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LICENSE Initial commit Sep 23, 2018 Implements @raivivek suggestion Jan 24, 2019

I've realised that the general public doesn't really know what scientists do day-to-day - I didn't know either, as a BSc student. This is a loose listing of things scientists in various institutions are supposed to do, based on what I've been in contact with, or what I had to do. I don't think there exists a single scientist who is good at all of the below.

I'm hoping to use this as a starting point on how to think about what students are learning at university, and what I teach my PhD/MSc students - I assume all scientists had to self-teach most of this.

Note: This is a work-in-progress, there's a lot of stuff missing, and I'm only an early career researcher, so there's more in science I haven't seen.

Second note: I am white, heterosexual male so there's a whole universe of things women, minorities, LGBT+, etc. have to learn in science that I am blind to.

Third note: Thanks to my supervisors Prof. Jacqueline Batley and Prof. Dave Edwards without whom I wouldn't know about 80% of the points below.

Fourth note: I tried to thank everyone for their input including their academic title, please let me know if I got something wrong

I'm happy to keep on working on this list and I accept PRs/issues.

The main thing

  • How to teach yourself anything (thanks Prof. Anete Pereira de Souza/@anetepsouza!)

Career planning

  • How to know what you want to do in your career
  • How to learn and plan about the different stages of your career
  • How to find a mentor who can guide you through this, and how to work with that mentor
  • How to find jobs/positions
  • How to apply for jobs/positions
  • How to make others create jobs/positions for you
    (Thanks Dr. Bastian Greshake/@gedankenstuecke for the three missed job hunt-related Hows!)


I think this section aligns well with what the public thinks of scientists.

  • How to come up with novel or original research ideas
  • How to plan the steps to answer the research questions
  • How to finish research
  • How to not get lost in the rabbit hole of possible research paths
  • How to keep up with your field of research
  • How to find your niche within your field of research (optional?)
  • How to connect with support groups (Hacky Hours, Meetups, Carpentries Community etc.) (thanks Amanda Miotto/@amandamiotto!)
  • How to innovate within your niche
  • How to design a research lab room, and how to work with the design team for a new lab building (thanks Prof. Andrew Millar/@andrew7millar!)
  • How to commission public art (who knew there's a size limit after which you need more permissions?!?) (thanks Prof. Andrew Millar/@andrew7millar!)
  • How to manage and organise your time, esp. how to prioritise tasks and focus on only one (thanks Jobson Lucas Dias/@lucaspk!)


All of the below require different formats, structures, and approaches.

  • How to plan your paper
  • Writing short reports for industry collaborators
  • Writing book chapters
  • Writing books
  • Writing reviews
  • Writing scientific papers
  • Writing scientific papers for glam journals (requires a very different structure!)


All papers need accompanying plots to show data.

  • Making plots for presentations (viewers can only see so much on a projector)
  • Making plots for papers (readers can 'zoom in')
  • Choosing good colour schemes
  • Coming up with good plot designs
  • Knowing how to plot in the chosen programming language (matlab, R, Python...)
  • Knowing how to save the plot in the format the journal requires (600dpi, tiff?!?)
  • How to design a poster for a scientific conference (thanks Sebastian Kahl/@glialfire!)


Talking in public!

  • How to predict the talk's audience, and how to adjust the level of the talk accordingly
  • How to time your own talk
  • How to reuse your own past slides to save time while still presenting novel content
  • How to talk so that the back of the room still hears you
  • How to talk not too fast, not too slow
  • How to capture your audience
  • How to chair a symposium/discussion table
  • How to (politely) get speakers to stick to their allocated time, including cutting off
  • How to handle audience questions, as speaker and as chair (thanks to Dr. Alicia Mastretta Yanes/@AliciaMstt for the last three points!)
  • How to identify HDMI/VGA/(Mini) DisplayPort connections and how to get the projector to work with your laptop


How to use stats to make your experiment make sense.

  • How to design your experiment
  • How to choose the appropriate statistical test
  • How to run the appropriate test
  • How to interpret the test's output
  • How to understand the limitations and the assumptions of your chosen test
  • How to understand what p-values are about


The regular, day-to-day university-level teaching of BSc, MSc students.

  • How to take over someone else's course
  • How to make your course fit into the university's teaching schedule
  • How to outline your course
  • How to keep your course up-to-date
  • How to fight with the people who schedule your classes at 8am
  • How to engage your students
  • How to grade your students
  • How to understand and evaluate your students
  • How to apply what we know about the psychology of teaching in your course
  • How to innovate - flipped classrooms etc. (thanks Dr. Adrian Paterson/@Darwinnernz!)


I explicitly split this up from teaching as it's a completely different skill-set (IMHO).

