Mad Hatter has a post up proposing a blog-based forum for alternative careers.

I noticed a long time ago that the top Google hits to this blog are on three posts I wrote on alternative career tracks in academia for PhD scientists*. I’ve also been contacted in real life by people at my institution who are interested in learning about my position and other non-traditional careers for PhDs. It seems that even though academia is becoming less hostile to alternative careers, there is still a dearth of open and honest discussion on a PhD scientist’s options outside of the academic tenure-track.

The post and the ensuing discussion reminded me of a couple of observations I had up on the old blog regarding perhaps not truly alternate careers, but alternate paths to the prize of independent, NIH-funded investigator. Today’s retread is on the importance of a grant writing position, regardless of academic title.

A couple of exchanges between YHN and PhysioProf in comments following a post at Galactic Interactions bear further examination. I’ve mentioned before that in the biomedical research career, the most important thing is to get a job which allows one to submit* independent research grants to the NIH. In other words, the ability to compete with your fellow scientists to fund the research you think is important. In my view, this is the essential place where you want to be, all else is gravy. Sometimes, perhaps frequently these days, that “job”may be different from the stereotypical tenure track assistant professorship with hard salary and startup package across the country from your current postdoc.

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A letter printed in the 20 June 2008 issue of Science magazine proposes an Oath of integrity, professionalism and ethical conduct for graduate students. The authors review the well known Hippocratic Oath which is one of the basic tenets of the medical profession:

The Hippocratic Oath, recited by medical school graduates worldwide, is arguably the best-known professional honor code. This centuries-old oath instills a commitment to altruism, professionalism, honesty, skill, knowledge, duty, loyalty, and fraternity among medical doctors.

Is it time for scientists to adopt something similar?

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