Top tips for science careers from the Randall Division annual retreat

A guest post by Duvaraka Kulaveerasingam, PhD student, Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics.

For the first time, the Randall Division annual retreat at Royal Holloway featured an additional Careers Day exclusively for its postdoctorate, PhD and research staff.  It was a huge success.

Randall Division researchers at Royal Holloway

Randall Division researchers at Royal Holloway

The breadth of experience amongst our speakers was phenomenal and it was interesting to see the different paths they had taken to reach where they were today. It was encouraging to hear how they had overcome obstacles such as funding crises and relocations to achieve their goals. Here is some of the advice they gave:



  • All of our speakers stressed that you have to be able to sell yourself in any career
  • Network wherever you go – your contacts may one day find you a job as Roy Edward (Biostatus) found out when he was being made redundant
  • Make sure you are visible – whether it’s on LinkedIn or at a conference. Alison Care (Kilburn&Strode) let us know that she checks future employee’s Facebook pages too.
  • Pete Etchells (Guardian) told us to be patient with blogging; tweet, email and ask renowned bloggers to share or give feedback on your work, and practice writing all the time!
  • Never assume you aren’t right for the job – tell the employers what skills you are willing to learn. Arianne Heinrichs (Nature) described what she had to learn as a non-native english speaker during her career.
  • Turning down brilliant opportunities for personal reasons doesn’t mean the end, as Chas Bountra (SGC) and Peter O’Toole (University of York) found. They both ended up in their current positions thanks to these turning points.
  • Contact prospective employers and find out not only if you are right for the job, but if the company or the lab is right for you.
  • Keep your eyes open for internships opportunities. Aaron Goater (Westminster) stressed that some government departments have small teams with few roles so you need to check websites regularly.

If you are looking to organise a careers event don’t hesitate to contact our team to find out how we did it!

Photo courtesy Roksana Nikoopour

A day in the life of an Editor

This is the third in a series of three posts from Future Science Group, helping you think about careers in publishing.

I arrive in the morning at 8.30, and, while I’m loading up my emails I make a coffee and check-out my to-do list from the previous day. There are often pending tasks, as we regularly have things crop up throughout the day that are high priority and thus push something else off the list. You have to be flexible. I then scan through my emails, which will decide what else goes on the day’s to-do list, check out the latest news in my field, and update my journals’ social media accounts. Afterwards, I’ll crack on with my to-do list.

As an Editor, your days are  highly varied. My morning tasks usually involve handling manuscripts. This could mean any number of things: analyzing new submissions, whether commissioned or unsolicited, and deciding whether they are suitable for submission into peer review; looking at articles that now have a complete set of peer review comments and deciding whether they should go back to the authors for revision, or be rejected outright; or checking manuscripts that have been revised post-peer review, to ensure they have been sufficiently updated. If so, they’ll be accepted and passed on to our production department, who take the article and turn it into the published piece. I’ll also check-in with authors and peer reviewers who are close to their deadline, and update my article schedules to allow for any delays. We have to ensure each issue contains the right amount of content, and is with our production department at the correct time, which can be difficult!

My afternoons are usually dedicated to “commissioning” – identifying hot topics in the field and matching them with appropriate experts, who I will then invite to write for the journal. I might also spend time discussing the best way to market and develop the journal, and keeping authors and the Editorial Board up-to-date. I’ll also spend time working with my team (I manage a team of three Editors) to ensure their own journals are on track, and collaborating with other departments – aside from the Editorial teams, we also have a digital department, who manage our community websites and often feature our content, and sales and marketing departments.

I usually head home at 4.30 – publishing can have a very good work–life balance – unless something crops up that needs immediate attention. This occurs most often close to deadlines, of which there are many – we started working on 2016 issues in April, but at the same time we’re still working on all the pending 2015 issues. However, once you’ve been in publishing for a while you become an expert at time management, and so can usually avoid deadline chaos!

To find out more about life in scientific publishing, check out the following links:

The Early Career Publishers (STM) LinkedIn group:

Written by Francesca Lake, Future Science Group

Research Internship with Solvency II Wire

Solvency II Wire is a boutique publication dedicated to informing insurance professionals about Solvency II, the new Europe-wide insurance regulation. The site is committed to delivering original and reliable content, exclusively focused on the Solvency II Directive.

