There comes a time when many senior academic post-doctoral scientists begin to imagine a life away from what they trained to do and love the most; working in the lab, swapping Western blots and cell culture for teaching and administration, or indeed a life outside academia. The decision of what to do after a second post-doc is not one to ever be taken lightly. However, it seems that more and more these days, the decision of what to do next may not be quite as much in the scientists hands as it once were.
So, with the call for funding deadline in the first week of January we were all once again back in the thrust of it straight away in 2014, developing our ideas, collaborating and writing our best proposals in order to keep our projects funded. As I approach the end of my current contract, I start to imagine life after being a post-doc. You see, one does not become a ‘career post-doc’. It is a time for moving along or upwards and therefore finishing experiments and writing manuscripts and thinking of what will be next.
At the end of 2013, it was great news to hear that my brother-in-law was getting married, giving us the excuse to escape to Spain! After a road trip to Zaragoza to make an honest man of Ari, we made our way back for a few days break in Barcelona. I love running on holiday, taking a chance early in the mornings to explore new cities and if there is a sea, I make it a priority to take a long run on the beach. ‘Great thinking time’. This trip was no exception. On went the trainers, grabbed the map and down to the sea I ran. The weather was perfect and the view outstanding. As I ran I saw the ‘big fish’ in the distance. Once past the fish I found myself running past Barcelona Biomedical Research Park. The facilities look amazing. However, science is truly international, as is the struggle for funding. I was therefore in the knowledge there would be more people in the same position as myself inside that building.
Fortunately now though there has been much work into informing and providing training for researchers to carve out a ‘non-traditional’ scientific career and not before time. Many of us have developed into fantastic project managers as a result of our post-doctoral training years. You will read many a blog on twitter about the dearth of funding for researchers all over the world combined with an excess of scientists at all levels for a dwindling number of positions available. I think we all need to diversify and play to our strengths, collaborate and work together to form teams, be that in the lab or outside of it to target proposals and fund the best science possible. There should be no shame in deciding not to become a group leader. Many of us would be far more effective utilising our skills in other ways. Working towards a more effective way of conducting science, and very topically making sure science that has been conducted is not lost in the ether.
So, tomorrow I head back to the lab, not with a heavy heart, but excitement, there are many ways in which to drive science forward even if you no longer wear a white coat!