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Thread: The Management of Scientists

  1. #1 The Management of Scientists 
    Forum Masters Degree samcdkey's Avatar
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    Success in science is often measured by number of publications, citations, and similar metrics. But when Alice Sapienza, a chemist with a Ph.D. in organizational behavior who is now at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, asked experienced scientists what qualities they most admire in a scientific leader, she got a very different answer.

    Sapienza says her research suggests that the best leaders are those with the best people skills. She surveyed more than 200 scientists and engineers from the United States, Europe, and Asia, asking them to describe the most effective scientific leader they knew. Leading the list were people of "caring and compassion," followed by those who "possess managerial skills" such as effective communication and conflict resolution. Technical skill was a distant third.

    "Science is odd in some ways," says Robert Doms, chair of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "You spend all your time as a student and postdoctoral fellow learning how to be a good experimentalist. Then you become an independent scientist, and if you are successful, before long you are no longer doing experiments because you don't have any time, and personnel management becomes a major issue."

    "There are some horrible pathologies in some labs in the relationships," says Edward O'Neil, director of the Center for the Health Professions at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who offers laboratory management workshops throughout the United States. "People stay because they are inspired by the science, but they leave the training in some of these labs really wounded people. … Then they will use that as a model for leadership."

    In his workshops, O'Neil tries to get scientists to change their behavior by asking them to frame a hypothesis. For example, "If I stop yelling at my technician when he makes a mistake and work together to correct the problem, he will finish experiments more quickly and completely." Then, O'Neil asks them to collect and analyze data to see if the data fit the hypothesis.

    http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org...redit_a0700160


    Would anyone like to share their thoughts?


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    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Presumably no one goes into scientific research with the goal of becoming a manager. (I'm no scientist so I can only presume.) So rising through the ranks of academe or science-based business must result in a number of square pegs in round holes.

    In engineering there's now a heavy emphasis on parallel paths, leading to managerial or technical positions of equal recognition and remuneration, so there are ways for those who want to advance without side stepping into management. It's good for morale. The bad old days of "the beatings will continue until morale improves" have long gone.


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    There are couple thousand geologists in Alberta and perhaps 1% are in academia. Thousands of engineers and I'd guess the same ratio.

    There is mistaken perception that the words 'science and scientists' are anchored in the stifling world of academia. I've been in both streams, academia and private, and shudder at the thought of ever again being part of the former.

    Microsoft, Montsano, Apple, Toyota, U.S. military, Nasa, Geneal Electric, Intel, Boeing, Exon, etc. are 'full' of creative iindividuals in science endeavors. Everything from basic research to applied technology. It's not surprising that a professor in academia would have such a distorted view of what the word 'successful' means in science.
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    Forum Masters Degree samcdkey's Avatar
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    Perhaps you're right, but I'm interested in how the experiences of training in graduate school under the poor management skills of academia, carry over into future modelling of behaviour. Do people suffer as a result of their training experiences? Is mentoring so bad that it can damage initiative and motivation?
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    Forum Freshman Algae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    Perhaps you're right, but I'm interested in how the experiences of training in graduate school under the poor management skills of academia, carry over into future modelling of behaviour. Do people suffer as a result of their training experiences? Is mentoring so bad that it can damage initiative and motivation?
    its not the mentoring that matters but what you perceive to learn. Practice is the key to success.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    Perhaps you're right, but I'm interested in how the experiences of training in graduate school under the poor management skills of academia, carry over into future modelling of behaviour. Do people suffer as a result of their training experiences? Is mentoring so bad that it can damage initiative and motivation?
    There's probably every experience along a scale. Depending on the area of endeavor I'd advise finishing a BSc and then actually getting a job related to the field with a larger establishment and pursuing graduate studies while having one foot in the real world. Larger companies, at least in the energy sector, pick up the tuition, costs, etc. for geologists, engineers (chemical, mechanical, etc.) to advance their education. It's probably the same in large technology companies, aerospace and so on. I don't know about degrees in subjects such as astronomy, mathematics and so on that don't have a large existence outside of ties to academia.

    I don't have a problem with folks who are academia as long as they have stepped outside into 'the real world' for part of their career and then gone back into a university setting. Certainly not all but too many career academics are dead wood taking up space.
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