Exploring Careers Outside Academia: Arts & Hums

Wednesday 2nd April, 6PM – FS01 (Strand Campus)

Please join us at the AHRS’ final event of the Spring term. We have three speakers confirmed, each discussing their own history of negotiating employment during and after the PhD. As well as speaking from personal experience, Dr Fiona Denney will be able to provide advice on the practical support offered by King’s Careers Service.

More information: http://researcherssociety.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/event-exploring-careers-outside-academia/



Chris Penfold (PhD: Film) Editorial Assistant at Palgrave Macmillan.

Gareth Mottram (PhD: Geography). Sales Manager for an outdoors company.

Fiona Denney (PhD: Marketing). Head of Graduate Development at KCL.

Free, confidential one-to-one advice sessions on your writing

Would you like help in:

  • Improving your written work
  • Polishing your prose style
  • Planning large writing projects
  • Revising written work

If so, our Royal Literary Fund Fellows will be on hand to guide you.

The King’s Graduate School hosts two Royal Literary Fund (RLF) Fellows – Jennifer Potter and Hilary Davies – who are able to offer one-to-one tutorials of between 1 and 1 ½ hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday every week during term time. They are an excellent resource for postgraduate research students and postdoctoral researchers who wish to improve and refine their writing skills.

Sessions for this term are currently still available so, to make the most of their expertise, arrange a meeting with one of them now.

More information on our RLF Fellows can be found at: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/pg/school/RDP/one-to-one-support/RLFbio.pdf.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Graduate School’s Researcher Development Unit at gradtrain@kcl.ac.uk.

Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable’s Annual Science Writing Competition NOW OPEN

**This event has now passed but the post retained for your further inspiration**

We have been sent this through: enter, maybe win some cash, and have some writing experience!

‘Enter OBR’s Science Writing Competition to win £500/$750, have your work judged by Nature Biotechnology editors Dr Lisa Melton and Dr Laura DeFrancesco, and be published on the Roundtable Review.
We are looking for talented writers who can write clearly and succinctly about a topic relating to the life sciences in 500-1000 words. Anyone from high school students to professional entrepreneurs is welcome to participate. The article must not have been previously published (professionally). No more than one article per person will be considered.
It is not easy to take a complicated story and make it intelligible to people from all walks of life. So we’re looking for those crafty writers who can explain the meaning and sheer cleverness of a particular scientific story to anyone and everyone.
Choose from one of the following topics:
1. A major scientific breakthrough
2. Major issues facing scientists today
3. Commercialising research
Check out last year’s winner here for a bit of inspiration.
Send your articles to review@oxbridgebiotech.com with “WRITING COMPETITION” in the subject header between now and March 31st. The 10 finalists will have their articles posted on the Roundtable Review. A ‘People’s Choice’ Award will be decided by popular vote, and the overall winner will be chosen by Nature Biotechnology editors Dr Lisa Melton and Dr Laura DeFrancesco. The prize for the overall winner is £500/$US750!’

Career Options: Science Publishing

Dr Paul Taylor, staff editor at Portland Press, is perhaps typical of many scientists who are keen to ‘stay in science’ but don’t want to continue in an academic career. 

How did he get into science publishing?

After a PhD and a four-year post-doc in the US, Paul worked in sofware development for a time.  Neither the academic projects, nor the software role, seemed to him to be fulfilling.  But he still loved science, and liked reading about it, and realised that he would be interested in how he could influence the way that science is reported.  Redundancy money from the software role allowed him time to become a freelance copy editor.  Six months of this freelance work allowed him to apply speculatively with more confidence, to a variety of scientific publishers.

What does his role involve?

Initial tasks include copy-editing and proof-reading.  Now in a more senior role, he has to do a quick review of the 3000 papers that are submitted, pass them on to appropriate referees or editors to arrange peer reviews.  In addition, journal development aspects of his role include promoting the journal, choosing the editorial panel, using social media to promote the journal and going to conferences.

