Enhancing Your Science Career

Marine biologist Carl Sindermann has written several career guides for academic scientists, and Winning the Games Scientists Play--Strategies for Enhancing Your Career in Science * is in fact an updated version of a book first published in 1982. The revised edition takes recent trends and changes into account. Key among these trends, according to Sindermann, is the increase in competition for good jobs at universities, due to a reduction in the number of tenure-track positions, accompanied by the rise in part-time and contract posts. Other emerging developments in science careers are the role of women in science, the development of consulting as a career alternative, managerial skills, the impact of the Internet, and biotechnology. But, as Sindermann points out in the foreword, the essential ingredients for a successful career in science are still credibility and integrity--?honest, persistent, scientific effort, sustained research productivity, or brilliant insights?.

In general, this book is well written, and most topics are dealt with thoroughly. The advice is derived primarily from Sindermann?s personal experiences gained during his career as a scientist. The book provides many guidelines about the rules that hold for personal interactions between professionals, and how the transitions between the different levels of scientific maturity and career stages can be managed. The author?s thesis is that once the basic rules are recognised by the astute scientist, interacting with peers and building a career can be enjoyed like playing a game.

The book is structured in three parts. In the first, Sindermann describes basic guidelines for the nonresearch activities that a research career involves, such as writing and editing papers, attending conferences, and giving talks. In a second part, ?critical issues for scientific strategists?, he discusses career-related topics in greater detail: ?moving on, up, and out? describes a circular career path from junior researcher to team leader, institute director, functionary bureaucrat, science administrator, and finally returning to ones scientific roots as a senior research scientist. Other chapters in the second part deal with getting, keeping, and using power, and ethical issues. The third part is a collection of essays on special issues that are difficult to categorise: for example, women in science, the scientist in industry, and dealing with the media, among others.

Restricting the target audience primarily to professionals in the physical sciences might be considered a weakness by readers from other fields. Additionally, the author admits to having quite an ?anachronistic?, elitist point of view. Scientific communities are essentially conservative, and successful scientists can be characterised as being quality-driven, stress-tolerant, and always showing a full 100% commitment to their chosen field of work, according to Sindermann?s world view. Nevertheless, the book contains numerous fine and well-observed points. For instance, there is a good description of banquet speeches, and I personally enjoyed Sindermann?s definition of professionalism and charisma, as well as his description of the various types of professionals: the ?survivor?, the "chairperson", the ?gentle manipulator?. For these observations alone the book is well worth reading, in particular for young scientists at an early stage of their careers.

Have you read a book about career planning and advice that you would like to discuss here? If so, please contact the German editor. Contributors of published reviews will receive a Next Wave T-shirt!

* Carl J. Sindermann, Winning the Games Scientists Play--Strategies for Enhancing Your Career in Science (Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2001) 290 pp. ISBN 0-7382-0425-0

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