Now We Are Six

How time flies. Believe it or not, it was 6 years ago this week that Next Wave's inaugural feature was published. Many things have changed at Next Wave since then, but much else has remained fundamentally the same. Then, as now, the site focused on careers outside the ivory tower--that first feature was on careers in science journalism. And then, as now, our emphasis remains on involving you--the early-career scientist--in everything we do

But we've grown to encompass many other topics, including academic careers and postdoc issues. We've also grown geographically, as scientists (and funding organizations) have welcomed Next Wave portals in Canada, the UK, Germany, and Singapore (see sidebar).

A Brief History of the Wave

1995: Getting Started. Next Wave launches in the fall in the U.S., with the blessing of Floyd Bloom, Science's then editor-in-chief, and others ...

1997: Heading North. Canada's Medical Research Council (now the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) ponied up the funds necessary to launch Next Wave Canada, which we did in the summer of 1997.

1998: A New Sister. GrantsNet, a fully searchable database of biomedical funding opportunities and Next Wave's sister site, was launched--with major funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute--in the fall.

1999: Crossing the Pond. With funding from the Department of Trade and Industry and the tireless work of some of Britain's most distinguished scientists, the UK joins the Wave. Later in the year, Germany comes on board with the support of the DFG.

1999: Expanding Horizons. To balance Next Wave's original (and continuing) focus on "alternative" careers, the U.S. site launches--with the financial assistance of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund--the Career Development Center for Postdocs and Junior Faculty.

2000: Bigger Still. Concerned about the plight of postdocs in the U.S., the Sloan Foundation comes through with funds for Next Wave to create the Postdoc Network.

2001: Into Asia. With the help of visionary funders in Singapore, Next Wave launches its first Asian portal.

2002: And Next... Next Wave Netherlands is on tap for the spring, and we're working hard to bring to fruition a portal geared toward underrepresented minority scientists. After that ... well, who knows?

But we're not about to rest on our laurels. Plans for next year include the launch of a Next Wave Netherlands portal, as well as a portal geared to meet the pressing needs of underrepresented minority undergraduate students in the United States. And reflecting the shrinking world (as well as regional political and economic expediencies), we find ourselves beginning to organize on a continent-by-continent basis: As I write, conversations with various European funding organizations to create a pan-European portal are nearing their successful conclusion.

So, what makes this site tick? Well, because we're on the Web, we can adapt as circumstances dictate. Postdocs and administrators in the U.S. need a place to come to for information on improving the postdoc experience? Well then, let's create the Postdoc Network. Looking to understand how the doctoral system works across Europe so that you can carve out a niche for yourself as one of Europe's new mobile elite? Well, we'll bring you (next week!) the Eurodoc Exchange--a series of articles that detail the ins and outs of graduate education in a large number of European countries. Firmly committed to an academic career? Great! But do you have any idea how much information about running a lab is missing from your Ph.D. and postdoctoral experiences? That's ok--the Career Development Center can help.

It's not just the Web's inherent flexibility that makes this site work, though. Many of the people who bring Next Wave to you each week are--like you--scientists by training. We've been there and done that, and we know how it feels. Like you, we work hard. And we do what we can to make sure the site meets your needs. But we can't do our jobs without your input. So, we also hold campus visits, workshops, and other "outreach" events at which we can interact with you face to face. And we provide features like the Next Wave Forum platform and the Postdoc Network Listserv that enable you to talk with each other, unhindered by time, space, cost, or Next Wave staff--to share your own secrets, struggles, and successes with a global online community of like-minded individuals. Clearly, Next Wave works best (and is most fun for all of us) when YOU participate. As campus reps. As authors. As contributors to our Forums. Or via the Feedback button you'll find on just about every page on the site. So, if you have something to say, pick a medium and say it. We're always happy to hear from you.

Now, because we're scientists, we're not typically given to blowing our own trumpets (our noses, yes ... but not our trumpets). But I have to say that with your participation Next Wave has been--continues to be--a phenomenal success. Not only are we still going strong, we are growing and evolving, learning from you, our audience, how to meet your changing needs for career guidance. And, thanks to the addition of a dedicated business development staff and the hard work that they've been doing the past couple of years, we're breaking even financially. Not bad for a content-based Web portal in the post dot-bomb era, and an excellent indication that you should expect to find Next Wave on the Web for many more years to come!

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