering and analyzing data, and presenting their findings.

If you want your students to experience the thrill of science, consider taking a different approach by either designing or adapting existing inquiry-based experiments. When they are properly designed as discovery-based learning activities, labs can provide rich learning experiences for students and can help them develop a variety of professional and technical skills.

Most inquiry-based labs begin with a question— either one generated by the teacher or by the students—that provides students with a specific issue or topic to explore. Students research the topic, offer a hypothesis, design an experiment to test the hypothesis, collect and analyze the data, and determine if their hypothesis was confirmed. The students then present and explain their findings to the class as a whole. This can be useful even when facilities and resources for doing experiments are not available. Students can be given mock data from which they can do the relevant analysis and think through results, even if it is impossible to give them a chance to collect the data themselves.

As students start to understand and apply the scientific method, they can begin to experience the rewarding pleasure of discovery. From inquirybased labs, students can also develop better communication and critical thinking skills and learn to work together as part of a problem-solving team.

Case-baseD leaRnInG

Case-based learning allows students to learn science in a very practical way, by exploring the kinds of issues they might actually confront as scientists or as physicians or engineers in practice. Students meet in small groups with a faculty member or a more advanced student, who acts as a facilitator.

They are then assigned roles, such as discussion leader, reader, scribe, or timekeeper. For each case, which they will have read and thought about ahead of time, they receive a list of objectives; a narrative description of an issue, phenomenon, or scientific advance; and a list of questions to address and problems posed by the narrative. The exercises are designed to integrate previously learned classroom material, so students are expected to refer to material they have studied before attempting to answer the questions. In addition, students are encouraged to pose hypotheses, present any new information they may have, reach conclusions as a group, and evaluate the exercise. The whole process can be done in an hour.

In this kind of learning, your role is likely to be that of a facilitator. Your goal should be to assist the student groups to function smoothly so that students can learn from one another. You should not take over and begin lecturing the small groups, but you should correct any misinformation that might arise during student discussions. t e A c h i n g A n d c o u R s e d e s i g n 113

Here are some ways you can help them learn without delivering the material yourself: n

Encourage the group to recognize and formulate problems by asking students to brainstorm and make a list of possible causes of the problem being discussed.


Give group members opportunities to demonstrate their outside reading by asking them to describe new information they might consider from other sources.


Ensure that all group members have a chance to contribute by preventing the “talkers” from answering too quickly, while encouraging quieter students to participate.


Encourage the groups to critically evaluate ideas by asking probing questions and suggesting other avenues to explore.


Provide timely, constructive feedback to help the groups analyze what went well and what went astray in their discussions, and to make sure that at the end the groups have not come to illogical or incorrect conclusions.


Model respectful and professional behavior by showing respect and support to all students while making the rules of small-group discussion very clear.

(Adapted from Guide to Small Group CBL Exercises, BMS6204: Medical

Biochemistry and Genetics, Florida State University College of Medicine.)

DeVelopInG exaMInaTIon QuesTIons

Remember that writing exam questions takes time; do not try to “throw it together” at the last minute. Before you start, make sure you ask if your institution has any established formats to which your exam questions must conform. If you have students or other trainees helping you teach the class, involve them in writing the exam or in reviewing a draft of it to make sure that your instructions are clear and that the test can be completed in the time allowed.

Your school will have its own customs and requirements for testing students’ knowledge. In some places oral exams are common; in others written ones are used nearly exclusively. Regardless of the type of exam, you should use a variety of questions to evaluate what the students have learned.

True/false Questions.

These questions lend themselves to written exams. They present a statement and ask the student to decide whether the statement is true or false. While the tests are among the easiest to write and score, they are limited in the kinds of student mastery they assess and have a relatively high probability of students guessing the right answer. “True or make true” questions, which ask the student to recognize and correct false statements, can also be useful.

short answer Questions.

These are “constructed response” or open-ended questions that ask students to create a short answer (one sentence or several sentences). In a written exam, students fill in a blank or complete a sentence. Although the questions are relatively easy to write, they are harder to score because students are free to answer the question in any way they choose.

Multiple Choice Questions.

These questions are used primarily in written exams. These present a question and ask students to choose from a list of answers. Questions can be simple statements or complex cases or scenarios that require careful consideration on the part of students. The questions can be more challenging to answer (if they require both one correct answer and several false answers that distract the student by being nearly true or by playing on a common misunderstanding of the concept), but are easy to score.

essay Questions.

These questions can be used both in written and oral exams. They allow students to focus on broad issues, general concepts, and interrelationships, rather than on specific facts or details. The advantage is that the tests allow you to see the quality and depth of each student’s thinking. However, they can be difficult and very time-consuming to score, because the answers vary in length and variety, and you might tend to give students a better grade if they have strong writing skills.

114 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

CouRse DesIGn

You may be asked to design a new course from scratch, or you may want to redesign an existing course to better suit your teaching style and knowledge or advances in your field. Course design is a complex and time-consuming undertaking, so before starting down this path, give considerable thought to how you will find the time to build the new course, how many times (if any) you will be able to substantially re-teach the same course, and whether your new course—especially if it is a significant departure from a well-loved predecessor’s course—will generate potentially damaging turbulence for you from your teaching and research colleagues. n

Clarify your department’s expectations for this course. If you are teaching a course for only one year and must hand it back to your colleague when he returns from a sabbatical, you might want to invest minimal time and effort. If you can get a commitment to teach the course for several years, revising it will make more sense.


Review and evaluate the course syllabus, lecture notes, textbooks and other assigned readings, assessment questions, and other materials the faculty member who previously taught the course will make available to you.


Review students’ final exams to learn where the course was strong or weak in teaching key concepts. If they are available, skim a few years’ worth of students’ course evaluations.


If possible, ask the faculty member who has been teaching the course to describe his or her impressions of what worked and what did not, or observe this person teaching a class and jot down your thoughts about what you would keep or change.

Determine what Changes to Make.

If you do decide to make changes to the course, figure out what and how much you want to change. Are your predecessor’s lecture notes written in a style that is similar to your own way of presenting material?

If not, spend some time editing the lectures to make them your own. Is course content basically good, but is it presented primarily in lecture form with few activities that press the students to think?

If the content of the course seems satisfactory overall, you can focus more on your presentation.

But if you think it is necessary to introduce a substantial amount of new content or make major structural changes, then it may be useful to start from the beginning and design a completely new course.

DesIGnInG a new CouRse

Creating a new course is more difficult and time-consuming than revising an existing one.

Before starting, ask yourself why you want to design a new course. Has your department or school requested that you fill a gap in the existing curriculum? Will you earn good will and be viewed as a team player if you take it on? Do you have a special research interest that is not currently represented in the curriculum?

You will face three critical decisions—what to teach, how to teach it, and how to ensure that students are learning what is being taught. Ideally, you should begin planning your course several months ahead of the term to give yourself time to order textbooks and request other resources and to prepare your course handouts. But even if you are asked to develop a new course at the last minute, you can still use many of the planning guidelines described below.

Decide what to Teach.

Determine how the course relates to other courses in the department’s curriculum by asking these questions: n

Will the course be required before students can register for higher-level courses? If so, talk to the instructors of the advanced courses to see what kinds of knowledge and skills they expect from students who will have taken your course, and make sure you are covering that material well.


Is it an advanced course? If so, talk to the instructors who are teaching the basic courses that students will have taken before yours so that you can better understand what skills and knowledge students will have when entering your course.

t e A c h i n g A n d c o u R s e d e s i g n 115


Are there curriculum changes underway that might affect your course? If, for example, your school is considering new approaches—such as doing away with introductory biology and chemistry and replacing them with a multidisciplinary life sciences course—you will want to keep that long-term plan in mind. Knowing how your course fits into the entire structure of the students’ education is important, and will call for discussions with other faculty and perhaps a collaborative or interdisciplinary approach.

Establish content goals. Identify three to five general goals (e.g., “understanding the concept basics of metabolism”) for the course that will explain what you want your students to know and be able to do when the course is over. If you include non-content goals (such as “work conducted collaboratively with other students”), keep in mind that they are harder to assess.

Identify major course themes. These principles or fundamental postulates lend continuity to and provide perspective on the entire course. For example, a year-long course in introductory biology might involve three broad themes: information and evolution in living systems, development and homeostasis, and energy and resources.

Identify core concepts within your major themes.

Try to provide a balance of concrete information and abstract concepts, and balance material that emphasizes practical problem-solving with material that emphasizes fundamental understanding.

Define the objectives of individual units or lessons.

For example, one objective might be that students will be able to propose tests of evolutionary hypotheses or critique arguments pertaining to evolutionary evidence. Such definitions will help structure the content of each lesson

Determine how to Teach It.

Determine the general structure of your course. Ask yourself these kinds of questions: n

What combination of lecture and homework assignments, labs, seminars, and journal club do you want to use?


What will be the balance of faculty lecture and other teaching methods, including student presentations, group projects, or laboratory work, in the course?


Do you want to, or are you required to include other faculty presenters?


Will any class sessions be filled by field trips, movies, or other non-speaker events?

Select resources. Choose textbooks and journal articles. Use letterhead to contact publishers for review copies (some publishers will send you a free sample of their textbook on request if you are teaching at an established institution). If you will be able to use a computer in your presentations to the class, investigate the use of technology enhancements such as animations, videos, simulations, or virtual labs. Make sure the textbooks match your idea of the course’s goals and objectives, or be prepared to tell students how to make the best use of the reading resources. Think about guest speakers or faculty members who might be appropriate and willing to teach several classes.

Determine what other resources you need, such as students or trainees to help you teach student labs or grade homework and examinations, teaching laboratory space, supplies, library resources, and student textbooks if those are provided by the institution. Find out what you must to ensure that all of the needed items, people, and resources are in place.

If you plan to have a Web site for your course, familiarize yourself with your institution’s procedures for placing material online.

Based on the goals of the course, determine how you will assess student learning for each goal.

You can use active assessments, as well as more traditional quizzes, in-class or at-home examinations, papers, problem sets, in-class presentations, and projects.

Divide the course into manageable pieces, perhaps punctuated by examinations if having several examinations per course is customary at your institution. Divide the larger units into individual class sessions with objectives, methods, and evaluations for each. Choose activities for each class and create a table or grid for each class to plan those elements. Pay attention to major holidays: if most students will go home for a few days, think about whether your planned schedule will lead to poor performance by students who may be rushing to go home or may return unprepared.

116 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

Check your college or university’s calendar. Look for exam dates, holidays, and other events that might affect class schedules. Try to avoid having sessions that cover related material span major holidays.

Look at existing syllabi (course agendas) to get an idea of the appropriate format at your school. They may typically include: n

Name of the course, number of credits, classroom meeting place and time, and semester and year the course is to be given.


Name and contact information for you and any other faculty involved.


Course Web site, if there is one.


A brief course description and statement of overall course goals.


A brief statement of objectives.


A description of course format.


A statement of assessment techniques.


A schedule of class dates and topics.


A schedule of due dates for papers, tests, and projects.


Pertinent information about academic policies and procedures such as class attendance, make-up assignments, late work, group projects, and grading.

Determine if students are learning.

Feedback can be obtained by reviewing student performance, from student evaluations, from informal consultations with students, and from evaluations from your peers. You might also want to have an informal consultation with a trusted senior teacher who you have recruited to help you as you start your own teaching career. It might be useful to conduct such evaluations periodically during the course, particularly if it is a new one.

(Sources: Hingorani, Manju. “Course Planning and Teaching,” Davis,

Barbara Gross. “Preparing or Revising a Course,” Tools for Teaching. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.)

Once you have taught your course, you will probably want to revise it based on your sense of whether the objectives were met and on feedback from students and colleagues. But resist the urge to change or correct everything all at once.

Instead, make small adjustments over time.

TeaChInG oTheRs To TeaCh

If you are teaching a large course with assistants who will handle laboratory instruction or grading, do not expect them to be comfortable using teaching techniques they have never experienced as students. If they will be presenting lectures or speaking during laboratory sessions, demonstrate the teaching techniques you expect them to use, having your assistants standing in for the students for the purpose of the demonstration. You may spend only an hour running through a few examples, but it could make the difference between your teaching assistants shying away from your methods and being willing to use them.


Help teaching assistants understand that teaching is an experimental situation, and emphasize that they do not have to be perfect teachers. Teachers can continue to experiment and revise their courses, even after years in the classroom.


Visit sections led by teaching assistants often, and offer useful feedback in private soon after your visit.


Before allowing others to grade papers for you, circulate a sample of papers and have each assistant grade them independently using a rubric developed in advance. Meet with the graders, all together if possible, to discuss the answers and talk about how to resolve differences in how the graders may be viewing the questions.


Tell your assistants to come to you when serious problems arise, such as encountering students with obvious behavior or psychological problems.


Be sure to brief your teaching assistants on professional standards of behavior, which may vary from place to place. These often include standards regarding fairness and confidentiality, as well as policies regarding acceptable levels of socializing between teachers (including assistants) and students. For example, is dating allowed between students and their graders? It may also be important to give them some guidance on conducting meetings with students. For example, in some places it is common for students and teachers to meet only in offices with the doors open and other people around, so that there can be no claims of inappropriate behavior.

t e A c h i n g A n d c o u R s e d e s i g n 117

A R e L A x e d f o R m A t f o R t A L k i n g A b o u t s c i e n c e

start a monthly film club.

Invite your laboratory group to watch and discuss a science-related movie.

Though there are many wonderful educational films, this works even better with an entertaining cinematic movie. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has run a “Science in the Cinema” activity for those who live near its Bethesda, Maryland campus since 1994, and has a long list of movies— mostly box office hits—and resource materials that will add to a lively discussion. The list can be found at http://science.education.nih.gov/cinema.

More advice on creating a culture of teaching in your lab can be found in chapter 10, “Expanding Your

Influence: Training the Next Generation of Scientists.”

CReaTInG a leaRnInG enVIRonMenT In youR lab

In a very real sense, your laboratory is also a class- room—one in which the scientific process often results in something new, exciting, or unexpected.

In the lab, as in the classroom, you will often want to avoid lecturing and giving trainees answers too quickly, and will instead prefer to emphasize questions and encourage reflection. You can create a culture of learning in your lab for all trainees by using some of the teaching strategies described above, and by encouraging members of your lab group to learn from each other.

start a Journal Club.

Journal clubs are a great way to examine current literature and to let those just starting in the lab know that there are many questions left to be answered. Ask a member of the lab to select an original peer-reviewed journal article, distribute it in advance to the group, prepare an introduction to the paper, and provide any relevant or background information. If you have a large group, lab members can break up into smaller groups to discuss research-related issues

(How good is the data? Should more experiments have been done?), then reconvene and share their thoughts with the group as a whole. While your students are learning about experimental design and other research issues, they will also be learning to collaborate and communicate.

Ideally, journal club should be held on a weekly basis, but if that is not possible, one good way to keep everyone up on current literature is to ask each member of the group to present briefly the abstract of at least one paper at the beginning of weekly lab meetings. (See chapter 4, page 58.)

TIMe ManaGeMenT when balanCInG TeaChInG anD ReseaRCh

The amount of time you devote to developing or teaching a course will depend in part on the priority your institution places on teaching. If your institution considers research its top priority, keep in mind that although you will want to be the best teacher you can in the time allowed, you should not permit your teaching obligations to undercut your commitment to research. Volunteer to teach the courses your department or institute particularly needs but are not as difficult to teach—that way you can legitimately say, “Sorry, I am already committed” when you are asked to teach a course that would be more time-consuming to develop or teach.

Even if you cannot reduce the number of hours, perhaps you could stack your teaching load so that you teach all of your classes in one semester and arrange to have a term with no teaching. You might also ask to teach multiple sections of the same course to reduce your preparation time, and request graduate assistants to help you grade exams. At the very least, you should try to clarify your teaching load. How many classes will you have each term? What are typical enrollments in each class? How much time will you be expected to spend advising students or supervising theses or dissertations? Does supervising undergraduate research count as teaching? How much credit do you receive for teaching the lab sections of a course? Armed with such knowledge, you might be able to make trade-offs that help you manage your teaching load more effectively.

118 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

borrow, adapt and Recycle.


Teach the same course several times, so that you are just making adjustments to it rather than starting from scratch every year.


Teach a course previously taught by someone who is willing to lend you copies of his or her notes, exams, and homework assignments.


Borrow or adapt high-quality curricula that are already available. Curricula and sometimes lectures from courses from universities worldwide are collected at the Open Courseware Consortium’s

Web site, http://www.ocwconsortium.org. Links include the more than 1800 courses now online from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the courses of the UK’s Open University, materials from several Spanish, Mexican and Colombian universities, a translation project rendering materials into Portuguese, and technical courses from 11 universities in Paris.

Know yourself.


Consider your personal rhythms. If you have any influence over scheduling, choose a class that does not completely disrupt your day. For example, you could teach two back-to-back classes or schedule days without classes to help you find time for your research.


Set realistic limits on your own class preparation and do not be a perfectionist.

The TeaChInG poRTfolIo

You want to make sure that your teaching successes are favorably considered as part of your promotion review. One way to do this is to develop a teaching portfolio. This document is an important asset—not only for your career, but also for your own professional development. Compiling your portfolio will force you to reflect on your teaching, so that you can continue to analyze and improve it.

While there are many ways to compile a teaching portfolio and many items you might include, typical portfolios include a personal statement about your teaching philosophy, evidence of your teaching, and supporting materials. Unlike your scientific CV, which lists all publications you have ever written, the teaching portfolio is more selective and has been compared to an artist’s portfolio—a sampling of the breadth and depth of your work.

sample Teaching portfolio

A teaching portfolio includes these items: n

personal Material:

A short statement

of your teaching philosophy, a broader

statement of your teaching responsibili-

ties, representative course syllabi, and

steps you have taken to enhance your

teaching skills or background knowledge.


Materials from others:

Student and

course evaluation data from present

and former classes, statements from

colleagues who have observed your

classroom teaching, statements from

teaching assistants (TAs) you have

supervised, and any honors or other

recognition you received for teaching.


products of Teaching:

Student scores

on class, departmental, and national

certification exams, samples of student

work, and testimonials from alumni or

employers of former students.

While the list might seem overwhelming at first and could take years to develop to the fullest, it is manageable if you take it in steps. The most important thing is to start collecting and organizing information related to your teaching philosophy and accomplishments and to start compiling those materials in a box, a loose-leaf notebook,or another format that can easily be updated and supplemented.

Becoming a good teacher may seem like a lot of work with little reward, but remember that your research and teaching careers can work hand in hand. Your research can inform your teaching, and your teaching can inform your research.

Learning to be an effective teacher is worth the time and effort. Not only will you be instrumental in inspiring and educating a new generation of scientists, but you will also enhance your own skills, confidence, and creativity. Remember, too, that teaching can be a stabilizing force in your life, especially if your research becomes discouraging or you lose ground in the laboratory. The time you t e A c h i n g A n d c o u R s e d e s i g n 119

spend in preparing an effective course with activelearning activities can give great personal rewards, as your students demonstrate their knowledge on a test or tell you that for the first time they really understand DNA structure and function.

Since teaching is one of the three pillars on which decisions about tenure and certain grants are made, your success in teaching and course design will only improve your chances of having a long, productive, and well-funded career in academia.

Resources for undergraduate biology

Go to http://www.hhmi.org/research/

professors/ for an array of courses, hightech tools, and other resources developed by accomplished research scientists (who are also gifted teachers) through grants from HHMI’s Professors Program.


Brinkley, Alan, et al. The Chicago Handbook for Teachers:

A Practical Guide to the College Classroom. Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Handelsman, Jo, Sarah Miller Lauffer, and Christine Pfund.

Scientific Teaching: A Guide to Transforming Undergraduate

Biology Education. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman, 2006.

McKeachie, Wilbert J., et al. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips:

Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University

Teachers. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Reis, Richard M. Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for

Academic Careers in Science and Engineering. Piscataway,

NJ: IEEE Press, 1997.

Hingorani, Manju. “Course Planning and Teaching,”

Davis, Barbara Gross. “Preparing or Revising a Course,

Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.


BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium, http://bioquest.org.

Center for Faculty Excellence, University of North Carolina,


Curran-Everett, Douglas. “Learning How to Teach: How to

Do It and Why You Want To,” ScienceCareers.org, http://

sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_ issues/articles/1999_11_12/noDOI.4933230686003237261.

Davis, Barbara Gross. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass, 1993. “Quizzes, Tests and Exams” chapter,


Davis, Barbara Gross. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass, 1993. “Preparing or Revising a Course” chapter, http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/prepare.html.

Davis, Barbara Gross. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass, 1993. “Preparing to Teach the Large Lecture

Course,” chapter, http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/largelec-


Drummond, Tom. “A Brief Summary of the Best Practices in Teaching,” http://webshare.northseattle.edu/ecepro-


Harvard Medical School Case Studies. http://brighamrad.


Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Biointeractive.

Virtual labs, animations, and other resources.


Kuther, Tara. “Teaching 101” Science.Careers.org,

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/ previous_issues/articles/2240/teaching_101.

National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.


National Science Digital Library, a free online resource for education and research in science, technology, mathematics and engineering. http://nsdl.org/resources_


Reis, Richard M. “How to Get All-Important Teaching Experience,” Chronicle of Higher Education’s Career Network.


Rodriguez-Farrar, Hannelore B. “The Teaching Portfolio,”

Harriet W. Sheridan Center, Brown University. www.brown.


The Active Learning Site. A comprehensive bibliography of articles about active learning. http://www.active-learning-


University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning.

“Suggestions for Effective Lecture Preparation and Delivery”

http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/resources/guides/ effective/index.html.