  • How to find good PhD, MSc students
  • How to make sure that the people you found are actually good, or have the potential to be good
  • How to come up with just the right project that fits with the peculiarities of a given student
  • How to work with students' backgrounds - different cultures, different issues, mental health etc.
  • How to keep track of your students so they don't disappear on you, or they flounder around on work that's not even necessary
  • How to spot early warning signs of student problems
  • How to support your students
  • How to engage or integrate your students in your group
  • How to make sure your students finish on time
  • How to keep in contact with your students after they finish
  • How to write letters of recommendation/references for your past lab members (thanks Dr. Archa Fox/@AFox_Perth!)

Communication skills

This section comes from Dr. David Eccles/@gringene_bio, slightly amended. Thank you!

  • How to listen
  • How to respect the opinions of others
  • How to recognise bullshit
  • How to boost people who are not being listened to
  • How to complain, how to handle complaints
  • How to give people good/the right amount of choices
  • How to distinguish deliberate from accidental silence


Or, how to play the game of academia.

  • How to join a committee or collaboration
  • How to start your own committee or collaboration
  • How to work with cliques within the collaboration
  • How to keep everybody tugging on the same string
  • How to recognise trouble makers
  • How to recognise people who use your work as a stepping stone
  • How to recognise anyone who doesn't have the best interests of your career at heart
  • How to innovate at your place of work, and how to introduce change without it being rejected
  • How to network
  • How to find the right conferences for your work
  • How to network at conferences, and make the most out of conferences in general
  • How to find collaborators, and how to approach them
  • How to get a team of international collaborators in different time-zones to contribute to a paper, and how to get them to keep a project alive
  • How to find industry collaborators, and how to keep them happy
  • How to say 'no' (politely?)
  • How to choose in what projects one should/should not get involved in


A subset of politics...

  • How to choose the right journal for your paper
  • Optional - how to contact the editor before submission
  • How to work with the editor
  • How to interpret the reviewers' comments without feeling personally attacked (does anyone know?!?)
  • How to know the paper is done
  • How to make sure that you're constantly publishing enough, at the right level (not too many middle-position authorships, more first-author etc.)
  • How to review other people's papers
  • How to not overload yourself with journal reviews
  • How to start reviewing papers
  • How to become a journal editor, and how to rise as an editor
  • How to deal with the university bureaucracy - reimbursements, travel authorization etc. pp. (thanks Asst Prof Rachel Schwartz/@rachelss!)


  • How to find funding opportunities
  • How to learn about the 'tricks' each funding opportunity has (ex: In Australia, DECRAs are available 5 years post-PhD, with only 2 tries possible. So everybody applies in the last 2 years to have a track record as good as possible.)
  • How to best apply for funding ('Write what they want do hear, not what you want to do, then take the money and do what you wanted to do in the first place')
  • How to write any grant (Thanks Vivek Rai/@raivivek!)
  • How to sell yourself/talk yourself up
  • How to calculate the budget of the funding application
  • How to spend research/grant money the most efficient way
  • How to keep your pots of funding straight
  • How to report on spending to the funding bodies
  • How to plan time for application writing and the project itself


  • How to (co-)write press releases
  • How to get other scientists to see your research
  • How to get the general public to see and understand your research
  • How to use social media to disseminate your research
  • How to let your own university know that you exist
  • How to let your own faculty/school know that you exist
  • How to do a radio/press interview (thanks Dr. Katy Turner/@katymeturner!)
  • How to run a press conference
  • How to come up with a short and succinct summary for your research (elevator pitch) (thanks Sebastian Kahl/@glialfire!)


I believe most scientists fail here. Including me

  • How to care for yourself
  • How to maintain a work/life balance in face of how long this list here is
  • How to recognise your own body's/psyche's warning signs
  • How to work with your own emotions
  • How to recognise impostor syndrome (thanks Amanda Miotto/@amandamiotto!)
  • How to keep your personal relationships healthy
  • How to recognise toxic situations, and how to walk away from them (thanks Dr. Paula Martinez/@orchid00!)
  • How to give yourself a break (thanks Dr. Katy Turner/@katymeturner!)
  • How to create new habits (thanks Jobson Lucas Dias/@lucaspk!)

'Modern' science

Stuff that developed over the last 10, 20 years, and that most funding bodies (in Australia) do not particularly look for.

  • How to do open science
  • How to do reproducible science and its many subfields (version control, containers, etc. pp.)
  • How to not stubbornly cling to one approach over all other possible approaches (thanks Dr. Sebastian Raschka/@rasbt!)

The rest :)

  • How to fix your parents' computer (thanks Dr. Pierre Lindenbaum/@yokofakun!)
  • Where the best coffee is on campus (thanks Dr. Lee Hickey/@DrHikov!) along with their opening times
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