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.
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.
Elisabeth Pain, 5 February 2010
A mother of three, Michal Sharon has managed to have both a family and a scientific career.
Gaia Vince, 12 February 2010
David Kalule Okello is one of Uganda's weapons in the battle against hunger.
Eleftherios P. Diamandis, 19 February 2010
The audacious approach to science is not the best approach, especially for scientists in training.
Kate Travis, 26 February 2010
Deepali Kumar and Atul Humar's shared specialty helps them balance work and family life.
Karyn Hede, 12 March 2010
Recovery Act funding will boost a field focused on health care costs and quality.
Siri Carpenter, 2 April 2010
Like a microscope, assistive technologies allow scientists and engineers to extend their capabilities.
Chelsea Wald, 9 April 2010
Some scientists go to great lengths to make everything they do in the lab transparent.
Elisabeth Pain, 16 April 2010
Begoña Vitoriano uses her math skills to help aid organizations respond to disasters.
Vijaysree Venkatraman, 4 June 2010
Scientists may need to set traditional gender roles aside and get help with the housework.
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.
Elisabeth Pain, 11 June 2010
Engineers, biologists, mathematicians, physicists, and chemists all contribute to the development of medical devices.
Helen Fields, 18 June 2010
Human geographer Joshua Cinner studies how people and coral reefs interact.
Susan Gaidos, 25 June 2010
Scientists are figuring out how to tap the experiences and observations of nonscientists.
The Best on Our Blog
As you hopefully know, Science Careers publishes a blog, which is updated several times a week with pointers to interesting career-related stories around the Web, personal commentaries by our writers and editors, and other items of interest. Occasionally these typically short-and-functional posts rise to a higher level and deserve special mention. Here are two examples, both written by CTSciNet Editor Kate Travis: First, in January of 2010, when many of us were feeling introspective and thinking about New Year's resolutions -- a time of year we'll soon be reaching again -- Kate wrote The Playground of Life, a very personal piece about life planning. Later, in Seeking the Alternative, Kate wrote a round-up article about non-traditional career paths for scientists; the result is a thorough (though not exhaustive) list of away-from-the-bench careers that scientists often pursue.
The blog had other highlights too, including our series tracking job ads and unemployment using numbers from The Conference Board -- not scintillating perhaps, but essential reading for any job seeker in the sciences. Another favorite: Beryl Benderly's To Stay or to Leave.
Really, there's just too much good stuff to mention, so, if you're not already a regular reader, you really should try it.
David G. Jensen, 16 July 2010
Being viewed as an outsider can happen to anyone and have devastating career consequences.
Adam Ruben, 27 August 2010
Why are we most fascinated by the irrelevant aspects of science?
Karyn Hede, 27 August 2010
A long-term commitment and an ego-free workplace allows the Yale melanoma research group to excel.
Irene Levine, 10 September 2010
Everyone feels a bit nervous from time to time, and a little anxiety can improve performance -- but excessive anxiety can be disabling and derail careers.
Elisabeth Pain, 17 September 2010
Trained as a chemist, Jason Chin is rewriting central dogmas of biology by coaxing cells to make proteins containing novel amino acids.
Adam Ruben, 24 September 2010
With a not-so-subtle nod to the
residents of Sesame Street, our new Experimental Error columnist asks, "Who are the people in your fume hood?"
Phillip S. Clifford, Joan M. Lakoski, 8 October 2010
Being an effective mentor requires being a good listener, setting boundaries, providing support and criticism, and celebrating milestones.
A Special Focus on Research Integrity
2010 brought more high-profile cases of scientific misconduct. We responded throughout the month of November with a feature on scientific integrity. As we wrote in the introduction to that feature, integrity is "the sum total of all the little decisions scientists make in the course of their scientific work: the way they handle data, treat trainees and peers, deal with regulatory requirements, keep the books, and so on. It's the foundation of everything we do as scientists, but very few of us ever take a class in it."
Karyn Hede, 12 November 2010
Regulations seem to discourage academic scientists from partnering with industry, but such collaboration is essential to translational research.
Elisabeth Pain, 19 November 2010
In science, you have to be careful to be ethical.
Daisy Grewal, 26 November 2010
Research suggests that negative stereotypes pose a serious obstacle to fostering diversity in the scientific workforce.
Siri Carpenter, 3 December 2010
For University of Tulsa Cyber Corps students, homework means picking through Dumpsters and hacking computer systems.
Beryl Lieff Benderly, 3 December 2010
Research suggests that many able women view careers in hard science as inimical to important values.
Nancy Volkers, 17 December 2010
There are many ways for classically trained engineers to work at the interface of engineering and medicine.
Best of the Science Careers Business Office --
Throughout the year, the business office of Science Careers produces its own articles on topics related to science careers. This year, for the first time, we encouraged editors and other Science Careers staff to consider business-office productions in their voting. Four business-office articles made the list:
Diana Gitig, 18 June 2010
Now over a decade old, Professional Science Master's degrees are proving themselves to be a practical and valuable alternative to a Ph.D. A Science/AAAS Business Office feature.
Laura Bonetta, 27 August 2010
Faced with a shaky economy and an increasingly competitive job market, postdocs are being forced to take a long-term view of their positions. A Science/AAAS Business Office feature.
Jacqueline Ruttimann Oberst, 1 October 2010
Think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" applies only to the military? This also happens in the sciences, at all levels, from academia and industry to professional societies. A Science/AAAS Business Office feature.
Carol Milano, 3 December 2010
The traditional path -- graduate school to postdoc to academic tenure track -- is no longer a sure thing. How can you gain an edge in the increasingly competitive science profession? Start building your career plan. A Science/AAAS Business Office feature.