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The Black Hole

Free journal access for postdocs in between positions


Further underscoring the acute strain on human resources in academic circles, Elsevier has just announced a unique program to help out researchers who find themselves in between positions (thanks for the heads up C!). While many parents are no doubt crying about how their clever child with a PhD bounces from one short-term contract to the next, this is actually good news for those who find themselves trapped by funny employment rules, grants that have expired, or other circumstances that prohibit their normally institutionally supplied access to scientific papers.

The announcement can be found here, but note the deadline: December  15, so get moving! You’ll need a letter from your previous employer too, so that makes it a little tougher.

A bright spot?

I am encouraged that groups like the NIH and NAS are writing about the human resources crisis and that Elsevier, normally famous for its costly subscriptions, has made some effort to help out those finding themselves on the outside looking in. However, it is simply not enough – the system needs a major overhaul and academics need to work from within their respective systems to make the changes happen.

In this, our last post of 2012, I want to highlight a few key issues that we will tackle in 2013 but also encourage those who feel passionately about specific aspects of the system to get in touch as guest bloggers. We’ve had wonderful posts from people in the past on specific issues that were far more effective than Jonathan or I writing them (Banting award critique, moving labs with your CIHR fellowship, choosing whether or not to do an MD/PhD or PDF) because the people writing were intimately involved in the issue/decision. We want the Black Hole to be a place where ideas can be discussed and, most importantly, solutions proposed.

In 2013, we will tackle, amongst others, the following topics:

  • Utility of career development awards for senior postdocs
  • Making the choice to leave or stay in academic science
  • Women in science
  • New metrics for evaluating scientists
  • Strategies to manage the increasing workforce

Finally, I hope that the Christmas break will result in the launch of our more interactive archive of our material and resources from the past. Watch out for it on

Until then, we’ll see you all back here on January 2.  Of course, Jonathan and I will still be squirrelling away at posts and ideas so please do not hesitate to contact us at any time at [email protected].

David Kent
Dr. David Kent is a principal investigator at the York Biomedical Research Institute at the University of York, York, UK. He trained at Western University and the University of British Columbia before spending 10 years at the University of Cambridge, UK where he ran his research group until 2019. His laboratory's research focuses on the fundamental biology of blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. David has a long history of public engagement and outreach including the creation of The Black Hole in 2009.
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