Best Places to Work: Academia

Scientists at the top-ranked institutions in this year’s survey celebrated their organization’s strong focus on collaboration, team building and unique funding opportunities.

Dodd Hall at Princeton University

Eleven years ago, Marino Zerial left his job as a group leader at the prestigious European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany and accepted a position as a cell biology group leader and managing director at an institution that was just opening its doors that year.

It turned out to be a great move. Since its inception in 1998, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics has become one of the paramount research institutions in the world. It is also a favorite among its employees, who helped this institution take first place among international institutions in The Scientist’s seventh annual Best Places to Work in Academia survey.

When he started, Zerial and others had a vision for the place they wanted to work. One guiding principle was to “create a collegial atmosphere and make decisions on [the] basis of consensus for the whole institute,” says Zerial. That vision exemplifies some of the qualities that scientists prize most in their workplace, according to this year’s survey.

But science doesn’t run on collegial spirit alone. Even in difficult financial times, scientists continue to produce high-quality work, in part because the institute supports scientific collaborations across disciplines, encouraging researchers to apply for joint grants to fund their projects. Other top-ranked institutions have started relying on more creative ways to fund their research and, in some cases, expand their resources. Through savings accrued prior to the recession or generous private and state funding, universities like Princeton, which ranked first on our US list, and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, which ranked fourth, are currently in the process of building new research centers that will secure more space and equipment for researchers.

Read about four winning institutions by clicking on the Related Articles box above.

Correction (November 5th, 2009): The original version of the Top 15 US Academic Institutions table listed the Mayo Clinic as being located in Rochester, NY. The location has been corrected to read Rochester, MN. The Scientist regrets the error.

Slideshow: Best Places to Work: Academia 2009

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