Working women in India looking at alternative career options in Science, can now look at many diverse choices.
By Dr. Chandrima Pal
Sunidhi Patil* is a final year Ph.D student, one among many unsure about continuing on the same career path for the next 20-25 years of her life. She likes writing or presenting science much more than doing it in the laboratory. She does not enjoy the repetitive, technical, indefinite and time pressing aspect of a scientific career. She and many others like her are often unaware of alternative yet fulfilling career options in science.
Besides teaching and active research in a private or government run institute, there are several other fulfilling career options in science where the skill sets and knowledge acquired during post graduation or Ph.D comes handy. They are all well-known alternative science careers in technology and policy driven western countries. In India these are upcoming fields and need to be looked into.
Our priorities, interests, opportunities and definitions of success change with time and a properly planned career transition can be a solution to cope with these changes.
Alternative career options in science
Here are some relevant alternative career options for those looking to use their science education well:
Medical Writing: A medical writing career deals with the documentation related to a drug life cycle: innovation of a lead molecule, animal testing, designing clinical trials on humans, registration with regulatory bodies, marketing in several countries and then observing the effects when used by a larger population. It also encompasses development of science communication (manuscripts, promotional or continuous education aids for health care professionals, patient’s information leaflet, web portals for patients and their families about certain ailments).
Along with medics, post-graduates or doctorates from statistics, life sciences, chemistry or pharmacy can join this field. Pharmaceutical companies and specialized service providing companies offers jobs in this field. A diploma in clinical research or medical writing, prior exposure to project handling, experience with databases and computing, manuscript publication can give you an edge to get your first job in medical writing.
Science Writing And Editing: There are three main areas of scientific writing and editing job: books, periodicals and journals. People with the experience of working in laboratories can keep their passion for science intact by converting badly written but exciting scientific work into an interesting article. Commissioning editors are responsible for publishing books in specific areas. Unfortunately, India is still to come up with its own popular science magazine like Scientific American form USA and Indian scientific journals are still a rare breed. But there are many Indian publishing houses and international science, technology and medicine (STM) publishers like Elsevier, Springer and Nature (India office) who need science writers and editors.
Deep domain knowledge, project-handling experience, voracious reading habits, sound computer skills along with a good command of English are essential for this role. Previous experience in manuscript writing, internship or involvement with book publishing (e.g., Ph.D thesis) can be a plus point for first timers.
People with the experience of working in laboratories can keep their passion for science intact by converting badly written but exciting scientific work into an interesting article.
Working In NGOs: People with science education are in great demand in NGOs working for ecological sustenance and creating awareness among people, given the fast-paced urban and rural development of India. Working with people requires an understanding of the non-linear nature of most solutions to a problem, in contrast to the linear solutions we seek in sciences. Analytical and statistical skills, knowledge about policy-making and development of a plan, and decision-making skills are a must for this job profile. The Centre of science and environment is one such NGO and there are several more. Internship or volunteering experiences in NGOs and related workshops can give you a better fit for salaried positions.
Business Development And Technology Transfer: Innovation requires resources and marketing and that is where business development is required. Exploring new products and markets, finding strategic partners, developing collaborations, tapping new sources of funding or being a connecting link between your company/institute and the outside world is essentially what a business developer does. Indian national science and research institutes, industries and small cap innovators have started considering the power of market driven innovation and are opening up business development divisions dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship. A Ph.D degree along with exposure to working in different countries, a mental bent towards business and profitability are helpful qualities for this career.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Professionals: Creating awareness about intellectual property rights in India, patent writing and filing, working on trademarks and designs are considered a specialized skill and is going to be a very important field in India. This career demands wearing many hats at the same time; understanding the invention as a scientist, drafting the application as a writer, making judgments on case filing like a lawyer and pursuing applications depending upon their markets as a business person. There are fellowship schemes offered by DST and DBT specifically for women in science for IPR management. IIT-Kharagpur offers many courses on intellectual property law. Certified patent agents find work in government or private sectors and can practice independently as well.
There are fellowship schemes offered by DST and DBT specifically for women in science for IPR management.
Contract Research Organization (CROs) – Research And Development (R & D): Ph.Ds and post-doctorates in science (preferably synthetic and theoretical chemists, biologists) can stay in research by joining CROs working in process R and D. Flexibility towards fast learning and working on different technologies and fields constitute the core of this profession. Attracting national and international clients, resource management and building networks are essential to work in CROs.
A career path in science is no longer restricted to the laboratory; people with scientific skills and the enthusiasm to take innovations of science and technology from the laboratory to the world outside are much needed.
*Name changed to protect privacy