E020 What Do PhD Careers in Institutions Building Infrastructure for Open Science Look Like?

September 20th 2020

Dr Ricarda Braukmann has a multi-disciplinary background in Psychology (BSc) and Cognitive Neuroscience (MSc), and she received her PhD in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience from the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 2018.

During her PhD, she went for an internship arranged by the Professional PhD Program from the PhD Candidates Network of the Netherlands (PNN). Her internship took place at the Social Sciences at Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS), the Dutch national institute for permanent access to digital research resources. 

Today, Ricarda works as a Program Leader at DANS. As such, she is part of the policy and communication department and involved in various projects promoting Open Science and sustainable Data Management. Ricarda has, for instance, been involved in the creation of an online Research Data Management training module for early-career scientists (www.cessda.eu/DMGuide). She is also currently leading the engagement and communication work package of FREYA, an EU project on Persistent Identifiers

In this webinar, Ricarda told us all about her job at DANS. What do the workflow and the management look like? What does DANS do for Open Science? What does a “career” mean in such a place? Ricky also shared her insights on how to be a happy PhD candidate and her approach to careers in general.


Ricky’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardabraukmann/

Ricky’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/R_Braukmann/

The website of DANS: https://dans.knaw.nl/en/

The episode was recorded on September 27th, 2020. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the opinions of their current or former employer(s).

Natalia 00:10 Hello, everyone. This is yet another webinar by Welcome Solutions. In these webinars, we talk with professionals with very interesting career paths and PhDs who share their great stories with us and their insights on how to build a career and how to navigate the job market, which is a very complex environment. Today, we have a special guest, a friend from graduate school, Dr. Ricarda Braukmann who has a background in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. She received her PhD in developmental cognitive neuroscience from the Radboud University in the Netherlands in 2018.

During her PhD, she went for an internship arranged by the professional PhD program from the PhD candidates networks network in the Netherlands. They’re the social sciences and data archiving and networking services which are the Dutch National Institutes for permanent access to digital research resources, also known as DANS. Today, Ricarda works as a program leader at DANS. She is a part of the policy and communication department and is involved in various projects promoting open Science and sustainable data management. Great to have you, Ricky. Thank you so much for accepting our invitation. I’m very excited to hear your story in your own words. Now, I give the floor to you. And please tell us your story.

Ricarda 01:38 Thank you so much for having me. It’s really a pleasure to be here. I’m excited to tell you a bit more about myself. And I hope that people have interesting questions. And as you mentioned, we know each other from our common time as PhDs there. I did my PhD. And I’m even after the cognitive neuroscience master’s that I followed there. I was able to work on a European project as a PhD student that investigated the early development of autism. It was a really cool project. I had a lot of fun doing that. What we did is we investigated siblings of children who have autism. And we looked at these infants in their development to assess whether we could find early markers of autism in this project. I like working as a PhD.

I made them and I’m working on this project. But towards the end, I was thinking, Do I want to continue in science or not? And what should I do? And I noticed that this whole competition in science wasn’t really my thing. I didn’t really want to go to another country again and spent so much time working. I saw that it was really hard for people to find a postdoc position.

And the chances of getting becoming a PI are small. It’s not really for me. I also noticed that in my PhD because I was working on an international project with a lot of different people and a lot of different sorts of projects. At the same time, I really liked that. I never did the sort of typical PhD work where you dive into one topic and figure that out in detail. I noticed I’m much more of a generalist. I like to do a lot of different things. I felt that maybe my place wasn’t really in science. I wasn’t so dedicated to figuring out one specific topic.

And then, in the last year of my PhD, I tried to access other options. I started to talk to other people. On the National PhD day, I actually met people from DANS. They told me that they worked at an institute that promotes open science. And then I thought, hey, I’m really excited about Open Science. That’s actually something that I think we should do much more and I thought it was so cool that there was an institute actually working on this. I sent them an email talking with them. I was really curious there was an opportunity for me to get to know more. 

At the end that led to this internship, I did with them during my PhD. It’s actually an initiative started by the PhD network which is called a professional PhD program. And the idea there is that while doing your PhD, you take a couple of months and you work for another company, and that can be anything. It can be a bank or also some other Institute and you gain work experience outside of academia in that way.

I thought it was a great idea for my project. It was also very useful because it was a longitudinal project. At some point, I was kind of waiting for kids to grow older to do more testing so that I could convince my supervisors that it was a good idea to take some time off my PhD and do a paid internship at DANS, and then come back to my PhD and finish the project. That’s what I did to get an impression of what they did.

In the end, it also led to my current position which is the first position I have after my PhD. I got to know the institute. They do great work. And I really like the colleagues and the atmosphere. In the end, there was a possibility for me to start a DANS full time. I work four days a week, as a program leader in social sciences at the policy communication department at DANS. That’s what I do now. This is what we’ll talk about more today. That’s a general introduction about me and my path.

Natalia 06:05 So thank you so much, Ricarda, for this introduction. You started your story from graduate school. I guess you would like to talk mostly about your transition to the industry today. But I think for the first question, I would like to actually ask you about the type of your PhD. I know you already for a few years and I think there is something really special about you which is that you’re one of the very few PhD graduates I know in person who I can say 100% confident that you are an example of a happy PhD.

From what I know, you were always enjoying your time as a PhD student? I have a question which is, what do you think are the factors that contributed to this happiness? Is this your trait as a person that you find happiness in everything you’re doing? Or maybe it’s due to your supervisors? Or maybe you had a very special project? Is it a combination of these factors? What do you think is the main reason why you were always on the bright side?

