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The Black Hole

Quarterly summary: Back on track


After a harrowing Stanley Cup playoff run that disappointed both of us Canucks fans in its final moments, Beth and I have reclaimed our free hours and will be moving full steam ahead with new content for the Black Hole.  Due to the positive feedback we received on last year’s summer series of posts entitled: So you want to be a ____, we are currently deciding on this summer’s post theme which should form the majority of posts in July/August – feel free to pass along suggestions at [email protected] and stay tuned for these posts.
For now, a recap of what was done this quarter:

Articles Written
Guest blogger Vancouver Scientist:

  • To postdoc or not to postdoc?


  • Academic Couples
  • CMAJ calls for “new mechanisms to ensure academic integrity”
  • Quick Hit: Representin’ at the Northern Voice Blogging Conference
  • More Thoughts On Evaluating Scientists


  • The storm is brewing: Postdocs are speaking out…
  • Identifying good scientists and keeping them honest
  • New CIHR / Health Canada Science Policy Fellowships
  • New Canadian Cancer Society Grant Programs (draft released)
  • Nature Special Articles: The Future of the PhD
  • Bold New Toppings: A closer look at the Council of Canadian Academies 3 year plan

Our Other Activities
Dave has continued to write for the Stem Cell Network blog publishing two articles this quarter:

Beth presented at the Northern Voice conference in the The Naked Truth: Canadian Science Blogging Scene session.
Dave has recently undertaken a role on the executive for the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars – he’ll mostly focus on issues relating to International postdocs (Canadians training abroad and non-Canadians working in Canada).
Discussion Highlights

  • Following Beth’s post on Academic couples, fellow blogger Twenty Seven and a PhD shared her story about taking on a postdoctoral fellowship in order to be next to her partner in Canada.  We extend our congratulations to her on finding a new job back in the States, but he’ll remain in Canada to finish his studies – yet another tale of long distance academic couplehood.  Good luck!
  • Our occasional guest blogger Marianne Stanford (Let the Discussions Begin! (on the employee/trainee status of postdocs and Academia vs. Industry: A former Postdoc’s perspective) responded to our post on the New Canadian Cancer Society Grant Programs noting that the IMPACT grants seemed best designed for well-established groups and the INNOVATION grants were for investigators of all stages for funding new ideas to acquire preliminary data for larger future grants.
  • Following Beth’s comments on Evaluating Scientists, Darren P defended the grant writing system with some zen flair suggesting that better grant writers were better communicators and science that is not communicated is science that will not be heard (or followed, or built off, etc).
  • In response to Dave’s post Identifying good scientists and keeping them honest guest blogger Sonja B (Thoughts on doing a co-op in undergrad and To MD or PhD: That is the Question) complained of needing “omics” style experiments to get published in Science/Nature especially when packing such data into a paper requires explanations that dwarf the size of the article – making for the often incomprehensible babble that appears in these journals.  She stressed that  journals should give the authors the page space to explain their science.  Sadly that would probably mean fewer high impact publications to cite and we all know where the journal stands on that front.  Cell is an interesting journal in the medical science field which possibly errs on the other side of things having multiple pages of supplementary figures (double digits in many cases) which often sees data buried – at least the information is there, but I’d doubt it is found by many(!)
  • Finally, Sanda built on our report of the 9% funding rate of NSERC postdocs by alerting us that Canada this year funded just 3 earth sciences postdocs across the country.

Popular Posts this Quarter

  • 2010 Canadian Taxes: Did you get your T2202 and T4a? (660)
  • 2011 Taxes for Post Docs: At least we know the rules this year (625)
  • Nature Special Articles: The Future of the PhD (423)
  • To postdoc or not to postdoc? (346)
  • Identifying good scientists and keeping them honest (342)

Links Added:

  • PostDoc Forum a LinkedIn group to help postdocs come together to find common ground on issues affecting them and their careers.
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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  1. Jenn / July 3, 2011 at 23:26

    Hi Dave – It’s Jenn from UWO genetics circa 2003! I’ve been following for a while and the recent posts about post doc funding got me thinking. I now work for Mitacs, a not for profit group that sets up industry-academic internships for grad students and post docs. We have a post-doc specific program called Elevate that is now running in SW Ontario and in BC that might be good to check out.
    The next call for applications in Ontario will be at the end of July. If you’d like me to write up a post explaining the program and other opportunities that we have let me know.
    I wish I’d known about the program while I was doing the PhD thing, it’s good funding and a good experience, especially for those looking at career options outside of academia.

  2. Dave / July 4, 2011 at 10:44

    Hi Jenn,
    Finding one’s way career wise post-PhD is definitely a huge issue and great that Mitacs is tackling part of it with this series of programs. We’d be happy to give our readers a good description / break down of the program – I’ve sent you an email to figure out details/approach.

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