The experience of being a postdoc abroad can vary widely depending on the country you go to and moving to the east coast of the USA is a fairly easy ride as far as postdocs in a foreign country go. There is so much cross-pollination of culture between the two countries that many aspects of life are exactly the same. Of course that means that the things that are different are much more likely to broadside you if you’re not looking out!
In June this year, at the University of Sheffield Engineering Symposium (USES), PVC Professor Tony Ryan gave a wonderful talk on collaboration and one of his pearls of wisdom was “Serendipity favours the prepared and open mind”. Serendipity has been described as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident; good fortune; or luck.” How true I thought of my life, when several times it has seemed an opportunity has just fallen into my lap! On reflection the only reasons these were ‘lucky’ was, because of the range of experience I already had, from not following a structured career path. “The harder I work, the luckier I get” said Samuel Goldwyn, so perhaps opportunities only come when we have worked hard to ensure we are ready! Can we be prepared for the opportunities that come our way?
Research Ethics. Words which elicit a polarized reaction – you either think it’s a fascinating subject or one huge yawnfest. Personally, I think Research Ethics is quite interesting, but I do assist in the organisation of the Research Ethics and Integrity modules under the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP) at the University of Sheffield, so you might say I am slightly biased. At the University of Sheffield we place a great emphasis on Research Ethics. This is highlighted by the fact that all Post Graduate Researchers at the University are required to complete the compulsory Research Ethics and Integrity modules, regardless of what discipline their research is. The DDP course highlights ethical issues which researchers may encounter at PhD level and beyond, including case studies concerning…
Researchfish is the system that many funders require researchers to record outcomes of the research they fund. This is important because if you get funding and then don’t do what the funder asks you to do they are unlikely to fund your work again.
As of September 2014 Research Councils UK (RCUK) replaced the unpopular and under used ROS with Researchfish. Researchfish was designed for the MRC (approximately 7 years ago) who opted not to use ROS. Subsequently it is being used by 90 or so funders, and these now including all RCUK funders.
My colleague Kevin Mahoney recently posted a discussion of how doctoral graduates can use Graduate Fairs as an alternative to direct entry or ‘experienced hires’. He focussed on the fact that many employers just don’t understand why PhD graduates or postdocs for that matter would consider applying to them. The Think Ahead team strongly emphasises the need to make sure you can describe and articulate your researcher skill set, or ’transferable skills’ before approaching organisations. I will go further and implore you to do your research in checking how you then apply to an organisation of interest. Have you found out what is required by the employer? Do they want a CV…? Maybe they do if this is a speculative enquiry. So, is your CV targeted towards the company, their aims, needs, and reputation? Is it the right length and format (usually shorter and straight to the point)? Is it different from your standard academic CV – because it needs to be. Increasingly employers are using online application forms and expect you to answer challenging competency or situational questions because they want the best people. Many of the popular employers are inundated with applications, and may are rejected due to basic mistakes, lack of preparation before competing applications, or failing to address the person specification. Ask yourself are you ready to face questions such as:
You wouldn’t think six letters could cause such confusion or in some cases, panic! As part of the Think Ahead team, my role enables me to be in a variety of settings both with researchers and professional services colleagues and frequently we end up talking about ‘impact’. The trouble is, it means different things to different people. When faced with that reality, in my opinion there’s only one answer – Dictionary.com:
- the striking of one thing against another; forceful contact; collision
- an impinging
- influence; effect
- an impacting; forcible impinging
- the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology
I don’t know about you but I’m not necessarily any the wiser. The best way I can think to express it, is that an ‘impact’ can be most thoroughly viewed as something that causes change (positive or negative). Simplistic perhaps but sometimes that is the easiest way to start. Upon reflection, I began to wonder if this conundrum is one being faced by our researchers across the university?
Do you want funding for your research question? Of course you do. It’s hard to do though isn’t it, especially for ECRs with no track record. To get research funding you need a track record so how do you get that?
By starting small before you go big, and this is where Research Professional comes in. It’s a large database of research funding opportunities that is updated twice weekly and has extensive coverage of funding opportunities available in the UK and beyond. Users can search the database and stay up to date with email alerts using search terms and filters. Search results include information about the calls, funder and eligibility, relevant links as well as any notes and comments.