Scientific writing and Communication: An alternative career option for PhDs and scientists outside research laboratories

Writing is recognized as a popular and esteemed career which existed ever since we could remember the existence of printed literature and books. There are various writing professionals working as writers and editors for media, publishing house, business communications, advertising, government and academic settings and freelance services. Until now, writing has always been considered as a promising opportunity for someone with a background in a language subject. People some time really wonder if scientists can be writers. Surprisingly, nowadays scientific writing is attracting many PhDs who really covet for a change from traditional research career to a better alternative which can be creative and challenging. Many scientists and PhDs now feel comfortable outside their laboratory zone because with time they have gained excellent communication skills while pursuing PhD through endless exercise of oral presentations, publications and thesis writing.

Can scientific writing and communication be pursued as a promising alternative career by PhDs?

Answer is yes! Writing and publishing are actually the essential components of most careers in science, particularly in an academic research setting. Many PhDs are now opting out for it as an alternative career outside routine research laboratories for a livelihood. A long history of scientific journals dated back to1665 proves that researchers have been unquestionably accepted as writers among scientific community. Not to forget that all the science and technology books are authored by scientists with a particular expertise on the subject. Scientific writing is an excellent way to apply one’s life science background to explore a relatively unconventional career track. If one possesses the knack for quality communication and passion for writing, then science credentials can makes him/her a much favored commodity in the media, research facilities, universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical industries. Scientific writing is in fact a broader term that covers a number of communication domains like science journalism, medical reporters, apart from medical writing, technical writing and science marketing writing.

Scientific writing offers a vibrant scope for PhDs in various disciplines, attracting them into an excellent alternative to a research based career:

The scope of scientific writing has been increasing such that many higher academic institutions like MIT, University of California, Santa Cruz, Johns Hopkins University and Boston University started offering a one-year graduate program in scientific writing. Many management institutions offered short-term courses on technical writing, mainly focusing on writing and editing highly specialized material for biotechnology, pharmaceutical and computer companies. Similar to a scientific writer, a medical writer with a MD or PhD in life or other basic sciences can work for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, medical schools, non-profit organizations or publishing houses. Typically science writers in these settings are known as Public Information Officers (PIO).

One can envision the following few selected options (as mentioned below).

Publishing house: In last few decades, the increased research funding and activities have led to the ever increasing number of scientists in both basic and applied sciences. The growing competition among scientists to perform quality research and avail research funding from government agencies have made it mandatory to publish in high quality journals. With the introduction of first peer review journal in early 17th century, the number of such quality journals has been increasing and so are the career prospects in publishing house where most scientists with PhDs would fit in according to their area of expertise. By combining vigorous research training and subject expertise with their excellent communication and writing ability, scientists can actually find good placements with reputed publishing house as reviewers, copy editors and proofreaders. Though still few in number, there are companies which hire scientists as in-house editors to ensure quality editing, proofreading and prepublication services to authors from non native English speaking countries.

 Regulatory affairs: Various pharmaceutical giants like Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer now exclusively hire scientific, technical and medical writers with excellent writing skills on various positions based on their qualification and experience. Great deal of accuracy is required to prepare the clinical study protocols, regulatory documents and brochures for investigative drugs and thus apart from the subject depth and expertise, rigorous training a PhD received during a five to six year period makes them a perfect fit for such job requirements.

Academics and Research Institutes: Universities and research institutes now specially requires PhDs for different writing tasks which involves helping faculties and scientists in writing research grants in correct format and ensure a quality check before it goes to the funding agency. Such positions include titles like Grant manager, which saves ample time of scientists in dealing with complexities of research grant applications. Many institutions have started elective course on “scientific writing and communications” to better prepare science and medical graduates for their future careers. Similarly, hospitals involved in clinical research, hires PhDs for clinical data writing and various other writing tasks.

Apart from these, one can also try their hands on in careers like freelancing, patent writing and science journalism, which requires a sound technical knowledge and subject expertise. These jobs ensure one’s career satisfaction by offering substantial job flexibilities and attractive salaries.

Share