A part of his role that Paul particularly enjoys is working with new technologies to make the Journal articles more accessible to students.  For example, glossaries are added, data tables made searchable and diagrams viewed 3-D. The Portland Press is owned by the Biochemical Society and therefore has an educational remit.

What skills do you need?

  • Analytical ability
  • Writing – the ability to construct good English grammar, spot errors and write a good flowing sentence
  • Attention to detail, spotting errors
  • Be self-driven
  • Be able to sustain a project, ie project management skillls
  • Be able to manage small budgets
  • Technical knowledge may be helpful but you do not always work on subjects that you know about, so the ability to be able to learn different subjects quickly is helpful

Other roles in publishing?

Book commissioning editors: where you are researching topics/authors.  Getting a book to press can take up to 18 months whereas journal articles can take just two months.  You have to be very good at networking!

Marketing: one of their team has a PhD

Production: working with suppliers, type-setters, website design

Move into the Society itself: conferences, membership, education (the Head of Education is a PhD)

Freelance: copy-editing, proof-reading.  Use LinkedIn to get leads

How to get into the role

There is no set route.  To get experience you could ask your supervisor if you could review articles for them.  You can send in speculative CVs to companies.  Some firms take on inexperienced people and some firms have a training scheme.  Recruitment agencies such as Attwood Tate help find roles.  Talk to the publisher at any conference that you go to.

There is likely to be a proof-reading test at any interview you go to.  You may start on around £25k and an executive editor may earn around £40k.

Career options: medical writing

One of the most visited blog posts here is the ‘Downloadable Medical Writing Guide’, so it came as no surprise that there were plenty of interested researchers at last week’s Careers Spotlight talk from Dr Julia Coleman of Synergy Medical.

How did Julia get into Medical Writing?

After 11 years working at KCL Breast Cancer Unit, Julia decided it was time for a change.  Talking to her supervisor inspired her to look at medical writing; she followed that up with a conversation with Terry Jones in his past capacity as Grad School careers consultant.  She joined LinkedIn and initiated conversational threads about getting work experience (which did result in getting work experience!) and spent a lot of time researching the sector online, getting to know who she needed to know, including KCL alumni.  Persistence and grit paid off, and around seven months after her first application, she got a job.

She says of making a career decision that sometimes there comes a point when you just have to choose one career and go for it.

What does a medical writer do?

It will depend on the kind of agency you work for.  Writing up clinical trials, opinion pieces, congress materials, patient leaflets, GP information.  Posters for conferences, abstracts or articles.    One definition is ‘communicating a high quality clinical and scientific data and information to a range of audiences and formats’.  You have to work within scientific protocols and regulations.  Often deadlines might seem a bit falsely early but they are set like that because the clients need time to check the detailed information.

There are basically three different roles in the sorts of agencies Julia works for: firstly where you sit and write (and you could specialise in the kind of writing you do, eg just doing regulatory writing); secondly where you might edit; and finally where you get to project manage work and liaise more with clients.  Ultimately, you might aim to be ‘Head of Scientific Services’ within an agency where your role would be more business-getting as well as signing off work.  It is also possible to work in-house within client companies.

How do you get in?

You need to have prior experience of writing in some capacity or other (other than just your PhD thesis!).  Ask if you can contribute to a department’s web page; write some article precis; be bold about contributing to any kind of additional writing.  They will be looking for (obviously!) a good standard of English; the ability to analyse and pick out data; coping under deadlines; knowing how to data search; knowing how to present data; being accountable and responsible.

Some agencies may ask for a portfolio at interview.  At interviews, it may be an informal conversation where you get the sense they are checking to see if they can work with you.  At other places, you are likely to have to write a sample piece, or spot mistakes in an abstract or possibly write a patient leaflet based on resources given you in the interviw.

Your subject knowledge doesn’t necessarily help you – you would need to be prepared to write about whatever the client needs.

Some firms deliberately take on graduates with no experience.

Julia wrote 20 or 30 speculative letters; signed up with four or five agencies; had three interviews and three writing tests before she got her first role.

For more sector information go to www.careerstagged.co.uk and use the tag ‘medical writer’.