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Thursday, January 6, 2011


The Best of Science Careers, 2010

In science-career terms, 2009 -- that is, last year -- was a year of private-sector layoffs and canceled faculty searches, of basic-research downsizing in industry and postdocs hanging on until the job market improves. 2010 was mild by comparison; it seemed like not much happened, economically (though much great science was done). The problem with 2010 is -- or was -- that the job market just didn't improve fast enough. It still felt like doldrums. We kept waiting and wanting to be hopeful, but things refused to look up.

In fact, things were looking up all along, even if it was hard to notice. According to one metric -- the number of science-relevant job ads posted online, as measured by The Conference Board and tracked by Science Careers -- 2010 was a year of recovery. Job ads in the life, physical, and social sciences were up 42.5% in November -- the most recent month for which we have data -- over the same month a year earlier. The ratio of jobs to job seekers in this category -- about 1.4:1 -- was double what it had been at the local minimum it reached in December 2009. That number indicates that late in 2010 it was half as hard (or if you prefer, twice as easy) to find a job as it was late in the previous year.

That sounds pretty good, but it felt worse. Although the year lacked the previous year's economic drama, there seemed to be little relief in the hiring market.

And yet the global scientific community kept doing what it does -- science -- and we at Science Careers got to watch and tell stories about it. As CTSciNet Editor Kate Travis says, the best thing about our jobs "is getting to tell you awesome stories." And in 2010 there were lots of awesome stories to tell.

So, without further delay or explanation, we present some of those awesome stories, our editors' selections for the best Science Careers stories of 2010, presented in chronological order.

Perspective: Transitioning From 'Pet' to Peer

Stephanie Pfirman, Caryn Block, Robin Bell, Loriann Roberson, Patricia Culligan, 29 January 2010

Diverse probationary faculty members may be denied a fair chance to become peers.

Making Science and Family Fit

Elisabeth Pain, 5 February 2010

A mother of three, Michal Sharon has managed to have both a family and a scientific career.

Plant Geneticist Cultivating a Future for Peanut Farming in Uganda

Gaia Vince, 12 February 2010

David Kalule Okello is one of Uganda's weapons in the battle against hunger.

Perspective: Audacity is Overrated

Eleftherios P. Diamandis, 19 February 2010

The audacious approach to science is not the best approach, especially for scientists in training.

For Physician-Scientist Couple, Success is in Balance

Kate Travis, 26 February 2010

Deepali Kumar and Atul Humar's shared specialty helps them balance work and family life.

New Opportunities and Jobs to Come in Comparative Effectiveness Research

Karyn Hede, 12 March 2010

Recovery Act funding will boost a field focused on health care costs and quality.

Assistive Technologies Enable Discovery

Siri Carpenter, 2 April 2010

Like a microscope, assistive technologies allow scientists and engineers to extend their capabilities.

Scientists Embrace Openness

Chelsea Wald, 9 April 2010

Some scientists go to great lengths to make everything they do in the lab transparent.

Adding Humanitarian Value to Mathematics

Elisabeth Pain, 16 April 2010

BegoƱa Vitoriano uses her math skills to help aid organizations respond to disasters.

Time to Hire a Housekeeper?

Vijaysree Venkatraman, 4 June 2010

Scientists may need to set traditional gender roles aside and get help with the housework.

Audacity, Part 5: Rejection and Ridicule

Anne Sasso, 11 June 2010

The deeper your idea cuts into the heart of a field, the more your peers are likely to challenge you.

Designing a Career in Biomedical Engineering

Elisabeth Pain, 11 June 2010

Engineers, biologists, mathematicians, physicists, and chemists all contribute to the development of medical devices.

Changing Oceans: Viewing Coral Reefs Through a Cultural Lens

Helen Fields, 18 June 2010

Human geographer Joshua Cinner studies how people and coral reefs interact.

Trusting the Public

Susan Gaidos, 25 June 2010

Scientists are figuring out how to tap the experiences and observations of nonscientists.

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