Nature focuses on the importance of leadership in science and highlights the work of Science Management Associates

The November 5th issue of Nature has an article entitled “Supervision: Clear Direction” by staff writer Boer Deng.  The article stresses how important management and leadership training is for scientists at all levels. Boer interviewed me a while ago for this article and I am gratified that she followed my suggestion to interview some graduates of the annual Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory workshop in Leadership in Bioscience (LIB) that I run with Dannie Kennedy.  The interviewees were Vivek Kumar (Jackson Lab, LIB class of 2015), Justin Cotney (UConn Farmington, LIB class of 2015) and Markus Seeliger (SUNY Stony Brook, LIB class of 2012).  Boer also highlights the Van Andel Research institute in Grand Rapids, MI where I ran a series of eight management and leadership workshops earlier this year for both post-docs and faculty.   

Hats off to Nature and Boer for identifying this topic as one worthy of repeated mention.  Nature previously covered this theme in March 2012 by publishing an article (“Scientists must be taught to manage” Nature, March 29, 2012; Vol.483, p.511) by Jessica Seeliger  - yes, she’s Markus’s wife, and also attended the 2012 LIB workshop –about her experience at our workshop.  Similarly, in 2014 Science Magazine also featured articles ("Learning to Lead a Lab"  and "Lab management courses: becoming a trainer") on these same themes, including interviews with yours truly.   Are we seeing the beginnings of a trend here?  

In the European Union, EMBO (The European Molecular Biology Organization) sponsors dozens of over-subscribed workshops each year on management and leadership skills for scientists.  Here in the US similar efforts are few and far between, fragmented and limited to small numbers of attendees.  Why are we so far behind? 

Carl M. Cohen