In this special feature, we take a closer look at scientists who left the lab to manage research portfolios at funding organizations. Our contributors from around the world give you a perspective on their jobs and the skills needed to make the transition.

Dave Bowen tells us about the wide variety of activities that go into his day as a program officer at Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

Sören Dürr , a geoscientist, gives the pros and cons of life as a program officer at Germany's main government funding agency, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Melinda Kelley used to spend weekends with her hands in a freezer, cutting micrometer-thin tissue sections as a neuroscience postdoc. Now, as director of research and education for a research foundation based in the U.S. capital, she takes the long view and helps define future funding directions within her field.

Gail Pesyna , a program director at the Sloan Foundation in the United States, received a degree in analytical chemistry. Pesyna discusses what it's like to deliver good and bad funding news to scientists.

Rebecca Pool left research to become an associate programme manager at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom. Pool gives a behind-the-scenes look at the rigorous interview process and daily life for the scientists who manage and plan research-funding programs at this large U.K. government organization.

Sue Shafer spent 25 years at the National Institutes of Health in the United States. She arrived as a scientist with little research or administrative experience, and worked her way up to deputy director. In her essay, Shafer shares with us the joys of her career choice, and she spells out the administrative career options at the NIH.

Julia Spragg , head of Grants Unit and Research Policy at PPP Healthcare Medical Trust in the United Kingdom, worked in industry for several years but then decided she wanted to do something different--just as this new charity was created. She tells how she set up the grants administration procedure from scratch.