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Margaret Harris: April 2009 Archives

By Margaret Harris

The “On-Ramps Into Academia” programme aims to make the transition from industry to academia easier for women in science.

I saw an intriguing press release yesterday about a new programme, called “On-Ramps Into Academia”, that aims to help women who have PhDs and at least three years’ experience in industry make a transition back to an academic career. The programme’s first workshop is in Seattle, Washington this October (there’s an online application here , and applying before 15 May is encouraged), and participants can expect practical advice, networking and support from senior women researchers who have already switched to successful academic careers.

The rationale behind the workshops — which are funded by the US National Science Foundation — seems to make sense. The release quoted one of the programme’s co-investigators saying that current strategies to recruit more female scientists to work in US universities are a “zero-sum game”, because most rely on wooing them from one university to another. The new programme, by contrast, is similar to schemes in fields like law and business that aim to bring experienced women back into the workplace after extended absences (e.g. maternity leave).

Still, I had to wonder exactly what “industry” jobs would be suitable preparation for academia, and whether physicists might be at a disadvantage compared to scientists in disciplines like engineering or chemistry, where industry-academia links tend to be more widespread.