The Importance of a Plan B

Even when the source of your salary is the government, it's not a guarantee.

Richard Gallagher
May 1, 2008

Researchers customarily are obsessed with what they do. By definition, this is to the detriment of other aspects of their lives.

One activity that is grossly undervalued is career planning. A number of factors contribute: the short-term nature of science funding, the often reliable nature of that funding, a misplaced sense of entitlement (some researchers seem to feel that they are inherently deserving of the public largesse), and a research culture that is not especially materialistic.

Unfortunately, over the next few years this cavalier attitude will take a toll on the research community. Hundreds of excellent scientists will lose their livelihood. Full stop. No lab, no income, and no immediate prospects. All because they've neglected to make a proper career plan.

Dropouts from research fall into three categories. First, there's the natural attrition of the frankly lackluster, who vanish...