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Best Places to Work in Academia: Non-U.S. Rankings

Best Places to Work in Academia: Non-U.S. Rankings No. 1 Non-US: Dalhousie University Courtesy of Dalhousie University A sense of community and cooperation makes Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a great place to work, says Benjamin Rusak, professor of psychology, psychiatry, and pharmacology. Here, researchers and faculty often find themselves "looking inward for partners for projects," says Rusak. Dalhousie was chosen in the "Best Places" survey as the number one place to w

By | October 20, 2003

Best Places to Work in Academia: Non-U.S. Rankings



No. 1 Non-US: Dalhousie University

Courtesy of Dalhousie University

A sense of community and cooperation makes Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a great place to work, says Benjamin Rusak, professor of psychology, psychiatry, and pharmacology. Here, researchers and faculty often find themselves "looking inward for partners for projects," says Rusak. Dalhousie was chosen in the "Best Places" survey as the number one place to work outside the United States.




TOP 10 RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS, OUTSIDE THE US

1. Dalhousie University
(Canada)
2. INRA Research Center at Versailles-Grignon
(France)
3. University of Dundee
(Scotland)
4. University of Alberta
(Canada)
5. McMaster University, Hamilton
(Canada)
6. Hebrew University, Jerusalem
(Israel)
7. University of Manchester
(England)
8. University of Toronto
(Canada)
9. Ghent University
(Belgium)
10. Catholic University of Leuven
(Belgium)
 

Maintaining a respected research university is not always easy. "We're not all angels. There are jealousies and egos, but compared to other places I've been, the level of interaction between departments here is much greater," Rusak says.

One of Dalhousie's assets is its size, says Carl Breckenridge, vice president for research. "We are a relatively small institution. A lot of really great scientists ... made the decision to come here. They had offers to go to other, bigger institutions, but they chose to come to Dalhousie. They like the opportunity to be a part of the intellectual community here and work with students from all over the world."

With only 350,000 people in the entire metropolitan area, Halifax is known as a college town. "The whole community is imbued with things that students and faculty like to do," Rusak says. "You can hardly go out in the community without running into someone from the university. ... Sometimes more work gets done over a cup of coffee in the farmer's market than in my office."

People are drawn to Dalhousie because of "the geography and the desire of the people at the university to strive for excellence," says Rusak. "It's not the salaries, and it's certainly not the funding, but that's beginning to change." Total funding for research is $80 million (Canadian) per year; $15 million of that comes from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research--a figure that has doubled in the past three years, according to Breckenridge.

His main concern right now is leg and lab room: "We need to increase available lab space. The situation is becoming a little acute, but it hasn't impacted our ability to recruit top researchers."

--Maria W. Anderson

No. 2 Non-US: INRA Research Center at Versailles-Grignon

Courtesy of Jean Webber/INRA

The INRA Research Center at Versailles-Grignon boasts a history of more than 200 years of plant investigations. Today, the Center is part of France's Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) and unites young and senior scientists to continue this research.

"Southwest of Paris, we have a very fine web of different institutions for plant science specifically," notes Yves Chupeau, Center president. Center researchers cooperate with universities such as Orsay, which has one of the country's largest plant science departments. They also teach. "I would say we might represent about 2,000 scientists in the different institutions, including students from the different institutes," Chupeau says.

The Center, which ranks second on The Scientist's survey among institutions outside the United States, is part of INRA's 21-center research program in biology, food production, agriculture, and the environment. Versailles has the oldest plant facility and an annual research budget of about ¤60 million, which includes salaries but does not include stipends for about 220 students, Chupeau says.

The Center owes its origins to a cadre of agronomists who studied and wrote in the 17th century. INRA's predecessor was officially created in Versailles in 1921, but it was devastated during World War II. After the war, it was reborn as INRA in Versailles and was expanded to encompass other research centers.

The first molecular biologists gave the Center that focus at the end of the 1960s, Chupeau says. "Plant biology has been mainly dealing with plant breeding ... it's the same in every country." But, he continues, "we were the first location in France [to] move toward molecular biology and afterwards, cell biology and gene transfer."

Today, the Research Center at Versailles-Grignon has a flat management structure that allows scientists to discuss results freely, says Karen Bohme, a Versailles researcher. "The weekly seminars are the place to discuss all results and questions in a very open-minded way," she adds. "There is no intention to make a show out of it, to fight each other or to hide results, good or unsuccessful ones."

--Paula Park


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