University of Texas at Austin Center for Teaching Effectiveness. Preparing a Teaching Portfolio, A Guidebook. http://


120 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h A p t e R 9

InCReasInG youR IMpaCT:

GeTTInG publIsheD

A w o R d A f t e R A w o R d A f t e R A w o R d i s p o w e R .

m A r g A r e t A t w o o d

Having an internationally recognized role in advancing science requires that you make your name familiar to people far from your own backyard. Science is not an exclusive club, but as in most human activities, people will be more open to you and your work when they know you. The published literature is the major route by which other scientists will come to have that critical sense of familiarity that will make you a “known factor” and a welcomed colleague to other researchers around the world.

Your scientific success hinges on several factors.

Your ability to produce a body of publications that your colleagues will notice and respect is the key to your success. Granting agencies, other journals, and your peers around the world look at your publication record as proof of your research accomplishments. The importance of publishing excellent work in well-regarded international journals cannot be overstated. No other way of becoming well known matters as much.

For your career to really flow well, you must also develop into a recognized local, regional and national authority. If your work is known in

London, Washington, Paris and Geneva, but utterly unfamiliar to those who make decisions about the course of science at your own institution or in your own country, your career progress will likely stall. At the same time, the people you train, the work they do with you, and the work they may someday do on their own extend your ideas and your influence in the scientific community at home and far away.

unDeRsTanDInG publIshInG

Once you have completed several years of graduate school or medical school and postdoctoral research, you should be familiar with writing scientific papers and the peer review process for scientific publishing. But you may not yet have been able to publish in the high-impact, mostly international journals that will build your reputation.

To call a journal “high impact” is a description not only of its prestige and quality, but also of how far into the consciousness of scientists around the world ideas published in it go. This chapter provides some tips on planning for publication, and some tricks of the trade to help you get your work out in front of other scientists. i n c R e A s i n g y o u R i m p A c t : g e t t i n g p u b L i s h e d 121

The publIshInG pRoCess

Types of Journals.

Within the broad category of peer-reviewed journals, individual journals vary in the audience they try to reach and the scope of coverage they provide. Local journals are often not

“indexed”, which means that they are not entered into the searchable mainstream of the scientific literature where other researchers can discover them. Publishing in un-indexed journals thus does little to advance your career outside your own country. However, there are efforts underway to strengthen the peer review infrastructure of the best un-indexed journals—many of them in the southern hemisphere—so that they can become indexed.

Within indexed journals, there is a range of types.

Some journals—for example, the top-tier journals

Science and Nature—focus on a broad scientific audience. Others are deliberately narrower in scope, publishing research within a scientific specialty. Most journals are published in English and have a broader readership, but many are published in other languages and are primarily read within a single field or subfield of science. Within each group of journals there is a hierarchy in terms of how highly regarded each journal is. One of the crude measures of a journal’s value is its impact factor—a measure of how frequently papers published in that journal are cited in other journals

(see “A Word About Impact Factors,” page 124).

The more prestigious and high-impact the journal, the more competitive its publication process is.

Though there is great prestige in Science, Nature, or other top-tier journals, not every paper belongs there. Science and Nature are both weekly magazines that not only transmit science but also carry news each week. Their content is meant to be science that is especially interesting to a broad audience, and throughout the year they often have thematic issues highlighting some particular scientific topic. Much of any scientist’s work is not broadly interesting as a piece of news, but rather represents advancement of an ongoing story, and is not appropriate for these publications. Even exciting, unexpected results may be turned down

The most important advice I would like to share with researchers just beginning their independent careers is that the phrase ‘publish or perish’ is not just an overused cliché. The only way that people will know about your work is to have it published. Publishing first-authored papers in high-impact medical journals like Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine contributed tremendously to my reputation as an established independent researcher. In publishing, think more about quality than quantity of publications.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

if the magazines have recently run a paper on a similar topic. Getting an excellent review but not an acceptance from one of these publications is good news, not a cause for disappointment. And getting an acceptance is even better.

Work that can be published in an indexed journal should be, because that is the best way for it to be read by other scientists. But unindexed local and regional journals should not necessarily be ignored.

Your work may be important for researchers and clinicians in your region to know about, and should

free Journals for Developing Countries

The Health InterNetwork Access to

Research Initiative (HINARI), a partnership between WHO and scientific publishers, makes free access to biomedical literature available to low-income countries. More than 2000 journals from more than 70 scientific publishers, including very high impact groups like Elsevier, Springer-Verlag, and John Wiley, are available through this program.

More information is available at


122 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

be published in the journals that they read. If your work is published in an indexed journal, you should discuss with the editor the possibility of reporting the results in local journals by re-publishing data from the papers.

If you get permission to republish the data, you must make clear to local journal editors and readers that the data has already appeared in print, or you may be viewed as unethical.

Communication formats.

In scientific journals, primary research holds center stage, although significant space is often allocated to news, reviews, and commentaries. Depending on how complete the study is and how big a story the work to be published tells, original research can be published in a variety of formats, including full-length articles, brief communications, technical comments, or even letters to the editor.

As a beginning investigator, you should concentrate on getting your research published as peer-reviewed, full-length articles whenever possible. Technical comments and letters to the editor count for very little in most fields.

A well-written and useful review may be worth the investment of your time, particularly if you have already collected all of the relevant literature that should be summarized. However, a review does not carry the weight of original research, and is not as valuable to you in the long run as a paper that reports original research. Generally, a journal editor will invite you to submit a review. The invitations are based in large part on the potential author’s reputation in the relevant field. You may also contact editors yourself and propose writing a review on the strength of your unique perspective on a field. Again, your reputation will be a major selling point to the journal’s editor in considering your proposal of a review. Good reviews tend to get cited frequently by other scientists, which would increase your citation index (a measure of how many researchers cite your work). It is a “which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” situation.

How can you get known if becoming better known requires being known?

If you have a colleague or collaborator who has gotten a foot in the door and established himself or herself in the literature, you might approach that person with the idea of writing a review together should the opportunity arise. This could benefit both of you. Reviews are extremely laborintensive, so many authors who do get invited to write them are happy to have a willing partner who wants to do some of the hard work.

To write a good review, you need the breadth and depth of knowledge that generally come only with long experience and from knowing a lot of scientists working in a field who will share unpublished data with you. Partnering with a better-established scientist can help you gain connections to those other researchers and their unpublished data. It can be a great opportunity for becoming better known to a broad group of the people whose work is moving science forward. But be careful

—a review that reveals your lack of expertise or shows that your collaborator was not careful in his or own review of the field could be embarrassing and career-damaging. You should only take on a task like this when you know you have the time and energy to do it well.

As your career progresses, you may want to consider other opportunities to express your views

—in letters, comments, and discussions of scientific trends. Many readers of the good journals peruse this “front matter,” and contributing to it gives you quick and wide visibility. In the very highest of the top-tier journals, however, front matter tends to be commissioned by the editors, leaving the letters to the editor section the only place where you have a chance to get your name in print if you have not yet established a reputation.

The editors.

Some journal editors are professional editors who trained as scientists but no longer work in a lab, or who trained as writers or editors and have chosen to become specialists in scientific publication. Others are scientists who have their own research programs but also serve as editors for a period of time. Journals such as Cell, Science,

Nature, and PLoS Biology are staffed by professional editors. When speaking to a professional i n c R e A s i n g y o u R i m p A c t : g e t t i n g p u b L i s h e d 123

A w o R d A b o u t i m p A c t f A c t o R s

The impact factor, which is published in the “Journal Citation Report” issued by Thompson Reuters, is one of several types of data regarding the communications of scientists. Thompson Reuters publishes the Science Citation Index, the thick, cross-referenced directories of all of the science published in a given field in a given year, once commonly found in scientific and technical libraries. The Science

Citation Index is still produced, but is now more likely to be found in electronic form (either as DVDs or as the online resource SciSearch) than as a row of thick books. The impact factor, which is updated annually, is a calculated number that reflects how frequently the “average article” in a given journal gets cited. It is calculated by dividing the number of current year citations by the number of citable items published in that journal during the previous two years.

Although the impact factor is often used to provide a gross approximation of the prestige and intellectual reach of a journal, many other factors can influence a journal’s impact and ranking. For example, review articles are generally cited more frequently than research articles, because they often serve as surrogates for earlier literature, especially in journals that discourage extensive bibliographies.

Therefore, the inclusion of review articles in a journal will increase its impact factor.

There is a strong bias against publications—many of them outside the axis of strong science-producing countries—that take several years to publish papers. This bias occurs because the window through which the impact factor looks—a period of two years—can miss the slower evolution of citations in journals where papers are considerably delayed.

Other methods of measuring citations are used by other indexing efforts, including Google Scholar and the scholarly publishers group CrossRef. The United Kingdom Serials Group is promoting the “usage factor” (http://www.uksg.org/usagefactors), and Google has developed its own calculation, the “Y factor” (http://arxiv.org/abs/cs.DL/0601030), as a rubric for gauging the visibility and influence of a published work. The “h-index,” which ranks researchers by a combination of number of papers and how often the papers are cited, was developed by theoretical physicist Jorge Hirsch to rank researchers in that field and was published in the prestigious journal PNAS, where, perhaps predictably, it has been highly cited. Though the order of journals in these indexes may vary, they all illustrate that some journals will show off your work better than others.

editor about your work, be sure to take the time to highlight the general interest of your paper and explain the nuances of the science. An editor who is also an active researcher is more likely to already know these things, but short introductions to your work and why it matters are always helpful.

plannInG foR publICaTIon

Because publishing original research papers is critical to your career, this section focuses on submitting and publishing these types of papers.

Knowing when to publish your Research.

Your institution may have some guidelines about how many papers you are expected to publish in a given number of years. Or publication may be a rare event where you work. Make sure you understand what your institution expects your rate of publication to be, and also that you understand what the “goal line” is, and how much publishing matters with regard to whether you are judged to be successful by your own organization. At a well-established research institute, the standard may be seeing some number of articles in print.

At an ambitious new institute, submitting papers may be the current benchmark—actually seeing them in print at some given rate may be the rule

124 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

in a few years, but for today, just sending more of them out is what is expected. At an institution that is focused almost entirely on teaching, work toward publishing may be valued, or it may be seen as a distraction that takes you away from activities that those who will judge your success value more.

If you want to have an internationally respected career, you must publish. However, if you are at an institution that does not value publishing or does not push researchers to publish, make sure that you are excelling at doing the things that the institution expects you to do, and then work on your publishing on top of that.

If you have scientists training in your lab who want to pursue research careers, each of them is under similar pressure to publish. To obtain research positions of their own in the near future, they themselves will need to be working, as you are, to establish a strong publication record. If you encourage them and help them toward that goal, it will enhance your own publication record and multiply your success.

Research projects usually have natural points when it makes sense to publish (see “Creating an

Integrated Research and Publication Plan,” page

126). However, you may want to write up your results before you reach that point. If there is competition in your field and you wait to publish, you run the risk of being “scooped.” When you are scooped—when someone else publishes the story before you can—you will at best be able to place your work in a journal that is not as prestigious as the one you had initially envisioned; at worst may find yourself unable to publish it at all. If you delay publishing until you obtain the complete set of results needed to dissect an entire phenomenon, you may get scooped and/or you may publish at a rate that will disappoint your institution. You want to publish good, solid, complete stories, but if you wait to tell the whole story in a single publication, you risk the rest of science passing you by. A topic that is very interesting to much of the world this year may be virtually unpublishable two years from now, simply because the topic has been


In the top-tier journals, there are definite fashions, and even more modest journals may view a great paper on an out-of-date topic as being derivative or a footnote to a story that has already passed by.

You will need to balance several considerations in deciding when to publish, but if you have a choice, it is a good idea to resist the temptation to rush into print. Remember, the quality of your publications is what matters most in the long run. A paper that is incomplete or carelessly put together is less likely to be accepted for publication, and having written it will have been an inefficient use of your time.

Even worse, publishing incorrect results or shoddy analysis will damage your reputation among your colleagues, in your institution and elsewhere.

ChoosInG a JouRnal

Most scientific papers published today have multiple authors. All authors typically want to publish in the most prestigious journal that is likely to accept their paper, but views on which journal is best will differ, especially if there are other groups working on the problem and a rejection from a high-profile journal would leave you behind in the race to get your results into print. You may want to take into consideration the suggestions of students and scientists training in your lab, but if you are the senior author, you are generally the one who makes the final decision. Decisions about where to publish may become even more complex when two or more laboratories have contributed to the work, or when one author is more tolerant of the risk of being scooped than the others are.

Here are some questions that can help guide your decision: n

Are my results sufficiently groundbreaking, and do they have enough general appeal, to be considered by one of the top-tier scientific journals? Do I have a larger story that makes my results really exciting?


Even if my results are not earth-shattering, have

I taken an interdisciplinary approach, making the findings interesting to scientists in several fields and therefore appropriate for a general journal?

i n c R e A s i n g y o u R i m p A c t : g e t t i n g p u b L i s h e d 125

c R e A t i n g A n i n t e g R A t e d

R e s e A R c h A n d p u b L i c A t i o n p L A n

There is a balance to be struck between trying to produce a “dream paper” that may never get done and sending out a set of fragmentary observations. One way to find this balance is to integrate your plans for publication into your research plans. In her book At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator, Kathy

Barker suggests strategies for doing this. As you decide on the long-term goals of your research and on the series of experiments or calculations you want to undertake, Barker suggests that you envision these experiments or calculations as components of a published manuscript or series of manuscripts.

Think graphically; imagine how each set of results will be displayed in a figure, graph, or table. Put your ideas in writing at the outset, sketching out the hypotheses you want to pursue, the methods you intend to use, and the results you hope to get. By integrating research planning, the development of graphic images of your data, and the work of interpretive writing, you force yourself to focus your energy in a way that will move your project forward. The questions you generate as you analyze and write up the results of each experiment should suggest additional clarifying experiments, the results of which you should also express graphically. As you write, you will uncover gaps in information and shaky conclusions and will be able to do experiments that make the work stronger. Eventually, you should be able to decide that you have a set of results that warrants publication.


If my results are primarily of interest to my particular scientific specialty, which journals reach the members of that specialty? Within this group, which journal or journals have included articles on my particular subject area in the past couple of years?


Would any journal be particularly interested in my subject because it fits into a theme it has been pursuing? Some journals, and some editors, pursue their own special interests over time.

The top-tier journals receive far more submissions than they can publish. For example, Nature rejects about 95% of the biomedical papers it receives.

Be realistic about your chances. You will lose precious time submitting your paper to the wrong journal.

It helps to ask trusted colleagues where they think your paper should appear. If they are frequent reviewers for several journals in your field, they will have a good idea of what the standards are for each journal.

Making your pitch.

To make sure you write your paper for the right journal, you may want to submit an initial query to your target journal to gauge its interest in your work. Most journals have guidelines for submitting so-called presubmission inquiries. This information can often be found on the journal’s Web site. If the journal does not provide guidelines, send an email to one of the editors, who are usually listed near the front of the journal and frequently can be found in the electronic version of English language journals by searching for the word “masthead” (the name for the box that contains such information) at the journal’s Web site. Try to find out the name of the editor who handles papers in your area of interest.

A pre-submission inquiry usually includes: n

An abstract stating the purpose of the project, methods, and main findings and conclusions. This abstract can be slightly longer than the abstract of a typical research paper and may include citations of relevant journal literature. Make sure that the abstract is clear to non-specialists and that they will be able to understand what the scientific advance is.

126 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


A cover letter briefly describing what questions led you to your research project, what you did, why you think your findings or methodology are significant, how your findings advance the field, and why they are of special interest to that journal’s readers.

Limit the cover letter to no more than 500 words.

If English is not your first language and you are pitching your manuscript to an English language journal, make sure the abstract and cover letter are clearly written and that there are no grammatical errors. There are many companies that specialize in editing English manuscripts written by authors who are strongest in other languages.

Their services are expensive, but having the input of people with good command of a language you may not know perfectly can make the difference between a paper being read or not read by the editors. If you have a colleague who is a good writer, has English as a first language, and is willing to help you, take advantage of the offer.

Remember to thank him or her in the acknowledgements section of the paper.

Pre-submission inquiries are typically considered within a few days at the top-tier English language journals, but consideration times can vary widely from journal to journal. When making your submission, it is fine to email the journal’s editor to ask about the expected time frame for reviewing the manuscript and accepting or declining the submission. When that time has elapsed, follow up with a telephone call or email to the editor. If you make this second contact by phone, use the opportunity to make your pitch a second time using the same kind of persuasive arguments you used in your cover letter. Be sure to allude to the larger context of your research—the big picture that makes your particular effort meaningful.

You can expect a reply of either “we’re not interested” or “send the full manuscript.” A positive response to a pre-submission inquiry is not a guarantee that the manuscript will be sent out for formal peer review. The editor will want to see the actual paper before making that decision.

wRITInG youR papeR

Once you have decided where you want to submit your manuscript, review the journal’s editorial guidelines (available from the journal’s Web site or directly from the editor) and follow them carefully.

Pick the type of paper that is most appropriate for the story you want to tell. For example, a “note” might be described by a journal as a 1000-word paper with no more than three figures, while a

“report” might be one of 5000 words and up to twelve figures. Which fits your data more comfortably? You might think of each figure as a distinctive verse in a song. Are you singing a quick, light tune, or a lengthy historical ballad?

Either size of paper is good, but you want to choose the right size before you proceed.

Once you have decided what kind of paper to write, print or make copies of a few different examples of that kind of paper from the journal and analyze them. How much room does each devote to the introduction? Is the methods and materials section finely detailed or nearly perfunctory? Is the discussion mixed in with the results or does it stand by itself? Summarize your analysis of the examples and use the summary as a guide for outlining your own paper.

The main consideration when writing a paper is to clearly describe your most important findings and their impact in your field. Do not let your manuscript look like a compilation of lab data; make sure the reader can understand how you have advanced the field of research. But do not overdo it—claiming that your work is more important than it really is earns little more than contempt from reviewers.

If you are the primary scientifically trained person involved in generating the data, write the paper’s first draft yourself. But if the data has been generated by a student or scientist working under you, you might assign the task of writing the first draft of the paper to the student or scientist in your lab who did the work. That person should be the first author and you should take the role of senior author. In the life sciences, this is usually the last name among the authors listed. If someone senior to you at your institution will be senior author, you i n c R e A s i n g y o u R i m p A c t : g e t t i n g p u b L i s h e d 127

may need to take the first author position yourself, especially if you are early in your career and building your reputation. Generally, in multi-author papers the first and final names on the list are the ones the reader will remember.

This is a sticky problem, since often among the multiple authors there are more than two people who have worked hard to generate the data and the thinking necessary to tell the story, and who need the benefits that come from taking one of these positions. It will be important for the people you train to get first authorships themselves.

If someone above you at your institute always takes one of the prestige spots and you need to take the other one, over time it will be very hard for your students to advance. But as a young researcher, it may be dangerous for you to argue against this situation. As your own career advances and your reputation becomes solid, you may be able to move yourself to second-to-last authorship, so that your trainees can shine. Over time your international colleagues, funders, and journal editors should come to view you as senior.

Compliance with the authorship criteria of the

International Committee of Medical Journal

Editors and the implementation of a memorandum of initiation for each project, in which the roles of participants and the principles for determining order of authorship are stated, can diminish the worry, hard feelings, and sense of inequality that can come when distributing authorship, which is a fundamentally important and greatly coveted form of recognition. (See chapter 4, pages 63-65, for more discussion of authorship.)

The author who has actually done the hands-on work should be the person to prepare the figures, tables, and legends first, because a scientific paper is best written with the final form of the data in front of the writer. Then work with the author to get the paper into shape. Although this may not be the most efficient way to write a paper—there will be times when you could do it yourself much faster—it is important for people you have trained to gain experience and feedback on writing papers.

Once you have a good first draft, send it to colleagues in your field and in your department for review. Have it proofread by someone in your lab with access to your data and the documents you have cited. The last thing you want to do is to appear careless; doing so will raise suspicions about the quality of all of your work. It is also a good idea to give the paper to someone outside your field to see whether they understand its importance. As mentioned in the section above, if the journal is not in your first language, it is a good idea to ask a friend or colleague who is a native or near-native speaker of the language for help.

If your speaking skills in that language are truly excellent but you struggle with the rules of its grammar, reading the paper aloud can make any written errors more obvious. This is true for native speakers as well.

The “who writes the manuscript” problem is not trivial. I personally like to write the draft of every graduate student’s first paper. For [the student’s] second paper, he or she writes the first draft. Postdocs always write their first drafts. Sometimes it is more difficult to edit or change a draft written by someone else than writing the draft directly oneself.

alberto Kornblihtt, argentina

In terms of other principles I would comment that because thesis research is by definition the original research of the student, the student should have the opportunity to be the first author of the publication of this work. If the student is unable to draft the manuscript within a reasonable and, ideally, pre-established period of time, then first authorship may correspond to the investigator who assumes the writing of the paper.

nancy Gore saravia, Colombia

128 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

Three particularly difficult parts of a paper to write are the title, abstract, and cover letter. n

Title and Abstract.

Create these two elements after the manuscript is complete. The title should summarize the take-home message of your paper.

The abstract should briefly summarize the paper and should stand on its own. Describe the experimental question, the methods, the main results, and the conclusion. Unless the main point of the paper is description of a new technique, methods in the abstract should be limited to a sentence or a few words. Keep in mind that the abstract will announce the existence of your work to people who may not have time to read your paper. If the abstract attracts their attention, they could be induced to read your article rather than passing on to the next abstract. Also note that your title and abstract will be used as the basic tools for the retrieval of your paper from electronic and paper libraries.