Solvency II Wire publishes breaking news, detailed coverage of the political process and thought leadership on regulation. Solvency II Wire is an indispensable resource for those confronting the challenges of Solvency II.

The Internship
Solvency II Wire is looking for an enthusiastic and creative intern, who will conduct research into the Solvency II Directive to support publication. There are a number of research streams for consideration:

  1. Research into the implementation of the Directive in individual member states
  2. History of Solvency II and related regulations

The successful candidate will be responsible for designing and implementing the research plan.

Person Specification
We are seeking an intern with the following skills and experience:

  • Independent qualitative research
  • Identifying and pursuing trends in a research area
  • The ability to work independently with little supervision
  • The ability to work alongside colleagues with differing skill sets
  • Tenacity, drive and creativity
  • Desirable: a demonstrable interest in Solvency II
  • Desirable: a knowledge of EU law
  • Desirable: competency in other European languages

Further details and how to apply
The internship will commence as soon as the candidate is available and will run initially for 4 weeks, on a full time basis, but part time and flexible working also possible. The role can be extended on a part time basis for the right candidate. The salary will be £9.15 per hour, and the intern will mainly work remotely.

Please ensure to apply with your CV and a tailored cover letter covering the following:

  • Why you would like to work for Solvency II Wire
  • Why you think you would be a good fit for the role, giving clear examples from work experience, academic achievements and extra-curricular activities to demonstrate you meet the person specification
  • Please address your cover letter to Gideon Benari, Editor

The application closing deadline is midnight on Sunday 16th August. Full details can be found on the King’s Internships web page.

5 jobs you never knew existed: why working in publishing doesn’t mean you have to be an editor

This is the second of three posts from Future Science Group, helping you think about careers in publishing.

There are many jobs within scientific publishing, and while most exist within each individual publishing house, they often differ depending upon the publisher, with larger publishers having a wider variety of more niche roles. Here’s a snapshot of how a few of them work at my company, Future Science Group, but bear in mind that these roles will be slightly different elsewhere.

The Commissioning Editor: The Commissioning Editor is responsible for the content of the journal; they both actively commission content and handle unsolicited manuscripts, running all the content through peer review and ensuring it is of a sufficient quality to be accepted for publication. In this way they have a hands-on role in the direction of the journal, deciding on the focus of the content, special focus issues, etc. They are often the ‘face’ of the journal to outside contacts, especially authors and the Editorial Board. As such, excellent organization and networking skills are highly prized.

The Production Editor: The Production Editor takes the accepted manuscript from the Commissioning Editor, proofreads it, puts it into ‘house style’ (the format of the journal), and works with the author to sign-off its final published form. They also spend time taking authors’ Figures and turning them into works of art. The production department combines language, creative and scientific skills in order to do this.

The Digital Editor: With our increasing use of technology and new media, many publishing houses are investing in digital products. With us, it is community websites – websites focussing on a particular field such as oncology, which allow authors to network, discuss topics of interest, read journal content, etc. The Digital Editor’s main responsibility is to grow the numbers of site users, through quality of content and networking, which often involves conference attendance.

Marketing: The marketing department’s role is to develop innovative campaigns to communicate with all the customers of a publishing house, be they authors, potential advertisers, librarians, and so on. This commonly includes calls for papers sent to previous authors, email blasts updating our contacts of news, press releases concerning newsworthy content, etc.

Graphics & Design: Our graphics department is responsible for all the non-author-submitted graphics we release. This includes journal and book covers, logos, brochures, marketing email lay out – you name it! The team is also responsible for researching how figures should look, so scientific knowledge and a creative mind are essential.

These aren’t the only career tracks available. Here are a few links:

Written by Francesca Lake, Future Science Group

What skills from your science degree are relevant to a career in publishing?

This is the first of three blog posts from Future Science Group, helping you think about careers in publishing.

When I first chose to pursue a career in scientific publishing upon graduating from university one of the trickiest considerations was deciding whether I had picked up the right skills during my degree to be successful. Of course, when the job title “Editor” is mentioned, people tend to think about reading, writing and proofreading. Even though my degree was in neuroscience, I’ve always had an interest in written language, and proficiency in this area is definitely an advantage. However, when I actually started in my first publishing job, I realized that there were a lot of useful skills I had picked up during my studies that I now use on a daily basis.

