Building A Research Career

Review by L Flood
Middlesborough, UK

The title immediately suggests a relevance to only a minority of our specialty, but any trainee would do well to read this book. I was initially concerned that this book might not be applicable to a research career outside the US, but far from it. I was equally daunted to read in an opening sentence that this career is ‘post doctoral’ and that entry level is here defined as the PhD, a stage that few of us in clinical practice attain! I am glad I stuck with it, however, as there is a very good generic message, even for those of us who never contribute much more than the odd case report, the dodgy RCT, or the less than systematic review.

The book starts by outlining the stages of progress through a research career, from that new PhD to the retired professor emeritus. The second chapter, on designing research, is an excellent review of methodology, in only 24 pages. It is surely all too familiar to a scientist at this stage, but it provides a nice coverage more suited to a ‘jobbing’ surgeon or trainee. The next, brief chapter concentrates on on-line methods of keeping up to date with the evolving literature, and shows how far we have come from just reading the journals…  if we choose to.

The chapter on getting one’s work published is particularly good on justifying authorship, ethics and Impact Factor. Accepting the limitations of the last, it was intriguing to learn of alternative systems, such as the Eigenfactor, which sound far better. The Least Publishable Unit or LPU is a term to remember, as a witty alternative to the phrase ‘salami slicing’: the temptation to get multiple papers out of one piece of work. A chapter on membership of the scientific community describes strategies for networking, how to behave at meetings, and how to cope with the hard times in one’s career. There is an excellent chapter on ‘Achieving success in academia’, which deals with such issues as work–life balance, women in biomedical research, and the value of sabbaticals and study leave.

The book’s target audience is clearly clinicians considering a future in full-time research. However, the message conveyed is of equal value to anyone who intends to maintain any academic profile on completion of clinical training. For this reason, I would highly recommend this book.

Amazon Link: Building A Research Career
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