Cover Letter.

The cover letter should explain why the paper is significant and why you think it is appropriate for the journal to which you are submitting it. The letter should cite a major question in your field and describe how your work helps answer it. You may want to cite other papers the journal has published in this field, or provide other reasons why the journal’s readership would find your work of interest. The letter of introduction is the place to mention whether there is competition in the field that could lead to your being “scooped.” You may also include a list of colleagues who have reviewed the paper and any information necessary to ensure a fair review process. Most journals will give you an opportunity to suggest people who are qualified to comment on your work and to exclude one or two particular individuals who may be competitors and should not be reading about your work before it is published.

Many books and articles that explain how to write scientific papers are available in print and online.

Some are listed in “Resources” at the end of this chapter.

subMITTInG youR papeR

Most major journals now require that manuscripts be submitted electronically through the journal’s

Web site. Each journal has its own requirements, such as preferred file formats for text and figures and the procedures for uploading files. Consult the journal’s Web site for specific instructions and be sure to follow them. If you have poor internet connectivity, it may be a good idea to burn the paper to a CD or copy it onto a flash drive and take it to a place where the connection is more reliable. If your available internet connections are very unreliable, you should follow up with an email to the editor enquiring whether the attachments arrived intact.

Regardless of whether they receive a paper manuscript or an electronic version, most journal editors will let you know that they have received your manuscript and how long you can expect the review process to be.

naVIGaTInG The ReVIew pRoCess

If you submit your manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the reviewers will be chosen by the journal’s editor, who will take into account any names you have suggested, his or her own knowledge of the field, and a literature search.

Receiving the Reviewers’ Comments.

A paper is rarely accepted after the first round of review.

When you receive the editorial decision and the reviewers’ comments, you will have to decide how to proceed. If the paper is rejected, print the rejection notice and set it aside. Rejection is never easy. A few hours later, after you have had a chance to adjust your thinking to the inevitable need to clear a new hurdle, read the letter slowly and carefully to see what it is saying. Ignore for a moment, if you can, the comments about the science and look instead for the editor’s signals about what you should do next. i n c R e A s i n g y o u R i m p A c t : g e t t i n g p u b L i s h e d 129

s u b m i t t i n g i m A g e f i L e s

Today, most images are obtained digitally and programs such as Adobe Photoshop make it very simple to modify them. But sometimes by adjusting an image you can make inappropriate changes to your data, which could be classified as scientific misconduct. Since 2002, The Journal of Cell Biology has been doing simple, routine checks of every image of all accepted manuscripts to look for signs of manipulation. In some cases, this step has caused editors to withdraw the acceptance of a paper, and in a few cases, to notify relevant institutions. Other prominent journals, including Science and Nature, may take similar steps.

Here is what The Journal of Cell Biology says constitutes inappropriate manipulation of images:

“No specific feature within an image may be enhanced, obscured, moved, removed, or introduced.

The grouping of images from different parts of the same gel, or from different gels, fields, or exposures must be made explicit by the arrangement of the figure (e.g., using dividing lines) and in the text of the figure legend. Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance are acceptable if they are applied to the whole image and as long as they do not obscure or eliminate any information present in the original.

Nonlinear adjustments (e.g., changes to gamma settings) must be disclosed in the figure legend.”

For more information, see Rossner, M., and Yamada K. M. “What is in a Picture? The Temptation of

Image Manipulation.” J. Cell Biol. 166(1):11–15, 2004.

Many times you will be clearly and absolutely turned down. In other cases, the editors will say that the work is potentially interesting but too preliminary, or that it has significant flaws that preclude its publication. But other times—quite often—you will see that the editor is giving you a short to-do list of experiments based on the reviewers’ comments, and that the journal will be glad to consider the revised paper. And still other times—not frequently, but also not rarely—you will see that the editor will accept the paper if you only respond to a few quibbles over language.

Sometimes the editors will indicate that they would like to publish your work, provided you make a few minor revisions or do a few additional experiments.

Another possibility is that the reviewers will advise the editors not to publish the work even if it is revised, because it is either not sufficiently novel or it does not fit the scope of the journal. Most editors are happy to talk to you by telephone to help you assess whether you should revise and resubmit your paper or try another journal. In any event, it is important to remain unemotional during such conversations.

Responding to Reviews.

Do not react defensively. Focus instead on the substance of each editorial comment. Value good advice wherever you find it. Read the reviews carefully, and communicate your responses in writing to the editor. It is a good idea not to respond as soon as you hear from the editor. Let a couple of days go by. A hastily written and emotional response will hurt your chances for resubmission. Do not be sarcastic and do not speculate on who the reviewer might be or why he or she might be trying to thwart your work.

If the reviews include a request for additional information that will require a few more experiments, carry them out and send your response to the editor. You can make the process easier by repeating each comment, stating your response, and indicating explicitly where in your paper you are making a recommended change.

130 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

If you think a requested additional experiment is unreasonable, write a rebuttal letter explaining why the experiment cannot be done or why it will not help strengthen the conclusions of your paper. You may discuss your concerns with the editor before working on a revised manuscript.

For example, you should ask, “If I do revisions

A and B, but instead of doing experiment C, I do a different but related experiment, D, will you still consider a revised manuscript?” Remember that you are the person best acquainted with the details of your work and the limitations of your research tools. If you think a referee’s comments are completely off the mark, write a rebuttal letter explaining your concerns. If all three referees, or even two out of three, had serious misgivings, it may be difficult to convince the editor that the referees missed the point.

If the main problem is that the manuscript does not convey the importance of the work, you may want to rewrite it and add more data. You might want to check with the editor first to make sure this is an appropriate course of action.

Regardless of how you proceed, keep your emotions in check. You should never demean the reviewers. The reality is that reviewers, especially those who manage their own laboratories, sometimes work under unrealistic time pressures.

Occasionally, the reviewer selected may not have the expertise to judge a paper competently.

Whatever the case, do not question a reviewer’s expertise. If you think a reviewer missed an important point, politely tell your editor, who has the option of identifying additional reviewers for your paper if doing so seems warranted.

In the end, you will have to do a cost-benefit analysis. If you believe that satisfying all the reviewers’ concerns would bog down your research program in unnecessary experiments, you may have no choice but to take your paper elsewhere. i f y o u A R e A s k e d t o R e v i e w A p A p e R

As your relationships with journal editors develop, you may be asked to review manuscripts submitted by other scientists. Take the task seriously. Do the reviews thoroughly and promptly. If you do not have time or do not think you have the right expertise, let the editors know right away. If a paper arrives and upon reading it you see it is beyond your expertise, again, let the editor know quickly. They will not hold this against you. A late or weak review, however, could hurt your reputation with the editors.

Once you have accepted a paper to be reviewed, do your work on it quickly so as not to delay the review process. This is good not only for moving the science forward but also for building a good relationship with the journal. Be a discerning reviewer, but review others as you would like to be reviewed yourself. Be polite, not demeaning. Be specific about the paper’s shortcomings, and be frank about how the author might remedy them. Not every paper merits publication, but do not frame your comments so harshly that the investigator will see no way forward with his or her work.

You will be asked not to reveal the contents of any article reviewed and will be reminded that you should not use your knowledge of the pre-published results to further your own research. Take this admonition seriously—it is essential that you respect the confidentiality of the review process. If you have a conflict of interest that precludes you from reviewing an article (e.g., you are directly competing with the author of the article you are reviewing or the author is one of your former trainees), stop reading the paper and let the editors know immediately. They will not be pleased if they find out about a conflict of interest after you have reviewed the paper.

The benefits of serving as a reviewer are potentially great. Not only will you learn about others’ research, you will improve your own critical skills and confirm your standing as a knowledgeable scientist in the eyes of the editors. Your own future papers will be taken more seriously if you do good reviews. i n c R e A s i n g y o u R i m p A c t : g e t t i n g p u b L i s h e d 131

submitting your paper to another Journal.

If you are advised that your paper is not appropriate for the journal to which you have initially submitted it (e.g., it is not sufficiently novel or does not have the right focus), the best course is usually to select another journal. In some cases, you may not want to inform editors of the second journal that the manuscript was submitted elsewhere and rejected—it might prejudice the process. For example, if your paper was rejected by Nature and you resubmit it to Science (or vice versa), do not let the editors of the second journal know. These journals compete for the best papers and do not want to publish each other’s rejects. If, however, your paper was reviewed by Nature or Science and the reviews were generally positive but the editor did not feel the paper had a sufficiently high impact value for a top-tier journal, you may be able to use the reviewers’ comments as leverage for your next submission to a field-specific journal that is not seen as a competitor to those two broader publications. Ask the first journal’s editor to support the resubmission, and tell the second editor that your paper has already been reviewed. The second review process may be expedited.

Regardless of your course of action, never send a rejected manuscript without changes to a second journal. If the same reviewers receive it from the second editor, which may well happen if they are especially well-suited to consider the work, they will be annoyed to see that you have completely ignored their comments.

publIshInG honesTly

The number of publications is often used as a way to keep score, with researchers who publish more viewed as superior. But publishing papers that are too similar, or that show your work moving only a fraction of a step forward, may lead other researchers to view you as a weak scientist.

Publishing the same data as more than one paper is not generally acceptable, except in studies where the older data is clearly built and expanded with new work. Even in cases where new work makes substantial use of old data, the norm in research papers is usually to cite an earlier paper, not to re-publish material from it. Review articles, which openly gather information from other papers, digest it, and present it as a digested whole, are different in this way from research publications.

Substantially re-publishing an entire paper under a new title or in a different language is a form of scientific misconduct. While the increasing number of publications in the world makes it easier to cheat, increased use of electronic formats has made duplications easier to detect. While cheating by republishing is a significant offense, claiming the work of others as your own is a moral and professional disaster which can and should end one’s career.

whaT If you MaKe a MIsTaKe?

Corrections are a normal and acceptable part of science. Errata—notes published to alert others to mistakes in the literature—-cover everything from small printing errors such as an out-of-place table to technical errors that skewed results but did not change the overall message of the paper. Retractions are more serious: they withdraw a paper from the literature because of a gross failure that renders the paper’s contents invalid or seriously tainted. Retractions are embarrassing, but over time, an honest, careful researcher can recover from having had a paper retracted.

132 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

pRoMoTInG youR woRK

Your patience and persistence have paid off, and your article has been accepted by a good journal.

Now you can use your newly minted publication as a tool in a legitimate effort at self-promotion.

You want to become known to your scientific colleagues nationwide. Here are some things you can do to promote your work: n

Announce the publication on your personal Web site and in email correspondence with your friends.

Consider making it available in PDF format on your

Web site, if that is acceptable to the journal. Many journals now also allow you to distribute PDF copies of papers to interested individual readers as you once would have done with paper reprints.


Give a workshop at your own institution on the research described in your article and your future research plans. Doing so is relatively easy and is good practice.


Call your friends at universities around the country or region and offer to give a talk on your research at their institutions or at conferences they are organizing. However, do not invite yourself to a meeting by writing to the organizers if you do not know them. You might come across as arrogant and put people in the awkward position of having to turn you down.


Once you have an invitation, take it seriously.

Prepare and rehearse your talk.


Consider going public. Contact your institution’s public relations office, if there is one, for help contacting the media. It is in the university’s interest to have the good work of its scientists publicized.


If your research was supported by an outside funder, let the appropriate staff at the funding organization know about the publication as soon as possible.


If a reporter contacts you, make an effort to speak with him or her. Your university’s public relations office can help you prepare for the interview. Keep in mind that many reporters are not scientists and you will need to give them sufficient background to understand the importance of your work. If possible, ask reporters to give you a copy of the story before it is published so that you can check for accuracy. While some feature writers will respond positively, most news reporters will turn down this request. It never hurts to ask, though.

i n c R e A s i n g y o u R i m p A c t : g e t t i n g p u b L i s h e d 133


Davis, Martha. Scientific Papers and Presentations. San

Diego: Academic Press, 1997.

Day, Robert A. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper.

5th ed. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1998.

Day, Robert A. and Gastel, B. Cómo escribir y publicar

trabajos cientificos. Organización Panamericana de la Salud,

4ta. Ed. 2008.

Matthews, Janice R., John M. Bowen, and Robert W.

Matthews. Successful Scientific Writing: A Step-By-Step

Guide for the Biological and Medical Sciences. 2nd ed.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Wells, W. “Me Write Pretty One Day: How to Write a Good

Scientific Paper.” J. Cell Biol. 165:757–758, 2004.


Curran-Everett, Douglas. “The Thrill of the Paper, the

Agony of the Review: Part One.” ScienceCareers.org

(September 10, 1999), http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.

org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/0210/the_ thrill_of_the_paper_the_agony_of_the_review_part_one.

Curran-Everett, Douglas. “The Thrill of the Paper, the

Agony of the Review: Part Two.” ScienceCareers.org

(September 24, 1999), http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.

org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/0210/the_ thrill_of_the_paper_the_agony_of_the_review_part_two.

Dee, Phil. “Your First ‘First-Author’ Paper: Part One -- The

Writing.” ScienceCareers.org (February 15, 2002), http://

sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/ previous_issues/articles/1400/your_first_first_author_ paper_part_one_the_writing.

Dee, Phil. “Your First ‘First-Author’ Paper: Part Two -- The

Act of Submission and Peering at the Review Process.”

ScienceCareers.org (March 15, 2002), http://sciencecareers.

sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/ articles/1470/your_first_first_author_paper_part_2_the_act_ of_submission_and_peering_at_the_review_process.

Hirsch, J. E. (2005). “An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output.” PNAS 102 (46): 16569–16572,


The International Network for the Availability of Scientific

Publications (http://www.inasp.info/) focuses on communications for scientists in the developing world. One of their programs, AuthorAID (http://www.authoraid.info/), provides connections to resources and senior scientists who will help researchers in developing countries publish and otherwise communicate their work.

134 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h A p t e R 1 0

expanDInG youR InfluenCe: TRaInInG

The nexT GeneRaTIon of sCIenTIsTs

A L L w h o h A v e m e d i t A t e d o n t h e A R t o f g o v e R n i n g m A n k i n d h A v e b e e n

c o n v i n c e d t h A t t h e f A t e o f e m p i R e s d e p e n d s o n t h e e d u c A t i o n o f y o u t h .

A r i s t o t l e

Teaching someone how to perform a task, or even teaching a student to understand the fundamentals of a field, is one thing. Taking significant responsibility for seeing to that student’s growth, seasoning, and career advancement is another.

The word “mentor” is often sloppily used in place of verbs such as “teach” or “supervise” or nouns such as “boss” or “professor.” However, when used properly, it means more than to train or to be in charge of. A mentor is someone who takes a singular and particular interest in a protégé and helps in many different ways to advance the protégé’s career. So a mentor, although sometimes also a boss or supervisor, is most importantly like a good parent or doting uncle or aunt who takes a serious interest in a protégé’s career and advancement through life.

Although the word is seemingly everywhere in conversations about educating scientists, true mentorship is rare, and those who are truly mentored are lucky and advantaged over those who must go it alone in advancing their careers.

One need not have just one mentor—there may be several people who take a significant interest in developing, accelerating, or advancing a researcher’s career. Likewise, everyone in whose training you take an interest will not become a protégé; many will simply be your students.

How can you look for relationships that will advance your own career? And why will taking on this demanding role to help others help you in both the short and the long run? What is expected of you in relation to the students who do not become your own protégés? And how can you help those students find appropriate mentors of their own?

Those are the subjects of this chapter.

TRaInInG oTheRs

If you mentor a student or another scientist, whether it is someone training in your lab or someone who grew up in the place where you were raised, you will be helping get their career off the ground. Mentoring and training also helps you e x p A n d i n g y o u R i n f L u e n c e : t R A i n i n g t h e n e x t g e n e R A t i o n o f s c i e n t i s t s 135

increase your impact as a scientist. By helping those around you succeed, by ensuring that people in your laboratory and in your larger circle feel competent and included, by motivating them to be productive, you are ensuring the success of your own research program.

As the people you are training and encouraging embark upon new projects of their own, you will naturally be kept abreast of the latest scientific developments in the areas that interest them. And when people in your lab, or others with whom you have this special relationship, establish independent careers of their own, their achievements as independent scientists will reflect positively on you. Also, the people you train and encourage will become potential collaborators and colleagues who may continue to confide in you and bring you into their own growing spheres. That will come about both informally and formally as they invite you to give talks at their institutions and participate in the conferences they will someday organize.

As the head of a laboratory, you will probably hire technicians, perhaps assume responsibility for the direction of graduate students, and take on a few scientists who want to train in your lab. If you are at a university where undergraduate students are expected to do laboratory research, you may have a few of them in your lab as well. It is also possible that young scientists outside your lab may begin knocking on your door, especially if you have expertise in an area most people are not familiar with. Within your research community and your geographic region, you will increasingly be seen as the expert in your area of interest.

It is natural that people will come to you for insight and advice about their own scientific interests.

At the same time, you will continue to be in need of guidance for your own continuing professional development, and like those who seek your help, you will be looking to more experienced people for insight and advice. This chapter describes the process of providing the very hands-on training of an individual scientist, with a focus on preparing the people working in your lab. It also suggests desirable personal qualities and plans of action for trainers, mentors and trainees. (Note: In this chapter, the people you train are referred to as

“trainees,” although not everyone you encourage or educate may be receiving training in your lab, and not everyone you train will become a protégé.)

whaT Is MenToRInG?

Scientific training is most often a personal, oneon-one relationship between a more experienced scientist and a junior scientist or a scientist-inthe-making. But it can also be between peers, one of whom is entering a new field and another who knows that field well. The trainer is exposed to the trainee’s energy, curiosity, and ideas, and the trainee receives the guidance and encouragement necessary for professional development.

Mentoring and training relationships commonly form across broad experience gaps—e.g., professor to student, but also can be established between junior and senior students, or between peers or near peers. For example, a graduate student whose background is in biology may take a mentoring role for a graduate student whose background is in mathematics, or a graduate student may become a mentor to an undergraduate who shares his or her scientific interests.

Mentors sometimes include those who are officially responsible for the work of junior scientists or students, such as the head of a laboratory or a formal advisor (in some places such formal heads are referred to as mentors no matter how deep their commitment to training a given individual).

The depth of a senior scientist’s involvement and interest in a trainee’s career and work may be limited, especially when there are many people being trained or in cultures where there are strict limits on personal contact between professors and those whom they teach.

However, it is also important to have mentors, advisors, and trainers who are outside the direct line of authority, or even outside the trainee’s primary area of interest, because those who are further removed from the student’s interest may ask questions that will help the trainee move along better than those who share most of the student’s assumptions. Mentors who have some distance—and therefore good perspective—can be especially helpful in providing guidance when

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formal advising relationships become strained, or when the personal or professional interests of the trainee differ from those of the formal mentor, or when a young person’s best interests are not those of his or her advisor, supervisor, or boss.

Perspective becomes even more important as careers advance and ranges of conflicting opportunities come into play.

Traits of a Good Mentor and a Good Teacher.

As you establish yourself as a scientist, you may find that some of the following personal qualities are useful in forming bonds with someone who is just learning the things you have already learned: n


An open door and an approachable attitude.



Acting on your stated principles on a regular basis.



Personal insight into what the trainee is experiencing.



Ability to communicate the hard truths about the world “out there” and about the trainee’s chances.



Respect for each trainee’s individuality and for working styles and career goals different from your own.



Awareness that people make mistakes and that each person matures at his or her own rate.



Attention to the pragmatic aspects of career development.

Confidentiality in advising.

As a trainer, and especially as a mentor, you may be privy to a lot of information about your trainees, from their past professional accomplishments and failures to, sometimes, revelations about their personal relationships and financial situations. Even in places where discussing family matters, emotions, or money is just not done, personal obligations and financial realities are frequently major factors in individuals’ progress through life and science— especially for those considering major upheavals such as going abroad for further training or job opportunities. Your advice can be very helpful if you can bring yourself to discuss these taboo areas with younger scientists who trust your judgment.

You should treat all information as confidential.


Mentoring entails commitments of time, energy, and good will that can sometimes be substantial.

But that is also true for trainees you are not mentoring. A significant portion of your time must be allocated to each trainee, and you must be prepared to obtain the resources the trainee needs.

Your “pull” will accomplish things that a lessestablished trainee’s own influence cannot. You should also use your experience and contacts to help the trainee establish a professional network, whether or not you are looking at the trainee in terms of the special responsibility implicit in the mentoring relationship.

Choosing whom to Mentor and to Teach.

You will have to make case-by-case judgments about which training relationships you can afford to enter into and how intensive each one should be.

There are some people for whom you are clearly responsible as a teacher and advisor, such as the people working in your lab. The students in your courses also have legitimate expectations of you.

Others, outside your lab or courses, may come to you for advice. But you will not go the extra mile for every person who comes into your lab or even for all of the students who take your courses.

Some people are more promising than others, and you will want to nurture their talents.

At the same time, you want to be fair—when you agree to teach, you are taking on significant responsibilities. Some students will have interests closely related to yours, and it is natural for you to want to work closely with them. Others will show promise, but will be needy in some respect; for example, their skills may not be fully developed or they may need help focusing their efforts. Do not pick a few favorites and let other trainees fend for themselves. With the people in your lab, the important thing is to be fair and avoid anointing some trainees with your favor while letting others struggle. With people outside your lab who ask for your help, you need to avoid overextending yourself or setting up expectations you cannot fulfill. e x p A n d i n g y o u R i n f L u e n c e : t R A i n i n g t h e n e x t g e n e R A t i o n o f s c i e n t i s t s 137


Q u e s t i o n

how do I communicate the level of my commitment, especially cases where that commitment is limited?