First, a clear understanding of the process of undertaking and publishing scientific research is very useful. Although areas such as experimental design, methodology and data analysis are covered in detail during a typical science degree, what actually becomes of a study that has been written up is often something that that isn’t introduced to students until they begin their final-year research projects. In this respect, an understanding of how journals operate, particularly the peer review and revisions process, provides a solid foundation for a career in publishing. Many degree courses also run journal clubs for students, which are a great way of finding out how journals are judged, often through indexing and the various metrics available.

There are also some very important ‘general’ skills that are essential to a typical Editor, such as time management and the ability to find information effectively. In terms of time management, editorial work is highly demanding and you must be able to work on multiple tasks simultaneously with a mixture of short- and long-term deadlines. Importantly, you will have to get used to the fact that you will always have something on your to-do list! The ability to use the web to research topics and identify key opinion leaders is also a very important, but often undervalued, skill; you need to keep abreast of the field and ensure your publications are covering the topics of most interest to your readers. We actually use a lot of the same research tools as scientists do when researching, such as PubMed and Web of Knowledge, so I would recommend familiarizing yourself with scientific databases and internet resources. Any publisher is going to want to see evidence of these skills, and your degree is the ideal place to develop them.

The entry requirements in terms of experience vary amongst different publishers; however, everyone has to start somewhere, so I would encourage anyone with an interest in scientific publishing to try and get themselves involved in as much as possible during their degree so they graduate with a well-rounded and diverse experience of their field. Not everyone who pursues a degree in science is destined for the laboratory, but this doesn’t mean these skills are irrelevant either. I’ve found that experience on both sides of the bench has been invaluable as an Editor of scientific publications. In essence, when we are looking at potential new recruits, we’re not necessarily insistent on solid editorial experience while at university, but instead ask ourselves what the candidate has done to demonstrate that they are a passionate and driven individual who can handle a large amount of responsibility from their first day, work effectively within an editorial team, and represent the company appropriately to the scientific community. If the skills I have described here appeal to you then I would encourage you to develop them as much as possible during your degree so that you stand in as strong a position as possible when it comes to applying for editorial positions in publishing.

Here are some useful resources related to what I have discussed:


Written by Jonathan Wilkinson, Future Science Group

Career Inspiration: Careers in Scientific Publishing

We welcomed the following four people currently working in scientific publishing to come and talk to students about their industry and careers.

**Ruth Francis – Head of Communications at BioMed Central (previous includes Head of Press Nature Publishing Group and Press Officer King’s College London and Cancer Research UK)

**Luke Fleet – Associate Editor at Nature Publishing Group (previous includes Assistant Editor Nature Communications and a PhD Physics, Quantum Nanoelectronics)

**Michael Osuch – Publishing Director for Neuroscience and Psychology journals at Elsevier (previous posts were at Nature, Informa and Wiley Publishing)

**Francesca Lake – Managing Editor, Future Science Group

The following are some of the suggestions they had for those who are seriously considering choosing scientific publishing.

  • Think carefully about what kind of organization you’d like to work in. There has been a lot of consolidation in the industry recently, meaning it is dominated by a small number of big players. These big firms may have very different organizational cultures: Elsevier for example has a conservative reputation, while NPG is considered by many to be more innovative.
  • The speakers said they look for candidates who are well-prepared and can talk about the company. Candidates who ask lots of questions and can build rapport will have an advantage.
  • Qualities that you should be able to demonstrate include motivation, interpersonal skills, and being organized. A PhD may provide useful evidence of this, but is not a pre-requisite.
  • Luke recommends postdocs not to remain in a single niche. Having diverse subject matter expertise can be an advantage both in academia and outside of it.

Our speakers said that scientific publishing can be an alternative to academia, that allows you to stay in touch, and make use of, your subject matter expertise. You may want to consider whether you prefer the journal development aspect of the work, or management, as with experience you may need to choose a track.

Publishing: the Spotlight shines on you now….

Our fifth Career Spotlight turns to Science Publishing next week (non-scientists, by all means come too: two of our speakers have Arts degrees!).

