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The Best of Science Careers, 2010

(Credit: Lawrence Lawry, Photodisc.)

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 2010 there were lots of awesome stories to tell.

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.

Perspective: Transitioning From 'Pet' to Peer

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.

Making Science and Family Fit

Elisabeth Pain, 5 February 2010

A mother of three, Michal Sharon has managed to have both a family and a scientific career.

Plant Geneticist Cultivating a Future for Peanut Farming in Uganda

Gaia Vince, 12 February 2010

David Kalule Okello is one of Uganda's weapons in the battle against hunger.

Perspective: Audacity is Overrated

Eleftherios P. Diamandis, 19 February 2010

The audacious approach to science is not the best approach, especially for scientists in training.

For Physician-Scientist Couple, Success is in Balance

Kate Travis, 26 February 2010

Deepali Kumar and Atul Humar's shared specialty helps them balance work and family life.

New Opportunities and Jobs to Come in Comparative Effectiveness Research

Karyn Hede, 12 March 2010

Recovery Act funding will boost a field focused on health care costs and quality.

Assistive Technologies Enable Discovery

Siri Carpenter, 2 April 2010

Like a microscope, assistive technologies allow scientists and engineers to extend their capabilities.

Scientists Embrace Openness

Chelsea Wald, 9 April 2010

Some scientists go to great lengths to make everything they do in the lab transparent.

Adding Humanitarian Value to Mathematics

Elisabeth Pain, 16 April 2010

Begoña Vitoriano uses her math skills to help aid organizations respond to disasters.

Begoña Vitoriano

Time to Hire a Housekeeper?

Vijaysree Venkatraman, 4 June 2010

Scientists may need to set traditional gender roles aside and get help with the housework.

Audacity, Part 5: Rejection and Ridicule

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.

Designing a Career in Biomedical Engineering

Elisabeth Pain, 11 June 2010

Engineers, biologists, mathematicians, physicists, and chemists all contribute to the development of medical devices.

Changing Oceans: Viewing Coral Reefs Through a Cultural Lens

Helen Fields, 18 June 2010

Human geographer Joshua Cinner studies how people and coral reefs interact.

Trusting the Public

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.

Tooling Up: Integrate Yourself

David G. Jensen, 16 July 2010

Being viewed as an outsider can happen to anyone and have devastating career consequences.

Experimental Error: All That Glitters Is All We Remember

Adam Ruben, 27 August 2010

Why are we most fascinated by the irrelevant aspects of science?

(Credit: Photo by Dan Koestler)

Making Team Science Work: Advice From a Team

Karyn Hede, 27 August 2010

A long-term commitment and an ego-free workplace allows the Yale melanoma research group to excel.

Mind Matters: Anxiety in the Workplace

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.

Expanding the Genetic Code

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.

Don't Worry, I'm (Un)Professional: A Guide to Your Laboratory Colleagues

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?"

Perspective: Top 10 Tips for Mentors

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."

Working With Industry Under a Microscope

Karyn Hede, 12 November 2010

Regulations seem to discourage academic scientists from partnering with industry, but such collaboration is essential to translational research.

Responsible Conduct of Research for Junior Researchers

Elisabeth Pain, 19 November 2010

In science, you have to be careful to be ethical.

Reducing the Impact of Negative Stereotypes on the Careers of Women and Minority Scientists

Daisy Grewal, 26 November 2010

Research suggests that negative stereotypes pose a serious obstacle to fostering diversity in the scientific workforce.

Becoming 'MacGyvers'

Siri Carpenter, 3 December 2010

For University of Tulsa Cyber Corps students, homework means picking through Dumpsters and hacking computer systems.

Jose Contreras-Vidal (Credit: John T. Consoli/University of Maryland)

Taken for Granted: Choosing Between Science and Caring?

Beryl Lieff Benderly, 3 December 2010

Research suggests that many able women view careers in hard science as inimical to important values.

Engineering Solutions to Biomedical Problems

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:

Professional Science Master's Degrees

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.

The Postdoc Experience: Taking A Long Term View

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.

Closeted Discoverers: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Scientists

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.

It Pays To Plan: Why You Need A Career Map

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.

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