A n s w e R

It is always a good idea to lay out for trainees a clear picture of what they can expect from you. Good students should be able to expect training from you, support for their work, access to resources necessary for them to succeed at the work they are doing in your lab, and help with someday moving on to their next training position or to a job. If you are only able to commit to some of those things, make it clear from the outset. If you would like to do far more to help a trainee’s prospects in the long term, you do not need to say so. Actions will speak louder than words.

Q u e s t i o n

how do I say no to being someone’s advisor?

A n s w e R

Be kind. Imagine yourself in your requestor’s shoes. Listen intently and give reasons related to your own limitations. However, be clear and firm. Do not invite misunderstanding. Suggest alternative sources of help, but check first with other potential advisors before your enthusiastically recommend them as potential advisors.

Defining your Role as an advisor.

Generally, a research advisor provides whatever is needed to further a trainee’s professional development, but is not necessarily a friend. You should offer to teach technical skills, give advice about the political aspects of science, and suggest networking opportunities.

You can help clarify what is possible, but you should probably not offer advice on personal matters except in major decisions about career choices as described above. Often, emotional issues are relevant to one’s capacity to do good work, and you can offer moral support, but a good mentor, like a good friend, should tread carefully around family matters and emotional conflicts.

Mentor Versus advisor.

In theory, mentors have multiple responsibilities. Being an advisor is one of them. The Council of Graduate Schools, an

American body concerned with graduate education

(http://www.cgsnet.org/), suggests that mentors come from many roles, including: n


People with career experience willing to share their knowledge.



People who give emotional and moral encouragement.



People who give specific feedback on one’s performance.



Employers to whom one is apprenticed.



Sources of information about opportunities and aid in obtaining them.


Models of identity:

The kind of person one should be to be an academic or a professional scientist.

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In reality, it is unlikely that any one individual can fulfill all possible mentoring roles. For this reason, many argue that the term mentor should be used broadly to mean an individual who helps another with one or more aspects of his or her personal and/or professional development. In this sense, trainees are encouraged to seek out various faculty members who can provide some of those components.

sTRaTeGIes foR effeCTIVe TRaInInG

Make everything a learning opportunity.

It helps to think of serving as a trainee’s advisor as a highly individualized mode of teaching (see chapter 8 for more information about teaching).

Establishing a “culture of teaching” in your lab can help ensure that each individual feels empowered to seek whatever information, education, or technical advice he or she needs to do good science.

set specific Goals and Measures of accomplishment

. Work with each individual— when you meet formally to discuss the person’s progress, in the course of lab meetings, and on other occasions when his or her work is under review—to set specific goals and measures of accomplishment. For example: n

For a student, you might want to establish a publishing goal. It should include deadlines.


For a more experienced scientist training in your lab, job-hunting goals might be important. You might say, “By next month, give me your list of places you want to apply to. Then we can talk about developing your job talk.”


Have technicians identify new skills they need

(e.g., using new equipment or software). Give them time to learn and the opportunity to take courses or seek help from others. Then ask them to demonstrate what they have learned at a staff meeting.

In some cases, you may have to push people a bit to set their goals. In other cases, people’s goals may be well-defined, but may not exactly fit your lab’s overall goals. If you can, give them room to explore options, and offer whatever educational and networking opportunities you can afford. They will be much happier and more productive while they are with you if they feel you are looking out for them and their future well-being.

encourage strategic Thinking and Creativity.

Trainees in your lab, especially newcomers, may not have the experience to judge how long to struggle with an experiment or a project that is not working. As the person steering the larger scope of the work, you must decide what projects are most important, how long a given project should be pursued, and what resources can be allocated to any particular effort. As the boss, you should communicate the basis and significance of your decisions to your trainees. You may feel that you need not explain yourself to anyone, and that may be true. But when you have made your decision, informing people why can be educational and helpful to morale. It gives your trainees a better understanding that although the decisions are yours, they are not whimsical or unfair. In this way, you give concrete examples of strategic thinking and prepare your trainees for the day when they may be in charge of their own research programs and face similar decisions.

It is also important to give people enough space to be creative. Do not rush in too quickly with interpretations of data or solutions to problems.

Let your staff take the first stab. Be thoughtful and ask probing and guiding questions that help them learn to be thinkers. By doing this, you prepare your trainees to work through projects independently, while at the same time you will benefit from their insights and creativity.

uphold professional standards.

Those new to research are still forming their professional standards and habits. They will be working with you for months or years and will learn your lab’s way of doing things. Set high standards for yourself and your workers, and make sure your lab offers an encouraging and disciplined environment.

Experienced lab leaders list these essentials: n

Encourage good time management techniques.

At the same time, respect individual patterns of work. (See chapter 5, “Managing Your Time.”)


Clearly state your expectations. Let people know when they are not meeting them.

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Offer criticism and correction in a way that conveys your message but does not shame or discourage people.


Keep abreast of laboratory record-keeping. This is a key management responsibility and an aspect of mentoring. As the person responsible for the work being done, you are also responsible for seeing that your people keep meticulous records documenting their work and meeting regulatory requirements. This habit will serve them well later on. By reviewing lab notebooks frequently, you also guard against falsification of data.

Impart skills.

Do these things to encourage your lab workers to learn new skills: n

Involve everyone in the scientific publishing and grant-writing process. Part of your job is to teach your trainees how to write publishable scientific papers and successful grant proposals. For papers, have the first author write the first draft, and then send the paper around the lab for review. For proposals, have each person write a piece of the proposal, and then have everyone review successive drafts of the whole package. By doing this, everyone will gain invaluable experience and get a chance to see the big picture of the lab’s activities.


Impart technical skills. As a manager, you need to know the skill sets of each member of your lab, and make sure that each important skill is passed on to several people in the laboratory, for their benefit and yours. If only one person in the lab can perform a particular technique, you are risking your future on an assumption that this person will not leave.


Teach lab management explicitly. Give the people in your lab managerial responsibilities, at least within the confines of the lab space. For example, have them coordinate among themselves the sharing of equipment in the lab, or ask them to draw up a list of routine lab jobs to be rotated among lab members.

provide networking opportunities.

One of the most important benefits you confer upon the people you train is entrée into the network of scientists in your field. Your reputation opens doors for those associated with you, and the connections are not likely to be made without your involvement. So take steps to facilitate the introductions, including: n

Allowing trainees to meet with seminar speakers invited to your institution.


When possible, take trainees with you to meetings and introduce them to your colleagues.


Encourage trainees to approach your colleagues about scientific matters, using your name, as by emailing “I am a student in Dr. ’s lab, and wonder if I might ask you some questions about your recent work on hemoglobin transport.”


Encourage trainees to make presentations at meetings when they are ready.

provide Moral support.

You can help the people you train and mentor estimate their own potential and chart their life course. To do so, you must be supportive and honest. Try to convey to each of your trainees that you have a commitment to him or her and that when a problem surfaces, you have an interest in helping to solve it and will do everything you can to do so.

DIffeRenT neeDs aT DIffeRenT sTaGes

Each type of individual who may ask you for advice

—for example, a student, a more experienced scientist training in your laboratory, a clinician, a technician, or a cousin who hopes to go to medical school some day—is on a different professional trajectory. As you work with them, you need to keep in mind their path and their location on that path.

educating undergraduate students.

The seeds of a scientific career are planted in the undergraduate years or even earlier. Undergraduate students can be invited to take part in research through an academic program at your institution or at a nearby university. They may be eager to find paid work during the school year or during school breaks. Take their interests and their work seriously, and set high standards for them. You might place them under the day-to-day guidance of a welltrained person in your lab, but you should maintain a strong role in overseeing their training and the overall flow of their work within the lab. Keep in mind that these beginning researchers may need extra encouragement when their experiments are not going smoothly.

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One of the best ways of hiring good and dedicated researchers is to screen students in your lab during rotations and thesis dissertations and retain the best ones.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

Training Graduate students.

In science as in other fields, graduate education is vastly different from the undergraduate experience. Perhaps the most important difference is that undergraduates are expected to be primarily engaged in absorbing knowledge, whereas graduate students are expected to begin to make their own contributions.

An advisor helps new graduate students make this transition. A graduate student may have several mentors, but the most important person for a student’s success is the head of the laboratory where the student is working.

A typical graduate student follows this trajectory: n

First year(s).

As the head of the laboratory, your main task is to provide a coherent plan of study for the student. The student faces a steep learning curve. Basic techniques must be learned, and often comprehensive exams taken, and a thesis topic chosen. The principal investigator keeps tabs on the student’s progress. The student’s success depends on your effective communication of expectations and help with clearing certain formal hurdles.


Middle year(s).

At some time during these years, the student may be struggling with his or her experimental work. Things often do not work as planned, and the uncertainty and slow tempo may frustrate even very good students. You may help the student out of a slump by offering moral support and suggesting ways to tackle a scientific problem. By the middle part of training, the student will have learned a lot and should be sharing information and techniques with colleagues, younger students, and postdocs. Teaching others is a good way to learn.


Final year.

The student is preparing to move on.

The thesis should be near completion, and the search for a more advanced position should be under way. You may be asked for letters of reference and perhaps more active job-hunting assistance.

If the student wants to go abroad for further training, you may need to put some effort into helping him or her find opportunities, and at least should help the student by sending introductory emails to colleagues abroad who know your work. This will help keep the student’s inquiries to these labs from being overlooked or discarded.

working with scientists who are furthering

Their Training in your lab.

You may have highly trained professional scientists working in your lab for a limited time to conduct research within the general parameters of your shared interests. This training may be a stepping stone to an academic position. Your task as an educator and potential mentor of new scientists is complex.

Keep in mind that the amount of time you can spend helping these scientists will be limited, so use that time efficiently. In addition, find ways to have them help one another or obtain assistance from other sources.

You must strike a delicate balance in directing their work. Although the scientist training in your lab may be working on your projects, it is appropriate to treat him or her something like a collaborator, rather than just as an employee or student who requires close supervision. Encourage these individuals and give them the help they need in setting research and career goals, but give them sufficient independence for them to take considerable responsibility for the progress of their projects.

You do have a protective function when it comes to the politics of the larger academic world. The scientists training in your laboratory are probably young, politically inexperienced, and vulnerable.

Be prepared to steer them away from projects that might result in conflict with researchers who are already working on similar projects and who might publish results before them.

If a promising person has come into your lab but is not achieving what you both had hoped, encourage him or her to make a change, whether to another project or to another lab entirely. You may be able to help this individual find a more suitable project or position. e x p A n d i n g y o u R i n f L u e n c e : t R A i n i n g t h e n e x t g e n e R A t i o n o f s c i e n t i s t s 141

It is important to discuss career goals with your trainees, especially those more advanced in their research careers. Not all will be interested in a long-term competitive career in science. For those who are, help them develop a project that will teach them many things and that produces ideas, at least—if not whole projects—that they can use as seeds when they leave your lab and begin to establish their own labs. After they have gone, keep in touch with them. They will be an increasingly important part of your professional network.

You have a role to play facilitating your trainees’ job hunts. Keep alert to job openings, counsel them about the process, coach them on their interview presentations, and give them the best letters of recommendation you can. Sometimes, when the search does not go smoothly, you may need to keep them in your lab a little longer than you expected to, if you are able. Lack of continued funding for them may make this impossible, but sometimes their well-trained hands can be of considerable use to you and it may be to your benefit for them to stay. Keep up the words of encouragement during this difficult period.

advancing the Careers of physician-scientists.

Physician-scientists have an especially complicated balancing act: caring for patients and carrying out experiments at the bench. As a result, they may not be able to spend as much uninterrupted time in the lab as their Ph.D. colleagues. However, the strength of physician-scientists is that they have a clinical base. As someone involved in their training, you should understand the unique challenges physician-scientists face, and you should value the insights their clinical perspective can bring into the lab. Help physician-scientists in your lab to establish priorities and develop effective time management skills. If you are not a clinician yourself, you might put them in touch with someone who can help them with these competencies as they apply to the clinical side of their responsibilities. In addition, encourage physician-scientists in your lab to use their clinical base. For example, they might enroll patients from their clinic or practice following a simple protocol.

They might collect answers to a questionnaire with demographics, or obtain data on clinical presentation, progression and response to therapy, as well as collect relevant serum or tissue samples.

(Adequate ethical permission should be attained first.) Clinical work sometimes allows physicianscientists to see connections that someone with a basic science background training may miss. As a researcher, you should take advantage of this perspective by making sure that questions about moving research results into the clinic, or bringing clinical observations back to the bench come up in formal and informal discussions in the lab.

working with Technicians.

A technician is an employee who has been hired to get work done, not to advance his or her career. That being said, many technicians are a distinct type of professional scientist. You should understand and encourage their aspirations. Make it clear to them that they are valued contributors to your projects. If they are interested, you may want to give them research projects of their own. If their aspirations are purely technical, encourage them to gain new skills.

helpInG Those ouTsIDe youR lab

When you receive a request for significant career help from a young scientist in another lab, or even in another university, think carefully before you agree. Do not enter into such a relationship secretly. Insist that the individual inform his or her direct supervisor that you two are speaking. On the one hand, the request says something positive about your standing in the research community, and by taking on a new relationship you might open up the possibility of future collaborations and increase the impact of your work. On the other hand, there may be problems you are not aware of. Ask yourself the following questions: n

Why is this person asking me for help? There may be a negative reason. In the case of a postdoc, perhaps he or she is dissatisfied with relationships in the home lab. If this is the case, make sure you are not offending the individual’s supervisor. You may find, however, that the supervisor welcomes your help as an extra resource.


What are the person’s expectations? You need to be clear about whether you are being asked for occasional advice or for long-term assistance. If it is the latter, determine whether your role as an advisor will be formal, involving scheduled contacts and expectations of a particular amount of your time, or informal and confined to occasional conversations as the trainee’s work moves forward.

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Do I really have the time and energy to commit to this relationship?


Is this someone who is smart, honest, and capable?


Is this someone I want to advise and work with?

The people in your lab deserve priority. But if the person fits, and you can extend yourself, do so.

how To GeT The

CaReeR help anD aDVICe ThaT YOu neeD

Finding people who will be your own advisors, teachers, and mentors is another way of making your achievements and contributions known at your university and other institutions, thus increasing your impact and helping you advance in your career. Finding help requires knowing whom to ask for what, knowing how to accept the professional advice you receive, and maintaining long-term personal and professional relationships.

These suggestions may be useful: n

Do not let go of those who have taken an interest in your career. Stay in close touch with all of your past advisors, even those with whom you only worked for a short time or in a limited way.

Although they may not be familiar with your new environment, their distance from it, combined with their general understanding of the world of science, can help you put your current environment in perspective. Also, you never know when you will need to ask them for a reference or other professional help. Even a quick email to let them know that you published a paper or received a research grant or an award will help them support your career.


Establish a relationship with a set of official advisors, especially if your institution assigns you to contacts with certain senior scientists who are meant to help you “learn the ropes.” These individuals may also evaluate your job performance, so cultivate them carefully and treat them with respect.

Generally, you do not want to vent your frustrations or confide your uncertainties and weaknesses to such a group. Keep them apprised of your progress. Do not avoid them if things are going badly— address the problems directly and unemotionally, and enlist their help.


Seek out informal advisors, usually experienced scientists within your department or elsewhere who can give you a broader perspective on science and scientific politics. It is especially important to do this if your institution has not officially given you any contacts to serve as guides during your early days.


Establish a set of work-based friends and confidants. These are people with whom you can openly share information about politically sensitive issues. Choose them carefully. You may be more comfortable limiting your confidants to one-on-one relationships. Or you may find a group that puts you in close touch with colleagues whose situations are similar to yours.


Keep meetings professional. Respect others’ time constraints. Be prepared and specific about what you need from them and what you are asking them to do for you.

how to be well-advised.

Here are some qualities to cultivate in yourself as you seek an informal education in how to move forward to whatever goals you hope to achieve: n


Start early to think about your future.



Everyone likes to be thanked.



Be willing to accept critical feedback so that you are open to learning new ways of thinking about and doing science.



Do not expect to be taken care of.

You could easily be overlooked in the competitive world of science.



Ask tough questions. Find out about the experiences of others with this potential mentor.



Repay your mentor indirectly by helping others.



Be polite. Make and keep appointments.

Stay focused. Do not overstay your welcome.

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when MenToRInG, aDVIsoRy, oR supeRVIsoRy

RelaTIonshIps aRe noT woRKInG ouT

What you view as a problem may simply be a matter of personal style or a different understanding of the mentor’s role. Have a conversation about getting the advice and help you need. If that does not help solve the problem, you may need to think about finding others to help you as you navigate your career. Within your institution, especially if there are formal advising relationships set up, consider finding an additional guide if yours is clearly and consistently uninterested in you, undervalues your abilities, or displays any other signs of undermining your work and your career.

But think carefully—someone who helps you see your shortcomings is actually helping you. Tough criticism or a discouraging word may be exactly what you need at a given moment. If your feelings get hurt now and then, it is not necessarily a sign that your trusted advisor has turned against you.

But find others to advise you if the people from whom you have been taking advice behave inappropriately by violating workplace rules or failing to fulfill essential responsibilities to you— for example, by not sending letters of reference or by not reviewing your grants and papers.

Finding additional trusted advisors can always be helpful. However, be very careful about severing old relationships—even ones that were “forced marriages.” Even if the relationship is not going well, you do not want to offend someone unnecessarily. If the relationship is official, ending it will require explicit action and will most probably generate bad feelings. If the relationship is informal, and you can just allow it to fade away, do so. If, on the other hand, an un-productive advisor wants to terminate the relationship, accept the decision with good grace. It will be better for both of you.


Association for Women in Science. Mentoring Means

Future Scientists: A Guide to Developing Mentoring

Programs Based on the AWIS Mentoring Program.

Washington, DC: Association for Women in Science, 1993.

Barker, Kathy. At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator.

Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press,


Council of Graduate Schools, A Conversation About

Mentoring: Trends and Models. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools, 1995.

Council of Graduate Schools, On the Right Track: A Manual

for Research Mentors, DC: Council of Graduate Schools,


Fort, Catherine C., Stephanie J. Bird, and Catherine J.

Didion (Eds.). A Hand Up: Women Mentoring Women in

Science. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Association for Women in Science, 2005.

Nettles, M.T. and Millet, C.M. Three Magic Letters: Getting

to Ph.D. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press,


Nyquist, Jody D., and Donald H. Wulff. Working Effectively

with Graduate Assistants. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Publications, 1996.

Reis, Richard M. Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for

Academic Careers in Science and Engineering. New York:

IEEE Press, 1997.


American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Science’s Science.Careers.org. Feature articles on mentoring, http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org.

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Individual Development Plan for Postdoctoral Fellows. http://opa.faseb.org/pdf/idp.pdf.

National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council.

Reports from the Committee on Science, Engineering, and

Public Policy. http://www7.nationalacademies.org/cosepup.

National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of

Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. Committee on

Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. Adviser, Teacher,

Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students

in Science and Engineering. Washington DC: National

Academy Press, 1997. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.


National Institutes of Health, Office of the Director. A

Guide to Training and Mentoring in the Intramural Research

Program at NIH. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of

Health, 2002. http://www1.od.nih.gov/oir/sourcebook/


University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of

Graduate Studies. How to Mentor Graduate Students:

A Guide for Faculty at a Diverse University. Ann Arbor, MI:

University of Michigan, http://www.rackham.umich.edu/


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c h A p t e R 1 1


L A p u i s s A n c e n e c o n s i s t e p A s à f R A p p e R f o R t o u s o u v e n t ,

m A i s à f R A p p e R J u s t e .

h o n o r é d e b A l z A c

One of the best ways to move your science into a higher league is to collaborate. International collaboration is important and will be the subject of much of this chapter, but the basic benefits of being a good collaborator become apparent as soon as you explore shared interests with the scientist at the next bench, down the hall, in another department, at another institute, or in a city that is an easy drive away. When someone’s clever work delights you, or another’s curious result seems in line with yours (or utterly contradicts it in an interesting way), or even when someone working on a completely different kind of problem has a technique you would like to apply to your own, you have fertile ground for potential collaboration. The scientific world is a very social one. Finding ways to be scientifically productive with people you enjoy is one of its great pleasures.

The CollaboRaTIVe effoRT

Twenty-first century science is often a collaborative effort. As a beginning investigator, you may want or need to work with scientists in other labs who can offer resources or technical expertise to complement your own. Because a scientific collaboration is a complex exchange, you will need to sharpen your managerial and political skills to be a successful collaborator. Whether you are working with friends or with people who are nearly (or completely) strangers, it is important that you and your collaborators share the same understanding of what is to be done, who is to do it, how “things that come up” will be managed, how any unexpected benefits will be apportioned, and how, when, and where credit will be shared.

This chapter summarizes some of the questions you should ask yourself before embarking on a collaborative project and provides some guidelines to help ensure that your work and your interactions with valued colleagues proceed smoothly.

