2014 was a mixed year for careers in the sciences. Federal spending on research stayed flat or worse, at least in the United States, forcing paylines down, likely to record lows. The economy was better though, allowing some private philanthropies to take up some of the slack. And that improving economy led to somewhat better job prospects for scientists in industry but not so much as to change the complexion of hiring overall: It remained an employer’s market, with many job-seekers taking what they could get and being happy to have it.
While the job market for Ph.D.-level scientists continued to be poor, recognition of the problem reached a new high, with an influential paper out in April, a meeting organized by Boston-area postdocs in October, and an important new report from the National Academies in December. Policymakers still can’t agree on how (or whether) to address it, but widespread recognition of young scientists’ plight is welcome progress.
At Science Careers, we kept doing what we’re best at: covering career-related news, talking to scientists young and old (and in-between), telling their stories, and passing along their best advice about how to manage a career in science. Here are some of the best stories we published this year, as determined by editors and readers.
A surveyor of jungles
Vijaysree Venkatraman, 14 January
As a woman doing field research, Priya Davidar was a pioneer in India; now she has shifted her focus to conservation.
Paying graduate school's mental toll
Carrie Arnold, 4 February
Many science graduate students are overworked, overwhelmed, and struggling psychologically—but there are ways to get help and to help themselves.
Spelling, grammar, and scientific publishing
Jim Austin, 12 February
In the era of rapid online publishing, scientists can no longer assume that editors will catch their casual mistakes.
How I learned to stop worrying and love meeting people
Melissa D. Vaught, 12 March
A networking-averse young scientist learns not just to tolerate but to enjoy and value meeting people and establishing new networks.
Scarcity breeds opportunity
Trisha Gura, 03 April
Science done with serious resource constraints can be more varied, open, and passionate than ordinary science.
Another call to reform biomedical research and training
Beryl Benderly, Jim Austin, 14 April
Four prominent scientist-administrators call on policymakers to reform a system that discourages "even the most outstanding prospective students from entering our profession."
Our most popular articles
Our readers voted with their fingers for their favorites among this year’s articles, clicking on these more often than all the others.
David Jensen, 15 May
Feedback can help you improve your day job and your interviewing skills.
Forgive me, scientists, for I have sinned
Adam Ruben, 20 May
To be a proper scientist, is it necessary to conform to the standard template?
Breaking the class ceiling
Elisabeth Pain, 22 May
Working-class students and faculty face disadvantages, but mentoring and resilience can help them through.
Winter is coming
Christina Reed, 27 May
Meteorologist Elena Stautzebach will spend more than a year at the German research base Neumayer-Station III, in Antarctica.
Want to be a PI? What are the odds?
John Bohannon, 02 June
Using an analysis from a new paper, we built an app that predicts the probability that you’ll become a principal investigator someday.
Elisabeth Pain, 12 June
Hard work, early independence, and playfulness were instrumental in Nobel laureate Tim Hunt’s success.
What’s your science degree worth?
Jim Austin, 25 June
Yes, a new study says, going to college does make financial sense—especially if you major in a STEM field (or business).
Tell the negative committee to shut up
Fanuel Muindi, 17 July
An MIT postdoc tells the negative committee to sit down and shut up.
The stressed-out postdoc
Carrie Arnold, 28 July
The postdoc period is stressful, but there are some things postdocs can do to stay healthy and focused.
International scholars: Suffering in silence
Erica Westly, 18 August
Visa anxieties and communication barriers can keep international researchers from speaking up about workplace conflicts and other problems.
When women have it all
Jyoti Mishra, 27 August
A young faculty member argues that it is, indeed, possible for a woman (or a man) to ‘have it all.’
Managing a lab move
Rachel Bernstein, 23 September
When a professor moves to a new institution, there’s a lot to consider beyond the physical move.
The long harm of the law
Adam Ruben, 25 September
For some nutty reason, scientists sometimes become lawyers.
Old but still popular
The articles below were among the most popular stories in 2014, even though they were published before the year started—in some cases, long before.
Writing a research plan
Jim Austin, 26 July 2002
How to write a winning resume
Peter Fiske, 18 October 1996
Where are all the neuroscience jobs?
Michael Price, 18 November 2011
Seven must-have attributes that get you hired!
David Jensen, 21 June 2002
Interviewing skills: What to do when they say, “Tell me about yourself”
David Jensen, 10 July 1998
Life inspires clinical applications
Sharon Ann Holgate, 07 October
His life partner’s illness led fundamental chemist David Smith to change his research focus.
Building the Bionic Woman
Ayanna Howard, 09 October
Ayanna Howard is a rarity: an African-American woman with an endowed engineering faculty chair at a major research university. Here's how she rocked it.
Overqualified or underqualified?
Carrie Arnold, 14 October
Scientists with Ph.D.s are finding themselves overqualified for certain jobs—but also lacking important skills for others.
Nothing but networking
Adam Ruben, 23 October
The worst part of networking, our columnist says, is that it feels like spending time marketing yourself in lieu of doing science.
Postdocs speak up
Beryl Lieff Benderly, 05 November
As many senior scientists dither and protect the status quo, postdocs organize a conference to take matters into their own hands.
Is academic science sexist?
Rachel Bernstein, 06 November
A controversial study argues that women who pursue math-intensive academic careers are just as likely to succeed as men.
Ask Alice: Don’t waste my time
Alice Huang, 15 December
Help! My adviser wants me to work on her half-baked pet project instead of my good one!
Yes, you can attend that career event, says the U.S. government
Rachel Bernstein, 17 December
A policy clarification from the Office of Management and Budget says that graduate students and postdocs are entitled to explore a variety of training opportunities. Will your adviser agree?
Best of business
These are the most popular career articles published by the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office during 2014.
Annual top employers survey: Employees thrive on innovative design
Virginia Gewin, 17 October
For the companies identified in the 2014 Science Careers Top Employer Survey, innovation and keeping employees engaged and excited about their research are top priorities.
An explosion of bioinformatics careers
Alaina Levine, 13 June
Big data is pouring out of life sciences research, creating ample opportunities for scientists with computer science expertise.
The transferrable postdoc
Kendall Powell, 22 August
Now more than ever, postdocs need a broad range of beyond-the-bench skills to stay competitive.
A scientist’s guide to social media
Chris Tachibana, 28 February
Online networking tools offer postdocs new ways to make connections, exchange scientific ideas, and advance their career.
A new breed of cancer researcher
Gunjan Sinha, 28 March
To land a job in any emerging area of cancer research, interdisciplinary training is becoming increasingly important.