Our speakers are all leaders in their field, have great experience of launching new titles, managing staff and will have insights into the future of publishing.  Please come along to find out more about this career route, one that many of you are interested in and which has important influences on all academics.

Our speakers include:

Ruth Francis – Head of Communications at BioMed Central (previous includes Head of Press Nature Publishing Group and Press Officer King’s College London and Cancer Research UK)

Luke Fleet – Associate Editor at Nature Publishing Group (previous includes Assistant Editor Nature Communications and a PhD Physics, Quantum Nanoelectronics)

Michael Osuch – Publishing Director for Neuroscience and Psychology journals at Elsevier (previous posts were at Nature, Informa and Wiley Publishing)

Francesca Lake – Managing Editor, Future Science Group

When: Weds 25th Feb: 5-6pm

Where: FWB 1.70

Meeting employers; using your skills; interesting careers

These three things are among the main topics of conversation I have with PhDs and post-docs.

Why not help yourself with all these areas by coming along next Wednesday to the Career Spotlight on Writing Careers?

You’ll get to meet two employers (Julia Coleman from Synergy Medical, and Una-Frances Clarke from the BBC Proms), both using their knowledge and skills developed during their degrees; who are both doing what they think are interesting careers.

One’s a scientist, ones a humanities person.  Both write for a living (in print and digitally).

The sessions are really informal: they are here for you to be asking the questions you’ve been turning around in your head for ages:

  • what’s it like outside academia?
  • how did you make the switch?
  • who values a PhD?
  • what is it like to make a career out of writing?
  • what experience do I need?

and so on.

  • Weds 12th Feb, 5-6pm
  • FWB 1.70
  • No need to book.

See you there: armed with the information you gain, then we really can have an interesting conversation about your career.

‘How to get Published’ for Early Career Researchers with Palgrave Macmillan

The Culture Capital Exchange has organised an Early Career Network event called ‘How to Get Published’ in collaboration with Palgrave Macmillan. This event is for TCCE’s member universities which includes King’s.

Representatives from Palgrave will give a practical overview of the range of options for getting your research published and offer advice around approaching a publisher and pitching your ideas. Participants will also have the opportunity to have individual conversations with editors from publications covering a range of disciplines (within Humanities and Social Sciences) to either pitch ideas, or ask more detailed questions.

  • Date: Thursday 20 February 2014
  • Time: 6pm – 9pm, including networking drinks
  • Location: Palgrave Macmillan, The Stables, 2 Trematon Walk, Wharfdale Road, London N1 9SB

Tickets are free but booking is essential:

Looking for career inspiration? Come and hear these stories

Early Career Researchers

Meet employers. Broaden your ideas. Be inspired.

For all PhDs, Post-Docs and other early career researchers looking for career insight.

Not a presentation, just life stories.

(No need to sign up, please just turn up!)

Programme Overview
 Date Time Room Session
Weds 22nd Jan 2014 5 -6pm FWB 1.70 Career Spotlight: Policy/Think Tank Research with Ann-Marie Brouder from Forum for the Future and Susan Steed from New Economics
Weds 29th Jan 2014 5 -6pm FWB 1.70 Career Spotlight: Management Consultancy with Fahd Choudry and Nacho Quinones from Deloitte
Weds 5th Feb 2014 5 -6pm  FWB 1.70 Career Spotlight: Patent Attorney with Claire Borton from Marks & Clerk and Rob Andrews from Mewburn Ellis
Weds 12th Feb 2014  5 -6pm  FWB 1.70 Career Spotlight: Medical Writer/ Science Communications/Science Publishing with Julia Coleman from Synergy and Pauline Starley from Portland Press
Weds 19th Feb 2014 5 -6pm FWB 1.70 Career Spotlight: Research – Social or Market with Emma Broom from Sociable Data and Jane Colechin from The Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion
Weds 26th Feb 2014 5 -6pm FWB 1.70 Career Spotlight: Life Science Consulting with Muneer Ahmad from Lifescience Dynamics and representatives from Ernst & Young
Weds 5th March 2014 5 -6pm FWB 1.70 Career Spotlight: Turning your PhD into a Business (hosts TBC)