The quote above: Balzac says that power is not in striking hard or often, but in striking well.

c o L L A b o R A t i o n 145

For researchers in developing countries, collaboration is an important route to establishing an international track record, strengthening laboratory capacity, through technology transfer and building human capacity.

brian eley, south africa

The VaRIeTIes of CollaboRaTIon

Scientific collaborators are researchers who share an interest in the outcome of a project, not service providers or customers. Sharing reagents or materials that have been described in a publication does not in itself constitute collaboration. Scientists are expected to make published materials available to others. Similarly, a service rendered by a scientist in a core service facility within his or her own institution—for example, the medical laboratory scientist who regularly processes blood in the hospital, or the scientist in charge of running an institution’s shared DNA sequencing capacity—is usually not considered a collaboration. Such core service facilities exist to perform specific tasks for other laboratories. Without added intellectual contributions beyond what is normally required for their job, they will have done nothing special that would make it reasonable for them to demand credit as a collaborator. Of course, scientists in such facilities may interact with you in ways that are truly collaborative, for example, working with you to invent a new technique or bringing to your attention an unusual phenomenon that you then go on to investigate together.

Collaborations can vary greatly in scope, duration, and degree of formality. A limited collaboration might entail only a series of consultations about a technique or the provision of samples to be tested. At the other extreme, several scientists or laboratories might join together to establish a permanent consortium or center for the pursuit of a particular line of research. Depending on its complexity, a collaboration can be launched by an informal agreement sealed with a handshake or an email, or may involve complex negotiations and a legally binding document.

shoulD you CollaboRaTe?

Collaboration is a major responsibility—one that should not be taken on lightly. It will take time, effort, and the nurturing of relationships. Before you start a collaboration, you should know for sure that you can see it through.

It may seem awkward at first, but if you would like to set up a collaboration, it is important that you nail down some details in an early conversation to make clear on both sides that you are actually planning to accomplish something together and not exchanging optimistic social pleasantries.

Think of how often good friends will say “We must get together sometime!” Unless they pause to schedule a date or time, they often drift away until chance again brings them together. It is better to be a bit awkward and ask for some particulars than to misunderstand and find yourself waiting for your potential collaborator to follow through, or worse, to find out years later that the other person, after a long period of waiting for you to follow through, has concluded that you cannot be taken at your word.

The larger the collaboration, the more complicated it may be to fulfill your obligations. Be sure you have the time you will need to be a good collaborator, and that a given opportunity is right for you.

Once you have signed on, you will be expected to follow through on your commitments, and your scientific reputation will be at stake.

If someone simply wants your technical expertise or the opportunity to run his or her experiments on your equipment, he or she may not consider you a collaborator at all. The essential ingredient of collaboration is mutual interest in the research outcome. If you have this interest, but the other party assumes that you do not, you may not be treated as a collaborator, but rather as a service provider. This may be acceptable, as long as you understand what you are getting into.

146 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

Scientists working in resource-constrained environments should not let the temptation of allocating large budgets for their laboratory get them into committing to doing things that are not doable. In collaborative grants, only propose activities that you can independently carry out as a senior investigator.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

assessInG a CollaboRaTIVe oppoRTunITy

Whether you are approached by another scientist to collaborate, or are thinking of approaching someone to collaborate with you, here are some questions you should ask yourself before embarking on the project: n

What exactly is being asked of me?


Do I need this collaboration to move my own work forward? Is there a missing piece—a technique or resource—that I must have, and which this other person can provide?


Even if collaboration is not strictly necessary to my current work, will interacting with the proposed collaborators enable me to contribute something significant to science and perhaps generate new opportunities?


Do I really have the expertise or other resources being sought by the other collaborator? If not, are there funding sources available through this collaboration that will allow me to get those things?


Can I afford to be involved? Will my potential partner bring resources (including funding) that will make my group’s investment in the project possible?


Can this collaboration be conducted efficiently, given such factors as distance, restrictions imposed by my institution, and, in the case of international collaborations, cultural differences or possible legal and political complications?


Is there funding for the work envisioned? If not, can it be obtained?


Can I afford the time? How much will it take away from my other responsibilities? Is the project close enough to my central interests to warrant the necessary time expenditure?


Is this person someone with whom I want to collaborate? What is his or her track record? Can someone I trust tell me whether this potential collaborator is honest and reliable?


Are our professional and scientific interests compatible? Does what each of us has to lose if things go wrong seem comparable?


Will this person be accessible to me and consistently interested in the project?


If I will collaborate with a larger group, will there be a reliable “point person” on my collaborator’s end who is responsible for handling day-to-day issues and small matters?


Can I rule out potential conflicts, either personal or institutional? For example, it is often a bad idea to collaborate with a rival of the person who signs your paycheck, and it may be a bad idea to collaborate with someone who has a major collaboration with an institution that is openly hostile to your own.

There can be other practical challenges to collaborating with people who are not close by, and you should also take some time to consider these very frankly. Whether you are considering collaborating with someone overseas, someone who is relatively near you but beyond easy travel distance, or someone in a place where border crossings are difficult, finding yourselves unable to get together or communicate can be a very big problem for healthy collaborations. A less famous person who will give you his attention is a better collaborator than a more famous one who will not.

Ask yourself these questions: n

How much travel will be required? What will be the costs of each trip in terms of transportation costs, tariffs on materials that must be moved between sites, accommodations, and time away from the lab? Are there sources of funding to support travel?


Is a visa required for travel? If so, how difficult is the process of visa application and how long does it usually take a visa to come through?

c o L L A b o R A t i o n 147


Is travel safe and convenient, or will each trip involve logistical headaches and considerable uncertainty?


How good are the channels of communication?

Will you be able to talk by phone (or internet phone) easily? Is email between you quick and reliable?


Do I know the language of my potential collaborators? Do they know mine? Will we be able to communicate effectively both about science and about the more subtle human factors that will be involved in a good collaboration—for example, knowing when to “push” and when to let the other person have some time to respond?


Will scientific papers be published in a language in which I am not fluent? If so, how can I vouch for the translation? How can I be sure my group is involved properly in the writing and in authorship credit? Do my collaborator and I start with the same assumptions about credit, publishing, and authorship?

Although physical and technical factors are important, it is the human dimension that most often makes or breaks a collaboration. Be especially sensitive to emotions that may be in play under the surface, especially if there is an imbalance of resources (e.g., money, reagents, or access to required sites or populations) brought into the collaboration by each partner. For example, if your collaborators depend on you for access to a population group, your partners may grow to resent you for how you control this “doorway,” and you may grow to resent them for regarding you as a door! If you are in a large institute with good access to reagents and equipment and your collaboration is with a very small, under-funded facility, you may grow to resent your partners for taking liberties with your generosity and taking more of your resources than they need. Being aware of these imbalances and trying to maintain your own sense of good will can be very useful in keeping things running smoothly.

Two key ingredients should be in place at the outset of a long, stable collaboration: a shared understanding of potential funding so that your partnership can survive the perhaps inevitable ups and downs in support, and at least one individual in the other lab who is as committed to the project as you are and is willing to help push past roadblocks that may arise.

Before making a decision about a collaboration, consider all factors. A good collaboration can take your research in a completely unexpected direction. A bad one can waste your energy and demoralize you.

seTTInG up a


Someone may eventually ask you to collaborate, but if you are a beginning investigator, it is more likely that you will need to approach a potential collaborator yourself. A collaboration, like many


Q u e s t i o n

If a powerful person asks me to collaborate but the proposed partnership does not suit me, how do I politely decline?

A n s w e R

Explain that you do not have the resources at the moment to enter a collaborative project. Offer instead to provide input and suggestions into the research and, if possible, suggest other people with similar expertise who may be good collaborators.

148 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

other types of interpersonal relationships, has no fixed rules. However, there are some guidelines you can follow to ensure that the collaboration starts off on the right foot and proceeds smoothly

(see “Personal Qualities of a Good Collaborator,” page 153).

appRoaChInG a poTenTIal CollaboRaToR

Once you have identified a potential collaborator and decided that you want to go forward, develop an outline of your proposal for the joint project.

Define in detail how you think you can complement each other’s efforts.

send an email.

Make your initial contact with an inquiry designed to whet the other person’s appetite. Send a short email describing your research in general terms and asking for the opportunity for a conversation. Do not call on the telephone first—you do not want to put the person on the spot, and you do want to give him or her a chance to find out more about you through personal contacts or your scientific publications. It is a good idea to use an informative email subject header, for example understanding drug resistance in

vivax malaria, rather than an empty subject line or one that could be mistaken for a scam, such as

help a young professor.

Many people have set up their spam filters to delete mail coming from hotmail.com and other popular free web mail services. These filters rarely give you any notice that your message has not gone to the intended reader.

In your email, focus on the big picture and convey your enthusiasm. You must convince your potential collaborator that: n

You have the expertise you claim.


You believe that he or she is the best possible collaborator for the project at hand.


Both of you stand to benefit from the collaboration.


The whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts.

Sometimes people will not acknowledge unwanted emails, so you may not hear back from a researcher with whom you want to work. If that happens, following up with a paper letter may encourage your potential collaborator to respond. Remember to include your email address in any paper letters you may send.

Some countries have become so associated with dishonest money-raising scams that it may be difficult to get people to read any email or paper notes coming from them. If you are in one of those places, you can enhance your note’s chances of being read if you get to the point quickly. A letter, printed on university letterhead, that begins…

Dear Dr. Jones,

Your recent papers on the evolution of virulence in African trypanosomes suggest an interesting parallel with a phenomenon I have observed in my laboratory’s work on seasonal occurrences of leishmaniasis.

…is more likely to be read than one that begins with elaborate flattery, or comes in a handwritten envelope, or is typed on lightweight airmail paper.

be Informed.

To make your pitch effective, you need to be familiar with your potential collaborator’s work. Be sure to read the lab’s published papers.

You will also need to have a clear idea of what you want to do and the respective role each of you will play.

Your email should lead to telephone conversations.

After that, a trip to your collaborator’s lab for a face-to-face meeting is often worthwhile, and you should both look for opportunities to get together.

The CollaboRaTIon aGReeMenT

using an Informal agreement.

An exchange of emails is usually sufficient to get a project under way. Before you actually start the work, however, it is best to develop and agree on a detailed written summary of your joint research plan. The plan should spell out: n

The purpose of the collaboration.


The scope of work.


How, when, and in what format raw data will be shared.

c o L L A b o R A t i o n 149


The expected contribution of each collaborator.


Financial responsibilities of each collaborator.




Reporting obligations to funders or other stakeholders.


Expectations about authorship.


How and when papers will be written.

An explicit plan offers several advantages. It prevents misunderstandings and it helps keep the project on track. Furthermore, if you expect to apply together for funding for the project, this plan can be expanded into a grant proposal. In a collaboration between two academic labs, the collaboration agreement can simply be emailed back and forth until both parties are satisfied.

Obtaining signatures could seem overly formal, but it is very important that on both sides all key participants explicitly signal that you have concluded these negotiations and have reached a clear agreement.

using a formal agreement.

A formal, legally binding written agreement is probably necessary if the collaboration involves a commercial entity such as a pharmaceutical company, or if you are working toward a commercial application in which a patent is an expected outcome (Chapter 12 will discuss patents). For collaborations that do not involve a commercial entity, a general Letter of

Agreement or Letter of Intent spelling out the interest in collaboration between institutions can provide a framework for a range of collaborative activities. Written and agreed-upon work plans for specific activities or projects developed together can then provide the explicit terms of the collaboration. Even if it is not intended to be a legally binding document, you and your collaborator will want to consult with appropriate offices at your respective institutions to help you draft this agreement. It can be very useful to have someone who has not been part of your discussions read what you have written down, because you may be so accustomed to your own assumptions that you will have neglected to write them down.

Collaborations that involve provision of materials such as biological samples such as DNA, microbial isolates, genetically modified organisms or reagents developed by you or your research team may include a “Materials Transfer Agreement.” This document is to be signed by the recipient, indicating the material provided, the purpose for which the material will be used, the conditions under which the material was provided and instructions for acknowledgement of the contribution and restriction of distribution to others.

If your institution does not have an office that helps make this kind of agreement, you should make sure you have the power to promise the things you have promised, or have someone at your institution who does have the power to promise get involved. In a large institution, this may be a technology transfer office, and their staff may also arrange for legal review by the institution’s attorneys. In an institution without such an office, you should find people with appropriate authority to review and sign the proposed contract.

Look for other researchers who have made such agreements, and discuss the restrictions with legally trained people in your own country. It may be that there are not yet laws within your country related to this kind of agreement, but someone with legal training can at least help alert you to language in the proposed documents that seems to commit you to more than you would like. Negotiations are expected in these kinds of agreements—the most important thing is that you know what rights you may be signing away, and that you do not release more of your (or your institution’s, or your country’s) rights than you mean to or have the authority to.

Make sure that such documents spell out the time period of the collaboration or provide a mechanism by which you can terminate your involvement.

Be aware that if your collaborator has financial support from a company for his or her share of the work, that funding agreement may contain restrictions that apply to the collaborative project.

For example, the company may have the right to delay publication and to license the results of the collaboration. If the collaboration is an important

150 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

Learn how to propose and organize collaborative projects with researchers from both developed and developing countries. Collaborative projects have the advantage of:

• Increasing the number of possible sources

of funding,

• Taking advantage of economies of scale

by spreading the fixed costs across

participants, and

• Becoming more interesting or appealing for

funding agencies, given that comparative

projects generate more information than

single-country projects.

Gilbert brenes Comacho, Costa Rica

one for your laboratory, be sure to ask in advance whether your collaborator will use company funding for his or her work on your joint project. If so, you can ask your institution’s technology transfer office or a person knowledgeable in law and contracts to help you determine whether there are restrictions that apply to your share of the work.

It may be possible to negotiate an agreement that limits the effect your collaborator’s funding arrangements have on you (see chapter 12 on intellectual property for more information about company-sponsored research).

Someone above you at your institution may try to abuse the potential collaboration by pressuring your collaborator to provide resources or make payments beyond what is needed to do the project, or may even try to block your collaboration in favor of pushing you to work with a different researcher.

You do not want to undermine your position at your institution, so proceed carefully. It may be very useful to be open with trusted collaborators about the source of the delay. “Office politics” and over-reaching administrators exist all over the world, and understanding the situation may help keep your potential collaborator from giving up in frustration.

The InGReDIenTs of a suCCessful


Once your agreement is in place and your expectations are clear, you and your collaborator can focus on keeping your lines of communication open and maintaining attitudes of mutual consideration and respect.

KeepInG The lInes of CoMMunICaTIon open

An open, trusting relationship is essential if you want to be able to discuss problems candidly and give and receive critical feedback. In a good collaboration, participants stay in close touch and are accessible to one another. Make it a practice to return your collaborator’s calls and emails as quickly as you can, even if only to set a more convenient time for a conversation. Make fulfilling your promises to collaborators a significant priority.

Having a student from one lab go spend time in the other may help build connections between the two research groups and get the work flowing.

When you are involved in a high-stakes collaboration, you may need to consider what you will do with your time if your collaborative work and your regular responsibilities make simultaneous demands. If you put off your collaborators’ interests, you may be seen as unreliable, unserious, or not good at following through. If you put off local issues, though, you may be seen as selfabsorbed, untrue to your roots, or as a careless power-seeker. Whichever way you divide your energies, there are risks. Being direct and honest about what is delaying you, why it must be attended to first, and how you plan to fulfill your obligations is often the best way to negotiate this difficult balance. If you are unable to offer explanations, however, delegating some part of the work to a reliable helper may help you get through an immediate time crunch. But be sure to follow up with personal attention, whether to your local colleagues or those at other sites, as soon as you get a chance.

c o L L A b o R A t i o n 151


Set up systems to ensure that regular communication takes place. A fixed schedule of face-to-face meetings or conference calls or times when you will be available by email can be very useful for staying on track. Also consider setting up occasional videoconferences if your institution and your collaborator’s have that capability and enough internet bandwidth. No matter what type of interaction you choose, plan the matters to be covered ahead of time. Send out agendas by email, take notes during the discussions, and send out email summaries of the meetings to all participants afterwards. Include in the summaries

“action items” for each collaborator. It is not a lot of work to follow up in these small ways, and it will help prevent misunderstandings later.

Keeping up.

Once the project is underway, stay with it. Do not be the “rate-limiting step” that holds things up. When unavoidable conflicts emerge and you cannot meet a deadline, let that fact be known right away so that the deadline can be reset. Remember that obstacles and interruptions come up for everyone. Do not hide from your collaborators if your work goes off track, and do not be quick to abandon a partnership if circumstances change and you have trouble keeping up with the originally intended pace of the work. Try to negotiate a new strategy with your partners for accomplishing the collaboration’s goals, and look for better ways to get the planned work done, even if the time frame or scope of the work must be changed.

DealInG wITh auThoRshIp anD InTelleCTual pRopeRTy Issues

expectations for authorship.

Because credit for your work, expressed as authorship of publications, is crucial to your scientific career, you need to pay attention to how credit will be distributed in a collaboration. It is best to discuss expectations for authorship before a collaboration begins, including who will be first author and last author

(or other author positions that may indicate relative importance in some fields) on major publications and how authorship and ownership of new work

In simple terms, the collaboration must help your scientific career and not be a burden. It is better for starting scientist to publish three

JBC papers as last (corresponding) author than

ten papers in Science, Nature or Cell, being in

all of them the fifth of the ten authors.

alberto Kornblihtt, argentina

developed along the way will be shared. As you advance your own career, it becomes more important not only to look out for your own authorship interests, but to also bear in mind the interests of the people you will train in your laboratory.

Trainees—graduate students and postdocs—often feel possessive of work they have been involved in, and may not see their role in proper perspective.

Part of your role in training them is to keep them from over-reaching or under-reaching when it comes to getting credit for their work. Often the person who writes the first draft of a paper will become firmly attached to the idea that the paper is “his.” This can create hard feelings and misunderstandings, especially in cases where a student with especially good writing skills helpfully becomes involved in writing up another student’s data. There are cases where a writer who synthesizes others’ work deserves credit for a significant intellectual contribution, but it is generally out of bounds to claim priority for the writer over the researcher who drove the intellectual development of the data.

You and other senior people involved in the collaboration should openly discuss the practical needs of all of the trainees involved in the work, across all of the involved laboratories. Graduate students and postdocs need first author papers, and as good trainers you and your colleagues should help them work toward publication, progress on their degrees, and scientific independence, not just toward achieving the project’s goals.

This is especially important for any trainees in your laboratory whose career progress depends on producing work that gives them clearly high

152 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

priority among a paper’s authors. However, agree to revisit authorship as publication nears. The relative contributions of different participants often changes from what was originally envisioned.

Once you have a sense of whether the data from your experiments can be published, discuss plans for publication immediately; do not wait until a manuscript draft is prepared.

pursuing patents.

If patents are sought, applications should be filed before the work is presented publicly or published; otherwise, rights will be lost.

Do not jeopardize your own or the other party’s intellectual property rights by disclosing your results prematurely.

If your collaboration produces patentable discoveries, you will undoubtedly need to deal with the legal concept of “joint intellectual property.”

Joint intellectual property is that created jointly by collaborating researchers. Generally, you will have to assign your ownership in intellectual property to your institution or employer, and your collaborator must do the same at his or her institution.

Each party in the collaboration will retain its own

“background” intellectual property, that is, the intellectual property it owned before undertaking the project. Each party will also retain the intellectual property rights to discoveries created solely by its own researchers in the course of the project.

The collaborators’ institutions may file a joint patent application that names inventors from both institutions, and the institutions will hold the patent jointly. Often, the institutions will need to reach an agreement on management and licensing of the intellectual property, so that any royalties can be shared according to an agreed-upon formula.

If you think a joint patent application is a likely outcome of your collaboration, ask yourself these questions before you begin the collaboration: n

What aspects of the proposed project are so interactive that any potential discoveries will be owned jointly?


What aspects of shared work are the property of one laboratory?


When and how will you discuss patents and publications with workers in your laboratories?


Who will take responsibility for and incur the expense of filing joint patent applications?


Who will maintain the patents once received?

See chapter 12 for more information about the patent process, including the effect disclosures can have on the ability to obtain patent rights.

personal Qualities of a Good Collaborator fairness


Be sure to give credit where it is due.



Disclose anything that might affect

someone’s decision to collaborate.


Once the collaboration is underway, be

willing to “cut through the nonsense”

and offer constructive criticism. n

Be clear and open about other relation-

ships, which may include some with

people who are in conflict with one




Put your full effort into the project. n

Carry your fair share of the labor and

financial outlays.



Stay in touch with your collaborator

throughout the project, especially

when there are problems or delays.


Try to resolve problems with your

collaborator directly.



Deliver what you have promised,

on time.



Appreciate your collaborator’s

contributions. n

Never assume that your contributions

are more important than those of your


c o L L A b o R A t i o n 153


speCIal ChallenGes foR The beGInnInG


In the early stages of your career, collaboration can present particular challenges. You are under pressure to get your own research program up and running. You cannot afford to let your advancement be impeded by collaborations that do not yield good results and appropriate credit. You need to keep the following facts of scientific life firmly in mind as you decide about specific collaborations: n

If you collaborate with established, well-known scientists, researchers not familiar with your work may undervalue your role in the effort and view you as being under the wing of your more famous colleague, rather than as an emerging scientific force in your own right. People may assume that you played a minor role, even if you are first author on a paper. There are benefits and drawbacks to this—if others see you as your colleague’s protégé, they may open doors for you. On the other hand, they may conclude you are subservient and never think to open doors for you! Understanding how the two sides of the coin may be seen, especially by colleagues at your own institution, is important.

Collaborating with someone close to your own career level avoids this problem, but your local colleagues may not view your collaboration as important compared to a collaboration with someone more famous.


If you do collaborate with established scientists or with researchers involved in your own training, make sure you arrange the collaboration so that the relative contributions of each scientist are made clear in publications and other communications. It will not always be the case that a collaborator will be interested in advancing your career, especially your career at home. If you collaborate with a senior scientist and he does not propose that you speak for the team at international meetings or take the lead on some publications, for example, you should not be shy about pressing for these opportunities, which are important to moving your career forward and gaining international visibility for you.


