Wind of change

Last year I wrote a blog post lamenting that the criteria for obtaining a PhD degree are extremely diverse between different universities. This can be particularly problematic if you have to complete your degree within a limited period of time, but the papers associated with your research need longer to get published. It’s a critical point, because many fellowships require a good publication record, but have time-restricted eligibility criteria – counting from the day you obtained your PhD. The Medical Research Council, a major funding body for medical research in the UK, was one of them. Until recently.

Today, Simone Bryan, Programme Manager for Strategic Projects at the MRC, published a blog post (Science doesn’t only need sprinters) explaining that the time-bound criteria has been removed from their fellowship applications. Kudos MRC! This is great news and hopefully a sign that a general wind of change is coming to the academic funding landscape…


Change? by SomeDriftwood





Is your PhD worth the same as mine? And does it matter?


Isle of Wight steam train. Apparently steam trains lead to the introduction of standard time. Picture by Puritani35 through a Creative Commons license.

I have been told that when steam trains were developed in England in the 19th century, one key consequence was that it lead to the introduction of a nation-wide standard time, which in turn allowed for better synchronized production pipelines between businesses in different parts of the country. I don’t know if this is true, but there are certainly plenty of examples in science, innovation and engineering, where having standards and conventions is important and has enabled better research and development. You need only to think of the kilogram, or binominal nomenclature or having standardized file formats in flow cytometry, or the MIAME requirements for microarray data. Considering how standards improve the quality of science in so many ways, I was very surprised when I discovered for that PhD degrees, which one might consider an essential cornerstone of the scientific career path, there is no standard requirement at all. Continue reading