What Is It?
The site is a one-stop shop for the kind of practical information that life scientists in Europe need, according to Sabine Rehberger-Schneider, mobility consultant at the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), which is behind this brand-new service. Funding for the consultancy is provided by the European Commission, which launched its own Web service, the Researcher's Mobility Portal (RMP), about 6 months ago.
The two sites obviously have similar aims, but there are some important differences. Firstly, whereas the RMP aims to cater to all researchers, regardless of discipline, the LSMC is (obviously) squarely aimed at biologists. And whereas the RMP is just that, a portal, mainly providing links to off-site resources, the LSMC is developing its own searchable databases, making it more akin to Next Wave's U.S.-oriented sister site GrantsNet. Nonetheless, the two projects clearly complement each other and will be working together to ensure that Europe's young researchers get access to the most up-to-date information as seamlessly as possible.
The key facilities are accessed via drop-down menus in the page's header. So what can you find here?
Money, Money, Money!
It's a rich man's world, as the pop group ABBA observed, and when it comes to sources of grants and fellowships, life scientists have a far more generous list of funding bodies to turn to than their colleagues in other disciplines. Nonetheless, such bounty can bring its own problems: how to sort through the plethora of awards available to find the ones that match your needs? That's where the LSMC's grants and funding agencies database comes into play. It allows you to narrow your search to look for travel grants, prizes, or fellowships. You can limit your search by the duration of the funding sought, by scientific field, according to the country you're from, and where you'd like to go, and look for awards appropriate to your career stage. What's more, you can also search for funding programmes that include a return scheme as part of their mobility package.
A sensible feature of the design of the site is that each search page tells you how many records are available. At the time of writing, there are already 477 grants and fellowships in the database, and that number is certain to grow.
The results page gives basic details such as upcoming deadlines and links to the funding body's Web site, but clicking on the "page" icon on the leftmost column for each entry will give you more details of the programme so you can decide whether it is likely to be of use before digging deeper. The database also allows you to search for funding bodies in a particular country.
Brush Up Your Skills
Want to learn a new technique? Or perhaps you'd like to try out a completely new area? The career and training programmes database allows you to search by type of course and includes not only the strictly scientific (molecular biology and bioinformatics) but also programmes that allow you to branch into new areas (business administration and journalism).
(Very clean and straightforward once you're into it. Don't be distracted by the boxes in the middle of the home page; the drop-down menus in the red bar are what you're really looking for.)
Ease of Navigation
(All the relevant links and drop-down menus appear on every page, so I defy you to get lost!)
Quality of Information
(What's there is great; there just needs to be more of it.)
Just the Job
If you don't feel ready to apply for your own funding yet, then you might want to find a postdoc job. Or perhaps you've done all that and now you're looking for a university or industry post? The LSMC job database allows you to search offered positions by country, and even city, your qualification level, and your disciplinary background. You can even narrow your search to look only for jobs offered by industry, academic, governmental, or nongovernmental employers.
There are currently just eight posts on offer, all postdocs or Ph.D. studentships, but because advertising appointments here is free, the number is bound to grow as employers catch on.
The last of the four main databases is for scientific partners. Perhaps you need to find a collaborator with expertise in a particular area. Or you're a would-be doctoral candidate, or a postdoc looking for a suitable lab in which to learn a particular set of skills. Those entering their details in the partner search database give key words about their research and techniques used by their group, and these become search terms for the database, together with country and the disciplines represented in the group. Individual records give more detailed information, such as the number of pre- and postdocs in the group and examples of recent publications.
The Scientists Abroad section is gathering useful information for researchers interested in moving to a particular country: a global visa guide for Austria and tips on moving to Denmark, for example. And the site is aiming to build up its store of knowledge on the trials and tribulations, as well as the joys, of mobility by inviting researchers to submit their own stories for possible publication.
As you would expect, the LSMC also offers a selection of links relevant to mobile life scientists.
The difficulty for any site such as this is knowing when to launch. Do it too early, when you haven't got much information in place, and visitors will come once and never return. It looks as though the LSMC has got it about right, but it can only get better, so it is definitely one for European life scientists to bookmark.