The larger the collaborator’s lab and the more complex the collaboration, the harder it will be to negotiate first or last authorship. Smaller projects may offer a better chance of getting credit.


If you have special technical expertise or access to a limited resource that is in demand, you may be inundated by requests to collaborate from nearby researchers and people around the world. Do not allow your time to become so fragmented that your central research projects are neglected. Learn to say no gracefully and, if necessary, ask those above you to offer you some protection for your time. Even if you are the head of the institute, it can be easier to turn things down by saying “I am sorry, the Minister of Health has asked me to reserve my time for another project” than by saying

“I do not have time to work with you.”

I would classify collaborations in two groups: those established with scientists in the North

(well-known or not-so-well-known scientists) and those established with scientists in your own country or region or other scientifically lagging regions. In the first case, one has to be very careful in order to make clear to your local colleagues and evaluators that it is a real collaboration. For example, if your name is diluted in the middle of the author’s list of the publications resulting from the collaboration, the local evaluator will certainly realize that your role is completely secondary.

I would tend to establish collaborations with

“big shots” in the North only if I am really interested in the subject, and if I can contribute with original ideas and work that guarantee that I will be the corresponding author of at least 50% of the papers resulting from the collaboration. On the other hand, I can establish collaborations with people in the North on subjects that are not my main subject, that will not end in the only publications I will have in the period, whose efforts and work do not put at risk the success of the main subject in my group. In that case I would not mind appearing in the middle of the author’s list. In simple terms, the collaboration must help your scientific career and not to be a burden.

alberto Kornblihtt, argentina

e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


If you engage in multiple collaborations, the probability increases that you will find yourself with a conflict of interest at some point in your career.

Especially in these early years, it is better to keep things simple so that you know all of the actors and can identify potential conflicts. Often people or institutions in conflict with one another may approach you to collaborate. Both are surely aware that your work is of interest to the other. Again, proceed carefully and honestly. Keep in mind that just as you can have friends who do not get along, you can also have collaborators whose interests collide. Just think carefully before getting between them.

when youR TRaInees CollaboRaTe

Your graduate students and postdocs need to learn to collaborate, as well. You can start them off by assigning them joint projects within your lab and by guiding them in establishing their expectations of each other and in monitoring the fulfillment of promises. However, you should be prepared to referee, especially when it is necessary to contain the ambitions of inappropriately aggressive members of your group.

It is quite another matter when your students and postdocs approach scientists outside your lab or are themselves approached as potential collaborators. They may have no idea of the politics involved or the extent of the commitments they are making.

Encourage your trainees to look broadly for help and resources, but insist on your prerogative to approve all trainees’ outside commitments in advance.

Some strong collaborators may use a junior scientist to involve your institute in a collaboration and get them to sign a Memorandum Of

Understanding (MOU). It is thus important to impress upon junior scientists that they need to make sure that this MOU benefits both collaborators in terms of capacity strengthening

(human and institutional), funding, authorship and other aspects of the collaboration.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe

when a CollaboRaTIon

Is noT woRKInG

Collaborations can fail for various reasons.

Possible scenarios include: n

One party loses interest or develops other priorities, and intentionally or inadvertently puts the project on the back burner. There is no intent to renege, but deadlines are allowed to slip.


Illness or family problems hinder someone’s progress.


Key personnel move on or become uninvolved.


Scientific results are not forthcoming, and the project simply stalls.


Honest disagreements arise about the plan, finances, or authorship.


One or both parties behave badly (e.g., they do not honor some aspect of the agreement, steal credit, or disparage the other collaborator to others).


Geopolitics throws up new roadblocks, or existing roadblocks prove more problematic than anticipated.

When such situations arise, you will have to decide how to protect yourself. The worst thing you can do is to allow a bad situation to fester. If you decide that your colleague is failing to fulfill the original agreements, get on the phone and have a straightforward discussion. Phoning or meeting face to face is better than emailing in such cases, since it is very easy to misread the tone of an email, especially if one correspondent is expecting a fight and the other does not realize that anything is wrong at all.

It is worth your while to try to fix a situation that looks like it could derail your collaboration, especially if you have invested significant time and resources in the project. If, however, the other party has lost all interest or you really do not get along, the best thing might be to back out. Although you may be tempted to let your colleagues know about the failure, remember that such a retaliation can harm your own reputation as much as that of your collaborator. Do not burn bridges, and especially if you are just beginning your career. Do what you can to leave your former collaborator thinking well of you—he or she may c o L L A b o R A t i o n 155

be an important connection to future collaborators.

It is better to leave a collaboration with all parties thinking that it was the situation—not the people involved—that was “not right.”

If a collaboration does not succeed, try not to become discouraged. Although collaborations can be a lot of work and at times frustrating, you will gain much from working with others. Your research can take unexpected turns and expand into new and exciting areas. You will form professional relationships with scientists outside your department who may be willing to write letters of recommendation when it is time to apply for tenure. Your collaborators can help increase your visibility by inviting you to give seminars at their institutes, and they might send graduate students or postdocs to work in your lab.



Adams, Michael J. “Mutual Benefit: Building a Successful

Collaboration.” ScienceCareers.org (October 6, 2000),

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/ previous_issues/articles/0630/mutual_benefit_building_a_ successful_collaboration.

Dee, Phil. “Yours Transferably: Going Global 2—Making

Contact.” ScienceCareers.org (February 16, 2001),

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/ previous_issues/articles/0840/yours_transferably_going_ global_2_making_contact.

De Pass, Anthony. “Underrepresented Minorities in

Science: Collaborations -- Critical to Research Success at Minority Institutions.” ScienceCareers.org (March 2,

2001), http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_ development/previous_issues/articles/0840/ underrepresented_minorities_in_science_collaborations_ critical_to_research_success_at_minority_institutions.

156 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h A p t e R 1 2

InTelleCTual pRopeRTy

L A s g R A n d e s i d e A s s o n A Q u e L L A s d e L A s Q u e L o ú n i c o Q u e n o s s o R p R e n d e

e s Q u e n o s e n o s h A y A n o c u R R i d o A n t e s .

n o e l c l A r A s ó s e r r A t


InTelleCTual pRopeRTy RIGhTs

Intellectual property rights protect the interests of creators by giving them property rights over their creations, whether those creations are the result of a Eureka! moment in the bath, the traditional knowledge of a community, or the collective efforts of hundreds of scientists in a university, government or company.

Intellectual property (IP) rights include patents and copyrights (which protect authored works, including scientific papers, novels, music, art, and other things), trade secrets (things only the maker of a product knows—information not available to the public), trademarks and brands (unique identifiers of products and services), industrial design

(the visual designs of objects with aesthetic or commercial value), and geographical indication

(marking products with their place of origin, for example, “Made in Brazil”).

Because discovering and developing new things is more difficult and expensive than copying others’ work, profit and the right to determine how inventions are used are major driving forces behind commercialization of ideas and products created by scientists. Without protection, imitators can quickly erode the profit available to the inventor, and investors will be discouraged from spending the money needed for more research and development.

A patent is a right given to inventors of intellectual property, allowing them to protect their ownership of an invention by excluding other people, companies, governments, etc., from commercially exploiting (making, using or selling) their innovation for a set period of time, usually 20 years, within the country where the patent is granted.

Inventions are, in essence, ideas. The protection of an invention under patent law does not require that it be a physical thing. But it is customary to distinguish between inventions that are products and those that are processes. The creation of a new cell line is an example of a product invention.

The quote above: Serrat says that big ideas are the ones where the only thing that surprises us about them is that no one has thought of them before.

i n t e L L e c t u A L p R o p e R t y 157

The invention of a new method or process of making the cell line is a process invention.

Patents are based on a trade-off between the rights granted to inventors to exclude others from making, using or selling their invention and rules that require them to reveal the method behind the invention so others may understand and learn from it. They must also explain why this particular invention is different from others like it. That is not so for trade secrets—for example, Coca-Cola jealously guards the recipes for its soft drinks.

In order to receive a patent, an inventor must go through a long application process, and patent protection does not start until the patent is actually issued. Patent applications are prepared by patent lawyers, but require input from the inventor.

Jurisdictions vary in the rules for an application, but in general the patent application document, or specification, will include:


Title and abstract. For ease in cataloguing and searching in databases.


A brief description of the area to which the invention pertains, also called the field of the invention.


A thorough disclosure and description of past work done by others in the field, and what prompted the invention. This description is commonly called prior art. Sources of prior art can include publications, conference abstracts, issued patents or other printed materials.


A progression of steps leading to the invention, along with the shortcomings of the prior art. The differences between prior art and the invention highlight its advantages. Required descriptions of the ways the invention is practiced or implemented, called embodiments, must be detailed enough to allow someone skilled in the art to reconstruct and use the invention.


Clearly labeled graphs, tables, figures, pictures and drawings to aid the descriptions.


The claims draw the boundaries of the invention using legal terms. The claims describe the essence of an invention, first as broadly as possible, and later, more narrowly. Claims are essential for patent protection—making or using the invention or its equivalent under its claims and without the inventor’s permission is considered infringement.

It is also extremely important to know the policies governing intellectual, biological and cultural property rights. Decisions about patenting must be based on local laws and policies. Issues relating to informed consent and intellectual property rights can easily result in controversy.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

The paTenT exaMInaTIon

At its core, a patent examination is an orderly

argument between an inventor and a country’s patent examiners, the officials who determine whether the invention is truly something new and deserving of protection. Patent examiners are subject matter experts who rule on how broad or narrow the inventor’s claims to property rights will be. In order to be patentable, examiners put the application through a battery of tests.



The invention must be the inventor’s own work. Novelty also has much to do with timing. If an invention was known before the date a patent application was filed or the priority date claimed on the patent application (see “Timing

is Everything on page 159), then it cannot be

claimed as new.


Non-obviousness and Inventive Step.

These terms reflect the “Aha!” of an invention and the surprise of an unexpected result. A non-obvious invention will identify a problem and provide a solution. If others tried and failed to develop the invention, or if it is not apparent to someone skilled in the art, then non-obviousness prevails.

3. utility and Industrial Application

. In the US, the patent application must express some credible usefulness or benefit. In contrast, European patent law asks if the invention shows an industrial application.

The examination process, which is called prosecution, may take months or years to complete.

Often some of the application’s claims, or individual written statements about the invention that are presented one after another in the application, will be rejected. A patent application will usually

158 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

t i m i n g i s e v e R y t h i n g

In some countries, once an idea or invention is made public, by being published in the scientific literature for example, it cannot be patented. In others, including the US, there is a grace period during which an inventor can file a patent application.

In countries without this grace period, an inventor is out of luck if the invention was known publicly or published in a journal even one day before the filing date. To complicate matters, patent law defines the word “publication” very broadly. Even an abstract, oral presentation or poster session can qualify as publication, and advertising brochures, grant applications, catalogues and magazine articles are fair game too. Each situation is different, and anyone planning to file a domestic or foreign patent must be aware of the kinds of information generated by their organization. Finally, be aware that publication of the application by the patent office for all to see will occur some months after the filing—irrespective of whether the patent is ever issued.

Patent laws that grant rights to the first inventor to file a patent use a simple, objective measure to determine priority, but critics say it favors big corporations who can pay for each filing. On the other hand, laws that grant rights to the first to make an invention favor the individual with few resources.

Once a patent has been awarded in one country, an international Patent Cooperation Treaty gives the inventor up to 18 months to file for patents in other individual countries beyond his or her own. begin by making very broad claims, and then will narrow successive claims until it is extremely specific. So an application relating to, for example, a new bicycle gearing system, might have some very broad claims related to the general function of gears rejected, while other claims, such as the narrower claim describing the new gearing system itself, may be accepted. The applicant may respond to the objections by arguing in support of or making amendments to any rejected claims. If the examiner’s objections cannot be overcome, the application may eventually be abandoned.

benefITInG fRoM

InTelleCTual pRopeRTy

Intellectual property, including patents, trade secrets or other “intangible assets,” can be converted into monetary value—hence the term “intellectual capital.” Intellectual capital is quite worthless unless there is someone, somewhere, willing to buy it. Therefore, a patent is merely the starting point for a financial arrangement between parties.

The trick becomes how to efficiently transfer the technology from the inventor to the marketplace.

Who benefits from these arrangements? An invention that you make as part of your scientific work may belong to your institution, or to the funder of the work, or to the government, or to you, depending on the policies and customs of the place where you are working. Whether your thoughts and the work you do with your hands belong to you or someone else varies considerably from institution to institution, funder to funder, and country to country. Asking others at your institution or in your area who have patented work will help you understand what will become of any intellectual property associated with your work.

If you believe that you will generate patentable inventions, talk with your institution, your major funders, or your government early so that you can understand the ideas behind the process before any real invention is at stake.

Once an invention is patented, you do not have to be the one who uses your rights to it. A license, a legally binding contract that allows someone else to make, use and/or sell an invention, can be sold or lent to someone else, often in return for fees and royalties, which are returns on future profits. An “exclusive license” is given to only one i n t e L L e c t u A L p R o p e R t y 159

licensee, who can charge others for use of the licensed technology, generating more fees and more royalties. A non-exclusive license can be granted to more than one entity. When know-how

—the idea of how to do something—is patented by scientists, it is usually made non-exclusive so that those in the know may freely talk about the idea with other scientists.

A license also can be granted exclusively to one licensee for a specific application, or “field of use,” maintaining the owner’s option to issue licenses for other fields of use.

InTelleCTual pRopeRTy In a Global enVIRonMenT

Nations protect intellectual property (IP) through their laws. IP law enables individuals and organizations to harvest the rewards of inventiveness.

Yet these assets are products of the communities who make them. There is a tension between the protection of individual interests and the need to provide broad access to the societies who need them. As scientists in more and more countries generate more IP and become more collaborative, their nations must sort out the best ways to handle their new inventions. Because different nations are in different stages of economic and scientific development, each has a unique approach to IP law.

The effort to speed the transfer of intellectual property across borders has led to a profusion of organizations, treaties and laws through which to navigate. Described below are the important ones, how they came to be, and how they figure in the global scheme of things.

The woRlD InTelleCTual pRopeRTy oRGanIZaTIon (wIpo)

Established in Stockholm and launched in 1970,

WIPO is an agency of the United Nations. Its mission is “To promote through international cooperation the creation, dissemination, use and protection of works of the human mind for the economic, cultural and social progress of all mankind…to contribute to a balance between the stimulation of creativity worldwide, by sufficiently protecting the moral and material interests of creators on the one hand, and providing access to the socio-economic and cultural benefits of such creativity worldwide on the other.”

WIPO creates and manages multilateral treaties among nations, including: t h e L i f e c y c L e o f A n i d e A

Royalties Back to

Inventor and Institution





License Agreement with Company

Grant of





Grant or

Contract Proposal

$$ to Scientist

Scientific Discovery


Invention Disclosure to

Technology Transfer Office

160 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e


The Paris Convention. Signed in 1883, every member country must grant to nationals of other countries the same IP protection it grants to its own citizens. More practically, it allows inventors in one nation to use the patent filing date in that nation as the effective date in another nation, provided that they apply within 12 months of the first filing.


Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Filing a patent in all countries would be extremely costly. The

PCT coordinates the filing of international patent applications among nearly 140 countries. A PCT filing contains the nuts and bolts for an examination, such as a search of prior art and a description of claims. A preliminary examination rules on its patentability. Finally, each contracting national or regional patent office (see the European Patent

Office (EPO), below) is free to carry out a formal examination and decide whether to issue a patent.

Aside from the unified procedure, the advantages to filing a PCT are streamlining and buying time before the national examinations commence. But local jurisdictions charge fees for filing, issuing and maintaining the patent.

The bIG ThRee

Among the world’s patent offices, the biggest are the European Patent Office (EPO), the United States

Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japan

Patent Office (JPO). Together, the USPTO and the

EPO review the largest number of the world’s patent applications, but Japan’s patent office activities are growing fast.

China is also fast becoming a world leader in intellectual property, and Western countries are scrambling to establish trade agreements to harmonize patent information (see “The World’s

Most Active Patent Offices”). The differences among the big three are first-to-invent and first-tofile, and that the U.S. permits patents on software and business methods. While the EPO grants only one patent for any given inventive system, the same invention in Japan could constitute up to 10 different patents, with every aspect of the invention filed separately.

Like WIPO, the EPO does not issue patents, but carries out formal examinations on behalf of 37

European countries, along with examining oppositions to patents already granted.

The world’s Most active patent offices

Country/Region united states


europe (EPO)

Japan (JPO)

China (SIPO)

south Korea



# of examiners







# of applications







Data assembled from national sources between 2004 and 2006.

buIlDInG a MoRe unIfIeD sysTeM

At the end of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) treaty, which created the World

Trade Organization (WTO), the discussion turns to the wide variation of protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. As IP rights became more important in global trade, these differences became a source of tension in international relations. New trade rules were seen as a way to introduce more order and predictability, and for disputes to be settled more systematically. At the turn of the century, “harmonization” became the catchword. In mid-2000, the big three signed the

Patent Law Treaty, which charts a path towards international normalization by 2010.

The WTO oversees the Agreement on Trade-Related

Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), a

1995 agreement that attempts to “narrow the gaps in the way that these [intellectual property] rights are treated around the world, and to bring them under common international rules.” The TRIPS

Agreement is expected to do a number of things, including increasing royalty and license fees to developing nations and increasing foreign direct investment in the developing world.

Ratification of the TRIPS Agreement became a mandatory requirement for membership in the WTO.

The agreement attempts to gather and normalize all aspects of IP rights and their enforcement, including protecting trade secrets, establishing transparency, and clarifying copyrights. The agreement attempts to crack down on reverse engineering of biotechnology products, and requires companies in developing countries to adhere to

Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards.

i n t e L L e c t u A L p R o p e R t y 161

Most profound for developing countries were changes related to patents. They include:


Broad definition of what can be patentable. This requires many countries to extend protection to areas such as chemical and pharmaceutical products and processes, food products, microorganisms, microbiological processes and new varieties of plants.


Harmonized patent length at 20 years from the date of filing.


Mandated that intellectual property laws not offer any benefits to local citizens that are not available to citizens of other TRIPS states while they are in that country (see Indigenous Knowledge, page 165).


Flexibility for developing countries to allow someone else to produce a product without the consent of the patent owner. This “compulsory licensing” can be used in circumstances of extreme “national urgency” such as domestic health crises.

hIV/aIDs anD The TRIps DebaTe

The GATT treaty had a rough start and remains controversial. The European Union, the United

States and large pharmaceutical companies played a major role in adopting the TRIPS Agreement.

The fact that corporations with an interest in favorable international rules on intellectual property were themselves part of developing policy was a focus of intense debate. Developing countries complained that they were left out of critical negotiations. The provision that requires poor countries to extend patent rights on pharmaceutical products made in the developing world has also provoked criticism.

New patents promise benefits and incur costs that differ by disease, and some diseases primarily affect poor countries. For those disorders, patents are not attractive to private investment because the purchasing power of developing countries is low. Widely available patent rights could increase the benefits derived from greater public financing of biomedical research for the underdeveloped world.

The high profile of public health emergencies such as the sub-Saharan Africa AIDS crisis spotlights the tension between public health and global IP protection. Developed nations want their inventions protected, but developing countries want wide distribution of the health benefits of drugs and agricultural advances at low or no cost to their citizens. A sick or suffering working class does little to put the country on a road to economic prosperity.

In 1997, a South African law called the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act was put in place to reduce the price of drugs, especially those used against AIDS. The law encouraged use of generic drugs and allowed the government to purchase brand-name drugs abroad if it could get them at a lower price. A consortium of 39 pharmaceutical companies sued to prevent the import of cheap generic antiretrovirals into South Africa. The move was a public relations fiasco for the industry,

Open Access

Another important issue regarding scientific research is the availability of software for data analysis. Given that I work with population health issues, part of my job is to analyze large data sets. Statistical software—like SAS,

SPSS, JMP, etc.—might seem inexpensive for large research projects in industrialized countries, but they tend to be quite expensive for scientists in developing countries. Some software developers charge for every statistical module and yearly license renewal, and these practices make the software very expensive.

However, there is a new “movement” of

Open Access software developers. Open

Access software is free software developed by a community of scientists, usually spread all over the world. There is freeware for different tasks. The package or language called R is the most widely used Open Access statistical software in the world, and includes “cuttingedge” routines that very few statistical packages have. Open Access software appears to become a very valuable tool for scientists in developing countries that have very limited money resources for purchasing equipment.

Gilbert brenes Comacho, Costa Rica

about working to improve it are available at www.r-project.org.

162 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

and the consortium settled the suit in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Brazil and a group of African countries, working with the NGOs, brought the problem of drug access to the global stage at a meeting of the world’s trade ministers in Doha, Qatar.

The declarations of the Doha group affirmed members’ right to protect public health and to promote access to medicines for all. Most importantly, it clarified the right to use compulsory licensing to meet public health concerns, stating that “public health crises, including those related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics, can represent a national emergency.”

Though the TRIPS Agreement is designed to level the IP playing field and is necessary to spur development in developing countries, major challenges remain. They include the cost of providing therapy broadly across the world, the limited capacity of most developing countries to make generic drugs, the potential impact on countries such as Brazil and India, which may be required to stop their own manufacture of inexpensive generic drugs, and the impact of requiring companies to license their existing drugs on those companies’ future investments in drugs of benefit to low-income countries.

Case sTuDIes

eMbRyonIC sTeM Cells

An American scientist, James Thomson, was awarded three patents by the USPTO for his pathbreaking work with human embryonic stem cells.

