Thursday, August 28, 2008

Executive Scientific Officer

That's the official title of my new position.

OK, I forgot to introduce myself before posting here. But Mad's previous post let me think that it's time to describe my job. I don't know if there are many "executive scientific officer" around the world but it might help Scattered Scientist to see that this kind of position exists.

Let me tell you a bit about the framework first. I am working for a "National Center of Competence in Research" (NCCR). These are research networks funded by the Swiss government. Currently, there are 20 NCCRs in Switzerland and typical budgets are around $10-15 millions for 4 years (renewable twice) plus an extra $10-30 millions coming from universities and companies. My NCCR is devoted to the Affective Sciences: everything that is related to emotions. The core discipline is probably psychology but we also have labs working in neuroscience, litterature, philosophy, theology, law and collaborations with sociologists, education scientists, physicians, interprets, people working for help-hotlines as well as private companies interested in decision-making or human resources. The main goal of the NCCR is to promote excellence in research, to develop interdisciplinary collaborations, to train a new generation of scientists and to be useful to the society.

Now, what am I doing there and what does my strange position title means?

In fact, I have three different hats:
1. I am responsible for the communication, both internal and external. This is a task that I share with the Knowledge Transfer officer. This means writing documents (newsletters, brochures, etc.), contacting the press or other partners like museums. It also means that I will make a new website for our NCCR because I really don't like the current one...
2. I am responsible for the education and training. The main tasks here are to organize the doctoral school, an annual summer school and several smaller workshops. So I do not teach myself but still have some student mentoring duties.
3. I am responsible for scientific coordination: anything that can ease collaborations between the different labs. This requests a good knowledge of all the projects and particularly of all the external collaborations we have (with other universities or private companies). It also involves writing of progress reports or sensitive letters, meetings with the deans of the different faculties and so on.

So far, the only point I miss in Scattered Scientist's description of the ideal job is the experiment planning. But personally, I don't really miss it: I am working with many labs from different disciplines so I learn a lot of science and have the feeling to be useful to scientists.

Oh, yes, I forgot to say that I love this job and do not regret this alternative path...

11 comments:

maddox22 said...

Wow, that sounds like a truly awesome job. I wish they had NCCRs in the US...

Mimi said...

I agree with you maddox22. If only!

scatteredscientist said...

Hey, that sounds like a really cool job! Thanks for taking my question so seriously. What sort of background were they looking for in candidates for your position? It seems like there might be an intermediate step after phd work.

The bean-mom said...

Wow, your position sounds great! Thank you for writing about it. And although there is no NCCR system in the U.S. (and it really does sound like an awesome system), I'm guessing there are probably similar positions within U.S. science?

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

That does sound like an awesome job!

Anonymous said...

Heh, if we had something like this unit in the US ("everything that is related to emotions...we also have labs working in neuroscience, litterature, philosophy, theology"), ScienceBlogs would double in posting and commenting volume.

Pablo Achard said...

@all > yes indeed, it's a great job :-)

@scattered > what they liked in my CV was:
- an interdisciplinary background (I did particle physics and computational neuroscience, nothing related to emotions).
- some experience in student mentoring (including graduate students)
- some experience in science popularization
But I wouldn't advise anyone to follow the same path in hope to get the same job: that's very unlikely to work. Just do what you like the most everytime you can and it will give you a perfect CV for the job that fits your preferences...

Rhea Miller said...

*jaw drops* that sounds great...I didn't know jobs like that existed. And thanks for the comment above about how to build your resume...i will certainly keep that in mind.

fentonh said...

Would the blog author care to make any comments about age discrimination while applying for academic positions in Switzerland? My information has it that the Swiss will not hire anyone older than 35. I have even had faculty at the EPFL tell me this - although they refused to put this on paper.

Pablo Achard said...

@Fentoh: sorry for late reply.
There are age limits for some grants awarded by the Swiss National Science Fundation. Notably for the junior professorships. But most of the professor positions are created by universities with no age limit.
Now the EPFL might have, in some departments, a different (informal) policy that I'm not aware of...

fentonh said...

Pablo- here's where you are wrong. My information -which I have verbally from faculty at the EPFL, the University Z├╝rich and the University of of Basel is that if you re older than 35, then forget it. They will refuse to put this in writing, but it is nevertheless true: _if you are older than 35, forget it, the Swiss will not hire you for a long-term faculty position._
I have very convincing personal reasons for seeking a job in Switzerland, but am confronted with this situation.