The patents, which cover cell lines, are unusual for two reasons. First, they were issued based on research using a morally controversial source of material—leftover but viable two-day-old human embryos obtained through in vitro fertilization

(IVF) clinics.

The second unusual feature is the patent claims themselves. Not only do they assert a right to charge anyone to use the cell lines Thomson created, they also prevent anyone else from using any human embryonic stem cell lines, made by any method, in any laboratory, anywhere in the

US. These patent claims are among the broadest ever granted in the life sciences.

broad Claims: embryonic stem Cell patents

“We claim: 1. a purified preparation of primate embryonic stem cells which


is capable of proliferation in an in vitro culture for over one year,


maintains a karyotype in which all the chromosomes characteristic of the primate species are present and not noticeably altered through prolonged culture,


maintains the potential to differentiate into derivatives of endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm tissues throughout culture,


will not differentiate when cultured on a fibroblast feeder layer.”

Since embryonic stem cells could eventually lead to treatments or cures for maladies such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, the patents have generated a debate with ethical, social and legal implications. Because of broad claims and the aggressive negotiating position the institute who owns the patents has taken with those who want to use the lines, scholars fear that the monopolistic practices could squelch innovation and competition and result in treatments being distributed only to those who can afford them. If the keys to use the inventions are given to just a few, there will be little incentive to develop cheaper and better products.

The controversies have meant a rocky road for both the patent holder and its exclusive licensees.

The European Patent Office (EPO) rejected the patents on moral grounds. Because they involve the use of “human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes,” they consider them an immoral violation of public order. Though the decision can be appealed, a confirmatory ruling would mean that no such patents would be issued by the EPO. Yet a grant of a patent does not automatically confer rights in EU (European Union

CEU) member states. Each country is free to interpret the morality clause in its own fashion and decide whether to issue a patent.

i n t e L L e c t u A L p R o p e R t y 163

Finally, the patents have been challenged on technical grounds. In 2007, the USPTO ruled that the patents failed the non-obviousness requirement. The challenge referenced multiple cases of prior art (the teachings of two patents and four articles published prior to the filing of Thomson’s first patent in 1996), assuming that a “person having ordinary skill in the art” would be able to accomplish what Thomson and his laboratory did.

Both the challengers and the research institute will battle back and forth for years before the issue is finally resolved. During that time, the patents remain fully in force.

eVeRyboDy InTo The pool

The development of new drugs, devices and tools comes at an astonishing price. A Tufts University study estimates the 2006 cost of bringing a drug to market at $1.2 billion. Those costs are passed on to patients and health care systems. The higher the development cost, the more difficult it is to bring new biomedical products to underserved markets.

One of the problems associated with the increased time and cost are “patent thickets,” when companies need to license many bits and pieces of a complex chain of technology in order to successfully implement their own intellectual property.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in vaccine development, where separate licenses may be required for specific genes, animal models, bioprocessing, and delivery systems. “Stacking” royalty payments in this fashion becomes very expensive.

One of the mechanisms put forward to deal with patent thickets is patent pools. A “patent pool” is an agreement between two or more patent owners to license patents to one another or to outsiders. Most are voluntary, devised when companies or organizations find their ability to innovate stifled by key technical patents owned by others.

Members of the pool share royalties paid by third parties. Proponents argue that such arrangements can help stimulate innovation.

In response to the SARS outbreak, the WHO funded a network of laboratories to develop a vaccine. Several of the researchers filed patent applications on inventions related to the viral genomic sequence. Further research by large group of public and private sector entities led to additional patent applications. The agency proposed a patent pool strategy that would avoid potential

SARS-related intellectual property conflicts and speed the development of vaccines. If the negotiations among the parties succeed, the first pool will be set up in the U.S., followed by other jurisdictions.

Patent pools attempt to speed development by sharing risk and reward, but one intriguing model abandons the concept of intellectual property altogether. For example, a non-governmental organization, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis have developed a new anti-malarial therapy—fixed-dose combination

(FDC) of artesunate and amodiaquine (AS/AQ), which will be available in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere for less than $1 per dose. Because there are no patents, other companies are free to make cheaper versions of the therapy, also called generics. The patent-free model could become one way to treat the world’s neglected diseases.

shaReD ResouRCes

At the prompting of Icelandic corporation deCODE genetics, Iceland’s parliament passed the Health

Sector Database Act in 1998. It authorized a

12-year, exclusive license to deCODE to create a database of the medical records of all Icelandic citizens. Iceland’s advantage was its small, isolated population and its fastidious practice of medical record-keeping. The country has kept medical and genealogical data on all of its citizens for more than a century. The act stated that while the government has access to the database, deCode could use it for commercial purposes, such as diagnostics or drug discovery.

The Icelandic government has concluded that genetic information is a national resource, and that citizens have no individual rights to it. Others worried whether the government and deCODE could be relied on to properly protect genetic information. Though confidentiality was promised, improper release of information could have devastating consequences, such as denial of health insurance or employment discrimination. Granting a proprietary right to one’s own genetic information,

164 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

some said, would help individuals control its use.

Others responded that the information belonged to all Icelanders, and as such decisions about its use should have come from the community.

Another worry concerned the delay of publications.

Kari Stephansson, deCODE’s CEO, wrote in the

New England Journal of Medicine, “The primary goal is to use medical discoveries to develop better methods to diagnose, prevent, and cure diseases.

Today, this often requires that an intellectual property be secured, which may delay publication of a discovery. The choice between early publication and the development of a product for the benefit of patients with a particular disease is, in our minds, an easy one.” The biotech industry argued that without exclusive rights there would be no incentive to invest, and granting individual ownership might cause hundreds or thousands of people to demand royalties from companies using the data to develop products.

The textbook example of genetic property rights is found in the case of Moore v. Regents of California

(the Regents of California is the governing body of the University of California at all of its multiple campuses.) Moore claimed that his property rights had been violated when inventors did not share the commercial gains made from the commercial use of his cancerous spleen cells. The court concluded—as the Icelandic Government did with its citizens—that Moore did not have a valid ownership claim, and that giving him one would hinder biomedical research.

What lies ahead for Iceland? Some call for better balance between financial incentives and greater access to the information, such as compulsory licensing to certified genetic researchers. Private sector advocates say that any future financial return negotiated on behalf of the country’s 280,000 citizens will be vanishingly small. As the debate continues, scientists at deCODE have recently discovered genes associated with cancer, sleep disorders and heart disease.

InDIGenous KnowleDGe

A team of Western researchers learns of an herbal remedy used by a remote tribe of Amazon villagers.

The group travels to Ecuador, where they work with local shamans and elders to identify the right plant cultivars. The herbs are brought back to the laboratory, where the active ingredient is isolated and purified. The company receives a patent on the product and manufactures it to industrial scale, making a blockbuster drug with a billion dollar profit.

Some critics say abuse of traditional systems of

IP rights devalues indigenous cultures, reduces biodiversity and steals the “pharmacy from the poor.” Called biopiracy, the practice uses intellectual property to legitimize the ownership and control of biological resources used by developing countries. The 1992 Rio Convention on

Biodiversity (CBD), ratified by 187 countries and the European Union, recognized that indigenous cultures have long contributed to global wealth generated by the commercialization of their native plants and animals.

Under the rules of the CBD and other international guidelines:


New intellectual policies and laws must involve community participation.


Access to traditional knowledge and resources

(especially genetic resources) may only be obtained by informed consent.


Communities have the right to share the benefits of commercialization, and use by others can only proceed on the basis of mutually agreeable terms.

It hasn’t always worked that way. The textbook case is neem, a common Indian tree whose seeds have been long used for medicines, cosmetics and pesticides. Because agricultural products are not patentable in India, a foreign company patented a neem extract and began manufacturing a pesticide in India in the late 1980s. The company’s demand for seeds drove the price beyond the reach of ordinary Indians, including farmers who enjoyed free access to stocks. Thus there were social, economic and ethical factors driving an EPO action in 2000, which revoked the patent based on lack of novelty, inventive step and theft of prior art.

The neem case has been characterized as plunder by many, but others say nothing prevented Indian companies from manufacturing the pesticide and exporting it, and there was little evidence that the transnational conglomerate had asserted its rights in India to prevent local companies from competing. i n t e L L e c t u A L p R o p e R t y 165

And, India benefited as a supplier of seed and local technical talent.

How best to protect traditional knowledge?

Preventing others from patenting is one strategy.

Recording and storing knowledge establishes it as prior art and makes it more difficult to appropriate.

The downside of this “defensive” approach is that it makes public community knowledge that may be held by custom to be private and sacrosanct.

Positive measures could use laws to enact special unique-to-the-situation (sui generis) rights to protect traditional knowledge. Under sui generis, indigenous peoples can argue that controlling use of their knowledge is a self-determining right, and that modern laws can never overrule ancient systems of beliefs and traditions.


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World Trade Organization (WTO): http://www.wto.org

WIPO What Is Intellectual Property?: http://www.wipo.int/


166 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

c h A p t e R 1 3

MoVInG MaTeRIals anD eQuIpMenT

“ p A t i e n c e A n d p e R s e v e R A n c e h A v e A m A g i c A L e f f e c t b e f o R e w h i c h

d i f f i c u L t i e s d i s A p p e A R A n d o b s t A c L e s v A n i s h .

J o h n q u i n c y A d A m s

Transferring research-related materials internationally presents challenges, particularly if the shipments are to or from the developing world. Depending on your exact area of research, you may need to receive (or send) materials including large, multi-use equipment; laboratory glassware and disposables; books; reagents; infectious agents and vectors of infectious agents; human products; biological specimens; and/or a variety of living organisms.

Different rules and regulations come into play depending on the type of material being shipped.

Such regulations have been designed for a number of important reasons, including the need to ensure the safety of those handling the materials, to reduce biosecurity risks, to safeguard national security and to protect the wellbeing of a country’s citizens, to protect commercial interests, and to provide for the health and comfort of animals. But they can also, at times, result in long shipping delays or be incorrectly interpreted, resulting in problems at customs or elsewhere.

Furthermore, in some countries the import regulations are not only complex, but intrinsically ambiguous, to the extent that many of the officials who deal directly with importing goods may not understand the rules themselves. There may also be corruption at certain stages of the import process, further complicating matters. Finally, purely practical problems such as the need to keep certain temperature-sensitive materials cold, or living material alive, can make shipping materials long distances difficult. This chapter gives an overview of the types of regulatory and practical issues you might face when shipping materials internationally, and provides suggestions for how best to navigate those challenges.

The material in this chapter was derived from a variety of sources. Information came from reference books and governmental and regulatory agency Web sites, as well as interviews with international shipping specialists (specifically, those who focus on shipping pharmaceuticals and biological reagents), individuals at international m o v i n g m A t e R i A L s A n d e Q u i p m e n t 167

p A p e R w o R k i n v o L v e d i n p u R c h A s i n g

1. pro forma invoice/price quote: a quotation on the price (FOB, CIF, or in place) for a product or a

series of products. Normally it is valid for a limited time. This document does not certify any real

transaction, but for a time period it establishes the value of a trade.

2. Invoice: the document that reflects that the real transaction has been formally arranged and will

certainly occur or has occurred.

3. Receipt: the document certifying that the payment for the transaction stated in the invoice has been

done. A receipt has no value without the invoice. On the contrary, certain kinds of invoices have value

without the corresponding receipts. Granting agencies may require the original invoices of your

purchases as proof that the transactions have taken place. In some cases, they might also request

the receipts or other proofs of payment, such as credit card balances, copies of wire transfers, etc.

4. packing slip/remito: the document that is signed when the delivery is received at the purchaser’s lab.

bioresource centers and at biotechnology companies that support science in the developing world, and scientists who work in developing countries.

Perhaps the most important single piece of advice is that there is no fixed set of rules to learn that will allow you to handle shipping yourself—instead, you should identify experts with local knowledge and experience and enlist those people to handle such matters. That being said, it will be useful to have some background knowledge about relevant regulations and organizations. Additional practical advice will be covered in later sections of the chapter.

ReGulaTIons anD

ReleVanT oRGanIZaTIons

The regulations that govern international shipping are complicated and in flux, affected by politics and world events. A complete description of all applicable organizations and laws affecting the transfer of materials is well beyond the scope of this chapter. The material presented here is intended to be a general overview.

haZaRDous MaTeRIals

united nations (un) Model Regulations on the

Transport of Dangerous Goods.

The UN Model

Regulations, although not legally binding, provide a foundation for the development of globally harmonious regulations on transporting hazardous materials. These regulations are developed by committees made up of representatives from many countries. They address a wide variety of hazards, including toxicity, radioactivity, infectious substance hazards, flammability, explosiveness, and corrosiveness.

UN identification numbers are given to specific materials ranging from infectious substances that affect humans to genetically modified microorganisms to dry ice. The Model Regulations prescribe standards for packaging, labeling, and marking for each category of material in transit.

They describe the documentation and emergency contact information required for each shipment.

The use of consistent regulations internationally has obvious benefits, among them obviating the need to reclassify, re-label, or repackage materials during transport.

International Civil aviation organization


The ICAO (http://www.icao.int/), an agency of the UN, publishes “Technical Instructions on the

Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air” (ICAO

TI) biannually. These instructions are in part based on the UN Recommendations described above.

International air Transport association (IaTa)

The IATA (http://www.iata.org) is a global trade organization that was formed over 60 years ago and now represents 250 airlines. The IATA

168 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

publishes the “Dangerous Goods Regulations

Manual” (DGR Manual), which provides information on classifying, marking, packing, labeling, and documenting shipments containing dangerous goods. IATA regulations cover materials carried on board by passengers or checked in luggage as well as those shipped commercially. IATA DGRs are similar to the ICAO TI, but contain additional requirements and are more restrictive.

International Maritime organization (IMo).

IMO (http://www.imo.org) has developed a uniform international dangerous goods (DG) code for transporting materials by sea. The code covers packing and stowage, and pays particular attention to the separation of incompatible substances.

appRopRIaTe paCKaGInG

Packaging materials incorrectly can have severe safety and legal consequences. For example, dry ice placed in an airtight container will cause an increase in pressure in the container, potentially leading to an explosion. A lack of proper orientation markings on chemical packaging can lead to leaks and chemical mixing, possibly causing fires or explosions. Planes have crashed because safety regulations on shipping dangerous goods were not followed. Fines for not following dangerous goods shipping regulations can be severe, even if no harm results.

TRanspoRTaTIon of ReseaRCh anIMals anD planTs

Convention on International Trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora


Because most countries have specific rules about importing animals, regulations in this area are very complicated. CITES (also known as the Washington Convention; http://www.cites.

org/), which represents an agreement among governments to regulate the movement of endangered plants and animals and their derivatives across international borders, is currently enforced in 172 countries. These regulations cover both commercial and noncommercial trade.

office International des Épizooties/world animal health organization.

The goal of this organization, also known as the Office International des Épizooties (OIE; http://www.oie.int), is to prevent zoonoses, infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. It has developed the “Terrestrial Animal

Health Code” and the “Aquatic Animal Health

Code,” which provide recommendations for member countries as they set up or revise regulations about importing animals and animal products.

IaTa live animal Regulations (laR).


LAR is a global standard for transporting animals by air. These regulations cover animal containers and methods to ensure the welfare of animals being shipped by air, among other topics. Both

CITES and OIE recognize these regulations.

labelInG, paCKaGInG, papeRwoRK, lICenses, anD peRMITs

Complying with regulations governing the international transport of hazardous materials or living organisms and their derivatives requires the use of proper labels. These include labels describing the substance (for example, “Infectious

Substance” or “Biological Substance, Category B” or “Dry Ice”), as well as those stating the proper shipping name, the UN identification number, and the correct orientation of the shipping container.

Potentially hazardous biological substances, including infectious substances and genetically modified microorganisms, must be triple packaged, with a leak-proof primary container, a secondary container that contains enough absorbent material to absorb all of the liquid in the sample, and an outer container large enough to contain the required labels. The two outer packages must meet UN performance standards and are available from commercial suppliers. Packaging must meet additional requirements if ice, dry ice, or liquid nitrogen is included in the shipment.

Shipments must be accompanied by a Declaration for Dangerous Goods form if hazardous materials are being sent. Other documents that might be required include export permits and/or licenses, m o v i n g m A t e R i A L s A n d e Q u i p m e n t 169

L A b e L i n g m A t t e R s

A case in point: In Thailand, items labeled “plastic goods” can have an import tax of 40%, whereas plastic laboratory ware labeled “laboratory equipment” has a tax of 10%. So knowledge of this particular piece of information could save a substantial sum of money. A good agent from a Thai forwarding company who is familiar with movement of scientific materials will be familiar with import taxes and with proper labeling, and communicate such information to the original company if necessary. Such an agent does not want a 40% tax if 10% is possible instead, because of the increased cost that will be passed on to the scientist. As another example, anecdotal evidence suggests that in some regions of the world, products labeled “research reagents” will be cleared through customs relatively easily, whereas those labeled “medical products” will not be cleared; the reverse is reported to be true in other regions of the world. Again, a good agent should be aware of these subtleties.

import permits and/or licenses, a shipper’s export declarations, a commercial invoice, a certificate of origin, a bill of lading, an insurance certificate, an export packing list, a consular invoice, an airway bill, and inspection certificates.

IMpoRTanT Issues anD pRaCTICal aDVICe

expeRT assIsTanCe

Because of the complexities of international shipping, one of the most important pieces of advice is to identify experts who can handle the associated issues for you. There are many advantages to working with a trusted local distributor of reagents and equipment (who represents one or more well-known life sciences companies), a freight forwarder, and/or a customs broker.

A forwarder is an agent who facilitates international shipments. These agents are familiar with both import and export regulations, as well as with packing, labeling, insurance, documentation, and shipping options and requirements. A customs broker will undertake transactions associated with customs on your behalf, such as classification and valuation of products and payment of taxes and duties. Such individuals should also have familiarity with local customs and a track record of experience in the country or region.

You might wonder if hiring a knowledgeable customs broker, for instance, is worth the cost.

Customs regulations are extremely complex— they vary from country to country, and can be influenced by changing politics. Because the rules are so complicated and often unclear, identifying and appointing a local agent to handle tasks such as clearing equipment or goods through customs can be far less expensive than attempting to manage the task yourself. Because the particular rules change frequently, and are often flexible or ambiguous, it is not generally possible for scientists to be aware of what rules are in place at a given time. For example, proper labeling is critically important for cost-effective and timely passage through customs. Improper labeling, even if accurate, can have severe or expensive consequences.

In addition, in some circumstances, the scientist has to take some time to train a local agent in handling research material. Although this appears to be outside your role, in the long run it is time well invested. Otherwise, you will end up wasting much more time in sorting out all kinds of issues whenever you have to ship or receive research materials.

abdoulaye Djimdé, Mali

170 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

IDenTIfyInG DIsTRIbuToRs anD aGenTs

How does one go about identifying appropriate distributors and agents? The aim is to single out those with long track records, who have worked in the region for a lengthy period of time and have been found to be trustworthy, and, in the case of distributors, to recognize those with local agents that have legitimate connections with well-known biotechnology companies. The best way to discover which people and companies meet those criteria is to ask established scientists who have worked in the region for substantial periods of time. To find a specialist for a particular transaction, you might first search for another local scientist who has previously hired a specialist for that kind of transaction and had good results. You might also contact well-known companies and ask them if they have a local partner in your region, and if so, how experienced that partner is.


In some places, corruption is common and has large effects on the importation of goods. Government officials can interpret rules as they wish in certain countries, and several of the distributors and exporters interviewed for this chapter said that they assumed that money changes hands

“under the table” when goods move across borders, particularly large pieces of equipment, but also reagents, kits, and other supplies. Though it is clearly illegal for the exporting company to be involved in such transactions, once the shipment is within the borders of another country, it may be impossible to control what happens. Exporters mentioned that they preferred not to know about these operations, leaving them in the hands of local distributors, agents, and importers. The general advice for scientists is similar: Follow the laws personally, and do not attempt to handle transactions yourself.

The level of corruption varies by region. Whereas in some cases the import “fees” clearly serve only to supplement the income of certain officials, many import fees in other countries are legitimate, even if the rules describing them are ambiguous.

Furthermore, the line between corruption and local traditions is sometimes hard to distinguish.

A good knowledge of local conventions and practices can smooth the way for the efficient passage of a shipment through customs. A high-quality distributor or customs agent will know these routines; buying an official lunch or bringing someone a special snack might be all that is needed to bring a $100,000 piece of equipment through customs. Such practices appear less like bribery and more like politeness within the context of a given culture.

expoRT ConTRols

Federal export control regulations in the country where your materials originate can have large effects on how quickly you receive a given shipment. These regulations prohibit the export of certain materials without an export license issued by the government, and obtaining such a license can take considerable time. Such requirements were put into place many years ago for reasons that included national security, but they have been more strictly interpreted and enforced since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001.

License requirements and restrictions also vary depending on the destination of the goods. In the

United States, for example, some items can be exported to Canada without a license, but require a license for shipment elsewhere. Licenses cannot be obtained in the United States for export to embargoed countries (presently Cuba, Iran,

Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Sudan, and Syria).

Penalties for breaking these regulations can be severe—in the United States, noncompliance can result in fees of up to $1,000,000 (or up to five times the value of the export, whichever is greater) per violation and imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Thus, there is a strong impetus for companies to comply with export licensing requirements.

These regulations are meant to stop “dual-use” equipment or technologies—that is, items that could potentially be used for both basic research and for military or terrorism purposes—from getting into the hands of terrorists or unfriendly governments. A large variety of equipment and technologies can be covered by these regulations, including computers and software, centrifuges, autoclaves, fermenters, cross flow filtration m o v i n g m A t e R i A L s A n d e Q u i p m e n t 171

equipment, freeze-drying equipment, and radiation detectors, as well as a variety of chemicals, radiochemicals, medical or biological reagents, and toxins. Equipment or components used in processing (such as large-scale purification) are potentially problematic, because similar processing steps can be used both in legitimate scientific experiments and in the production of biological or chemical weapons. These items can include such common equipment as pumps and valves.

In some cases, obtaining an export license can add substantially to the time required to receive your shipment. For example, filtration cartridges, which have a legitimate use in protein purification, can also be used in bioweapons manufacturing, and in one recent instance, obtaining an export license for these items took about seven months.

There is no way around the potentially long delays in these instances; the best you can do is to try to plan your orders well in advance of when you will need the equipment or supplies. Most companies will provide information to you about exactly what types of equipment will require an export license.

Despite these warnings, it is important to note that most standard laboratory equipment and reagents do not require export licenses. Even orders for radiochemicals, which could be imagined to cause difficulties, generally do not result in long delays. This is because research scale quantities are small, and the types of radiochemicals used in biological experiments are not those used in the manufacture of weapons.

An experienced company representative will know the difference between equipment and reagents that could legitimately be used in laboratory experiments and those that are not legitimate.

A local representative also gains a sense of the types of work going on in individual laboratories.

Particularly since 2001, big companies without local representatives have become less willing to provide a quote for dual-use equipment or reagents unless they know who the end user will be. Instead, they will sometimes turn a request for a quote over to a company with a local representative who does know the individuals in a particular region. In this regard, scientists may come out ahead in that they will receive a quote from a company able to supply local support.

seRVICe anD MaInTenanCe

Just as there are upfront costs associated with using a forwarding agent or customs broker that can in the end save money, there can be costs associated with using an established local distributor associated with well-known companies, rather than a foreign distributor or an unknown distributor without a track record, that ultimately represent money well spent. Such a decision can have consequences beyond simply having the equipment arrive safely.

Both large and small pieces of equipment often require technical support in the initial setup phase, as well as ongoing service and maintenance. An overseas company without a local agent might well offer a given piece of equipment at a lower cost than a company with a local presence. This situation might arise because the quote from the overseas company is based on the cost of support in Europe or North America, for example, rather than in the country where you are. If you were to select the company based on the cheapest quote in this situation, you would not have a local agent to rely on if the equipment requires servicing.

In general, this is a problem in countries with a low volume of scientific equipment sold. On a per-unit basis, it is more expensive to support one

DNA sequencer or synthesizer in a country like

Laos than it is to support the far greater number of these units in a country like France. In lowvolume countries, education levels are generally lower, and local people must be sent overseas to be trained or a service agent must be brought in from another country, all contributing to the cost of supplying service.

This issue is further complicated by the fact that funding organizations sometimes require scientists to obtain bids for large equipment and to accept the lowest bid. As just described, that requirement might well leave you without equipment support.

What strategies could you use to avoid finding yourself in this situation? One approach is to work with a trusted local distributing agent from an early stage, during the grant-writing process.

The agent can work with you to put the required specifications for a piece of equipment and its

172 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

associated service and maintenance contract into your grant proposal, so that companies that will not ultimately provide support are eliminated from consideration. Such specifications might include conditions such as: “Company supplying equipment must have a local engineer trained in product,” “Company must have onsite technical support,” or “Company must have skilled technical support in the local time zone.”

Attention to this issue might also save you from dealing with companies with no scientific credentials at all, as the following example illustrates.

A scientist working at the Pasteur Institute in

Cambodia received funding from the World Health

Organization (WHO) office in Manila, Philippines.

WHO required that the scientist obtain bids for the requested equipment, which he did. One of the bids came from an established local distributor.

The agent for that distributor received an email from another company asking for a quote for the piece of equipment with the exact specifications originally given to him by the scientist. This company was a local trading company and had no experience with scientific equipment whatsoever.

After the details of this situation were sorted out, it turned out that a person working in the WHO office in Manila gave unauthorized information to a cousin in Cambodia who worked for the local trading company. That cousin then attempted to undermine the tender of the established distributor by underbidding slightly. The local trading company might have supplied the equipment, but certainly could do nothing further, and the scientist would have been out of luck if any sort of local support was needed. However, because this scientist had provided very specific requirements about support in the grant application, he was able to purchase the equipment from the established distributor.

loCal ConDITIons

Knowledgeable local distributors and service personnel will also be familiar with specific problems in the local infrastructure that can affect equipment performance. For example, in some regions, voltage fluctuations can be extremely large, meaning that equipment needs to be supplied with the correct grounding devices. Working with the right local distributor can potentially prevent damage to your equipment or experiments.

Installing fancy equipment in labs in the South should be done with great caution, even in settings that appear suitable. Papua New Guinea is a middle-income country with fewer energy problems compared to many West African countries. My present laboratory in PNG is well-equipped with air conditioning and facilities for performing DNA-based assays. I recently bought a $60,000 Bioplex instrument for performing mosquito diagnostic assays and put it in a lab with window air conditioning. A few weeks later, this very expensive equipment malfunctioned because the window air conditioner caused vibrations in the walls that made the laser readers alter the alignment. We had to fly in a technician from Australia to fix the problem.

Luckily for us we had a good service agreement.

Remember to budget for equipment service by technicians from more developed countries.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

esTablIshInG a laboRaToRy afTeR TRaInInG abRoaD

If you have done most of your training in a rich country, the complications of materials transfer faced by any scientist in that region may be magnified for you because of a lack of recent knowledge of local customs and specific conditions.

In this situation, it can be very useful to spend a month or two at your new job before starting to set up your laboratory. Ask your new colleagues about issues related to the infrastructure that might cause problems with your equipment or experiments. For example, in some places, the air conditioning is turned off at 6:00 PM. A period of re-familiarizing yourself may also allow you to re-adapt to differences in communications which can be quite striking between different countries.

There are places, for example, where it is not uncommon for a person saying that he or she will do a certain task to have no intention of actually doing that task. Learning or re-learning to distinguish when “yes” means “yes” would obviously be useful. m o v i n g m A t e R i A L s A n d e Q u i p m e n t 173

ResponsIbIlITy foR MaTeRIals

If an order goes astray and never arrives, who is responsible? Materials can be sent “FOB origin” or

“FOB destination.” “FOB” means “Free on Board” or “Freight on Board” and is used to indicate when responsibility for the shipment transfers to the recipient. If an item is “FOB Miami,” the shipper is responsible for getting it to Miami and the recipient is responsible for getting it from there to his or her own country. When businesses send materials

“FOB destination,” the supplier is responsible until the scientist receives and accepts the material by signing off when a shipment arrives.

Most materials are under warranty, and reputable companies will replace missing or broken items for free if you can show that the damage happened while the materials were the seller’s responsibility or in the hands of the seller’s agent (for example, the seller’s shipping contractor). Some variations on this theme are possible, however, depending on the terms agreed upon for shipping. If the recipient has made arrangements for clearing materials through customs, for example, he or she might become responsible for the shipment when it reaches customs. In this situation, materials damaged because of delays in customs would not be replaced by the shipper. This type of circumstance provides another reason to rely on experts for handling passage through customs.

anIMals anD planTs

Importing animals or plants can present particular challenges, because the regulations can vary a great deal depending on the country. Information about which treaties the country enforces and the local laws can be obtained from the country’s consulate or its Web site. Professional assistance might be required if there are incompatibilities between the laws of the country exporting the animals and those of the country importing them.

Again, a broker familiar with these regulations can provide invaluable assistance. There may be quarantine requirements depending on the species and country involved. Some countries require Veterinary

Certificates for animal-derived materials and Phyto- sanitary Certificates for plant-derived materials.

The requirements of the importing country may vary depending on the identity of the exporting country. For example, animal-derived products from one country might be of greater concern than the same products from another country.

Sending materials that are not properly packed, because the regulations don’t exist in your country, may result in them being impounded in other ports where strict rules apply. Always pack your samples following international shipping rules.

Moses bockarie, papua new Guinea

physICal ChallenGes

To shIppInG MaTeRIals lonG DIsTanCes


Many biological materials and reagents, ranging from frozen tissue culture cells to enzymes and vaccines, need to be kept cold during shipment to retain viability or performance. The American

Type Culture Collection (ATCC; http://www.atcc.

org/) is a bioresource center that ships biological materials such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, plant seeds, cell lines, viruses, and antisera throughout the world, except to countries restricted by the

United States government. If possible, techniques for shipping that bypass the need to keep materials cold are used. Obviously, shipping delays are not as deleterious, and shipping is less expensive, if materials are stable at ambient temperatures.

Sometimes biological samples can be shipped spotted on filter paper.

For example, the Malaria Research and Reference

Reagent Resource Center (MR4; www.malaria.

mr4.org), a central source of malaria-related organisms and reagents managed by the ATCC, ships monkey blood infected with Plasmodium

174 e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

falciparum, one of the parasites that causes malaria, in this manner. Diagnostic antigens and small quantities of DNA can be extracted from these samples. Freeze-drying is sometimes used to stabilize certain microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) and some products such as enzymes, but cannot be used for other types of materials such as tissue culture cells, which must be shipped frozen. Additionally, freeze-drying is both expensive and time-consuming, and is not an alternative that would necessarily be available to individual scientists. If materials must be kept frozen, it is essential that good “cold chain management” is used (discussed in more detail below). To move materials as quickly and efficiently as possible,

ATCC uses freight forwarders who accompany materials through customs.

You may or may not be involved in cold chain management if you are on the receiving end of a shipment. If you are sending heat-sensitive items to distant colleagues, it is important to consider the issues carefully. An excellent article about this topic is listed in this chapter’s Resources section (page 176). It stresses that many failures to maintain the desired temperature come about because of insufficient planning. In brief, important points to consider are (i) packaging, (ii) choice of shipping company, (iii) communications with that company, and (iv) necessary documentation.

Specialized couriers that deal with pharmaceutical products and reagents for the life sciences can provide door-to-door service to most countries, and might represent a good choice for sending important, heat-sensitive materials [see, for example, Quick

International Courier (http://www.quickintl.com/) or World Courier (www.worldcourier.com). Some airline networks have procedures to handle such shipments, and such couriers will use those airlines. That option is not inexpensive, however.

It is important to communicate with the courier early to work through important steps of the process. They should know, for example, who the customs broker is, who to contact if there is a delay, and the hours when packages can be received by the recipient. Packaging must be determined after you establish the extremes in temperature the shipment will likely encounter

(considering, for example, the expected temperature at both the sending and receiving ends) and the length of time the shipment should take.

“Qualified” (or tested) packaging systems are available from packaging vendors with a focus on the pharmaceutical and biotechnology communities. Finally, customs paperwork should be ready before the item is shipped. You should establish what documentation is needed for both import and export before shipping. Furthermore, you should know who will pay the duty and value-added tax when an item is imported, and make sure that funds will be on hand for payment of those taxes.

One important challenge that we have faced is that once or twice shipment of reagents was delayed en route to us, and this delay was not communicated to us and shipment arrived at the weekend or over the holidays. The cold chain was broken, thus resulting in the loss of these expensive reagents. It is very important to keep track of the reagents during their transportation to their destination so that appropriate arrangements can be made to collect them as soon as possible after their arrival in an effort to avert their loss.

susan Mutambu, Zimbabwe


The requirements for keeping organisms viable during shipping vary enormously depending on the species. Microbial cultures are often sent as stab cultures in microtubes (which are small and hard to break) at ambient temperatures. MR4, discussed above, transfers mosquito vectors of human malaria as eggs on damp filter paper. The

Jackson Laboratory (http://www.jax.org/index.

html), which ships mouse strains for biomedical research to countries throughout the world, uses specialized plastic containers for shipping. Water is provided for mice in prepackaged, sterile, gelatinized water packets (Napa Nectar TM) instead of in bottles or through other moisture sources. m o v i n g m A t e R i A L s A n d e Q u i p m e n t 175

ReCenT IMpRoVeMenTs

In MaTeRIals TRansfeR

This chapter has emphasized some of the difficulties associated with shipping laboratory equipment and reagents to countries in the developing world. It is important to realize, however, that the situation has undergone dramatic improvement in the recent past. The biggest change is in communications, which are strikingly enhanced in Southeast Asia,

North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America as compared to the situation just ten years ago.

Cell phones are now almost ubiquitous among scientists and those who work in materials transfer. Broadband internet connections are very good in many regions of the world now, allowing easy communication by email. Skype (http://www.

skype.com), which routes voice conversations over the Internet, is now available in a broad range of countries; its use can dramatically reduce the cost of direct international communications.

These changes mean that limitations to communications—both technical and financial—among scientists, distributors, support staff, and other key agents generally no longer represent a bottleneck in the materials transfer process.

Improved communications have also resulted in much greater availability of product information for scientists, with catalogs, product specifications, and sometimes prices available online. Access to such information allows scientists to compare prices. This ability can lead to surprises or misunderstandings, because costs of equipment and other materials can be significantly higher in developing versus developed regions of the world. One key reason for these differences is the increased support costs in the latter, as discussed above.

A number of international shippers are now very well established in many locations, also leading to improvements in materials transfer. For example,

Federal Express (FedEx; www.fedex.com) and

DHL (http://www.dhl.com) have local offices and couriers in many locations, providing improved infrastructure for shipping. World Courier

(http://www.worldcourier.com), another major international courier company, is particularly good with cold chain preservation and clinical materials.

Despite these improvements, barriers remain for transfer of materials to and from the developing world.


D. Catizone, Planning for Your Cold Chain Shipment: The

Forgotten Science of Clinical Research and Development.

BioProcessing Journal, September/October 2005, pp. 2-4.

This article is available at the Quick International Courier site: http://www.quickintl.com/.

For researchers collaborating with colleagues in the

United States, the application for the U.S. Public Health

Service permit to import or transport etiologic agents, hosts, or vectors of human disease can be found at:




Guidelines for the Humane Transportation of Research

Animals (2006), Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, is available from this site: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.


Sources for a number of publications about international requirements for shipping dangerous goods, some of which are discussed above, are described on this site:


The IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations Manual is available from this site: http://www.iata.org/ps/publications/dgr.htm.

The IATA Live Animal Regulations manual is available from this site: http://www.iata.org/ps/publications/lar.


Courier companies are familiar with the required international guidelines for packaging biohazardous material and generally advise the researchers about the correct procedures. In addition, they tend to assist us to obtain the necessary export licenses.

brian eley, south africa

e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

A p p e n d i x


In the course of putting this book together, we asked researchers to submit quotes for potential inclusion at the beginnings of chapters. Many of them were wonderful, and we have included a selection of those not used to head chapters here so that readers may enjoy them.

“La science n’a pas de patrie. Elle est en effet le patrimoine commun de l’humanité. La connaissance est une, par -delà les frontières, qui sont souvent des cicatrices de l’histoire.”

—Louis Pasteur

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”

—Marie Curie

“No hay riqueza tan segura como un amigo seguro.”

—Juan Luis Vives

“Ciencia es una manera de interpretar la realidad que desecha dogmas, milagros y el principio de autoridad.”

—Marcelino Cereijido, about training with Bernardo Houssay

“In nature there is nothing superfluous.”


“There is no shortcut to any place worth going.”

“Success leaves clues, so does failure.”

“If there is no wind, row.”

“You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.”

“Positive attitudes…come in unlimited quantities.

Everybody can have one free.”

—Harvey Mackay

“When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.”

—Dalai Lama

“A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.”

—Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi

“A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.”

—Albert Schweitzer

“A man of ability and desire to accomplish something can do anything.”

—Donald Kircher

“Action is the antidote to despair.”

—Joan Baez

“All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

“All the technology in the world will never replace a positive attitude.”

—Harvey Mackay

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

—Helen Keller

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

—Benjamin Franklin

“Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one.”

—Benjamin Franklin

“Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to get leisure.”

—Benjamin Franklin

“Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.”

—Harvey Mackay

“Failure is just part of the culture of innovation.

Accept it and become stronger.”

—Albert Yu

“He who is well prepared has half won the battle.”

—Portuguese proverb

“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.”


“If you want happiness for a lifetime – help the next generation.”

—Chinese proverb

“It is better to build bridges than walls.”

—Swahili Proverb

A p p e n d i x 177

“Knowledge is power.”

—Sir Francis Bacon

“Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.”

—Christopher Lasch

“One sure-fire way to stay creative: force yourself to learn something new.”

—Harvey Mackay

“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.”

—Sir Francis Bacon

“Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.”

—David McCullough

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

—Sir Winston Churchill

“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.”

—Oscar Wilde

“To know how to wonder is the first step of the mind toward discovery.”

—Louis Pasteur

“Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility.”

—Oprah Winfrey

“You always pass failure on the way to success.”

—Mickey Rooney

“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”


“What you always do before you make a decision is consult. The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted. Then, once policy is determined, you call on them to help you sell it.”

—Elizabeth Dole

“Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient.”


“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

—Albert Schweitzer

“Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.”

—Jesse Jackson

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

—Charles Darwin

”Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

—Henry Ford

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

—Peter Drucker

“Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it...Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.”

—David Ogilvy

“No hay riqueza tan seguar como un amigo seguro”

—Juan Luis Vives

“…the way in which scientific endeavors are pursued around the world is marked by clear inequalities.

Developing countries, for example, generally spend much less than 1 percent of their gross domestic product on scientific research, whereas rich countries devote between 2 and 3 percent.

The number of scientists in proportion to population in the developing countries is 10 to 30 times smaller than in developed countries. Ninety-five percent of the new science in the world is created in the countries comprising only one-fifth of the world’s population. And much of that science—in the realm of health, for example—neglects the problems that afflict most of the world’s people.”

—Kofi Annan

“Starting your own lab is a lot like getting your driver’s license: it’s an exhilarating time. Now you have the freedom to go where you want to go and go as fast as you want to go. On the other hand, you have to pay for the gas. You’re not just a passenger anymore—you have responsibilities.”

—Tom Cech

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aC/aQ Artesunate/amodiaquine

aTCC American Type Culture Collection



Biotechnology Industry Organization

Chinese Academy of Science



Convention on Biodiversity

Collaborative Institutional Training


CIoMs Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences



Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild

Fauna and Flora

Collaborative Institutional Training


ConICeT Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones

Científicas y Técnicas, the Argentinian national research agency



NIH Center for Scientific Review

Curriculum vitae



Dangerous Goods

A German-owned international shipping company. The initials DHL originally stood for “Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn” but now stand alone





Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative

European Patent Office

Fixed dose combination

NIH Fogarty International Center


NIH Fogarty International Research

Collaboration Award




General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

Good Clinical Practice

Global Health Research Institute



Good Laboratory Practice

Good Manufacturing Practice

GRIp NIH Fogarty International Center Global

Research Initiative Program

hInaRI WHO Health InterNetwork Access to

Research Initiative

IaTa International Air Transport Association

IaTa laR Live Animal Regulations

ICao International Civil Aviation Organization

ICaoTI ICAO Technical Instructions

ICGeb International Centre for Genetic

Engineering and Biotechnology

ICh International Conference on

Harmonization of Technical

Requirements for Registration of

Pharmaceuticals for Human Use

ICMJe International Committee of Medical

Journal Editors









Independent Ethics Committee

International Maritime Organization

InseRM Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, the French national agency dedicated to biological, medical, and public health research



Intellectual Property

Institutional Review Board (IRB) or

Independent Ethics Committee

NIH International Research in Infectious

Diseases Program

In vitro fertilization

Japan Patent Office

Korea Patent Office

(IATA-LAR) Live Animal Regulations of the IATA

Multilateral Initiative on Malaria

A p p e n d i x 179











Memorandum of Understanding

Malaria Research and Reference

Reagent Resource Center

Non-governmental organization

NIH National Institute of Allergy and

Infectious Diseases

U.S. National Institutes of Health

Office International des Épizooties

(World Organization for Animal Health)

Program Announcement

Polymerase Chain Reaction

Patent Cooperation Treaty

Program (or Project) Evaluation and

Review Technique



Principal Investigator

Public/Private Partnership

QanGo Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization





Request for Proposals

Request for Applications

China Patent Office

NIH Scientific Review Administrator



Teaching Assistant

(WHO-TDR) WHO Tropical Disease

Research program

TRIps Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual

Property Rights

unICef United Nations Children’s Fund

uspTo United States Patent and Trademark




Work Breakdown Structure

The World Health Organization




World Intellectual Property Organization

World Medical Association

World Trade Organization

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n o t e s n o t e s 181

n o t e s c o n t i n u e d

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n o t e s c o n t i n u e d

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e x c e L L e n c e e v e R y w h e R e

A R e s o u R c e f o R s c i e n t i s t s L A u n c h i n g R e s e A R c h c A R e e R s i n e m e R g i n g s c i e n c e c e n t e R s

Science is an international endeavor. Wherever it is done, it connects us to the scientists, scholars, and philosophers of the past and the future. Our work as a scientific community can make human lives better, healthier, and longer, and can improve the economies of nations, regions, and the world. To be a scientist is both a privilege and a passion, but launching a career in science is difficult. Success as a scientist will depend on many things —from intelligence and creativity to luck; from being a good team player to being an independent thinker and driver of your own work; from bringing out the best in the people with whom you work to being an accurate and respected authority whose fairness and good ideas are known to other researchers, organizations, and perhaps governments. We hope the insights in this book will help you build a career where you aim higher, reach farther, and perform better than what you may have thought would be your best.


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