Ricarda 07:21 That’s a great question. Actually, I have to say that I like my PhD and I will do it again. I also had my moments. And I think everybody has. I think a PhD is always hard. It’s always difficult. A lot of us struggle with the same things and with the same insecurities and I had that as well. But looking back, I think I did have a good time. I’m really happy that I could do this project. And I think that it’s a combination of the things that you mentioned. One of the things is that the project I had fit me really well. 

Science, in general, is usually very competitive. And I think it’s really hard for some PhDs. If you’re sort of focused on your own project, and you really feel this pressure, then you’re sort of being the best in that. I think that makes it makes it even harder than it is anyways. My project was not focused on the competition at all. It was a very collaborative project we worked on together in the Netherlands. We worked together with the University of Bucharest.

In Europe, we worked together with a couple of different labs. I was also able to visit one of the labs in London which is amazing. I think that was something that really spoke to me. This collaborative nature of the project fits me as a person and it also makes it easier for you as a PhD not to feel alone. I think that contributed a lot to my happiness. 

And also, I had really nice supervisors. My daily supervisor is just an amazing person. She really values the atmosphere in the group. She’s very supportive. And also in this group, people are really nice to each other. There is no competition. People work together on projects. We helped each other out. We have social things together. And I think that’s a very important part of your PhD of not feeling alone and when you have struggles you have the possibility to share that with others.

I think the Donors Institute is a very nice place. There are a lot of different PhDs. There’s a lot of room for exchange. I think that helped. And definitely, my supervisor’s renewal was amazing. That also influenced my happiness and my promoters are really helpful. I think they gave me a lot of freedom but they were there when I needed them to provide guidance. They also had confidence in me. I think that’s just very nice.

When people tell me: this is your project, go figure out if you have questions then come to us, I think it worked. For me, it was a research project. But we also did a lot of work with families, and working on a project that investigates the early development of autism has had for me an inherent value because it was always something that was easy to explain to people like, why are we doing this, and you felt that you were really contributing to a bigger question.

Autism is still not well understood, especially the early development. And it’s just very clear why it’s useful to do research on this. I think it always gave me a very good feeling to be part of something bigger in a way and like answering or trying to at least give pieces to the puddle for such a big question. This also involved contact with the families which I really enjoyed and I really liked. It was just amazing to see these families and the kids grew up in a project, like seeing them again. The contact with the parents was also something that they really liked. We also did a lot of advocacy work for the project. We went to different Institutes asking them for help and also promoting the product, talking about it, talking to clinicians, and asking them to help us recruit patients.

I think there’s diversity in sort of the things that we did, and that you think you’re contributing to that. I think that was helpful for me. That’s why I really enjoyed what I did as a PhD, even though I had the same struggles. I finished and the data did not be the way you thought it would turn out, things took longer, and it was a very complex project. I think there were a lot of struggles. But in the end, I think these were the things that contributed to me being happy about the project. I was able to do something so cool.

Natalia 12:28 When you talk about this, one thing that comes to my mind is there was a lot of research about the happiness in academia, and what are the factors that decide the fact that some PhD candidates have a better experience than others. And what I remember from these studies is that indeed, the mental health problems in academia strongly correlate to the level of isolation. This’s the most important factor and the more isolated you are, the more chance that you will fall into trouble.

I can now see the point why you managed to keep so joyful. It was great. It seems that it was quite a natural process for you. You didn’t have to go through this period of disillusion. Because I think it’s like the same way with every career. People will suffer like they experienced the most. The most painful type of transition to the industry is for those who had the ambition to build a career in academia.

And they saw themselves as professors for independent reasons. They are no longer able to proceed the same way because they are not competitive enough, given the publication record. But for you who made a decision early on by yourself, then I guess this is what prevented you from all the suffering. That’s my guess. But I think it’s also a matter of personality. Maybe you also can adapt easier because you were happy with your PhD, but from what I know, I also feel that you’re happy with your current job, right?

Ricarda 14:24 But I have to say that I also had this fear that it feels kind of like you’re failing even though you’re making the decision yourself. I had this idea of “I’m not good enough.” And that’s why I’m leaving. And also most of my colleagues stayed in academia and did a postdoc. And I liked science. I also felt like I am making the right decision that you see everybody just continuing and then you’re like, I wasn’t good enough or so I think I had the same struggles that other people have. I didn’t pursue it. I kind of made different choices. 

But I think it’s always hard. Because in academia, people have this sort of fixed idea that what you should do after PhD is a postdoc. And then you should go on to become a professor and whoever doesn’t somehow do something wrong. And I had to deal with that, too. In the beginning, I found it really hard because I was one of the few people who directly left.

I think I had these struggles too. But it’s just part of the process. And it makes a lot of sense. Now, I’m happy with my job. But I also don’t know whether this is what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life. I think that this insecurity of what you’re doing, and whether it’s the right thing, it’s inherent to a lot of people. And it’s also inherent to me. I just tried to do things that I like, and that I think, contribute to the world in a way. And it brought me here and I’m happy with this.

Natalia 16:05 Great. Shall we now proceed to the first question from the audience? The question is how are your PhD skills useful in promoting open science if that’s what you do? I’m not keen on that.

Ricarda 16:30 That’s a very good question. I think I have a lot of skills that you need for that job. They are kind of similar to the skill set you have as a researcher or as a PhD. And I think one of the most important skills you have is that as a PhD, you learn to sort of organize your projects and organize your time. I kind of see it as a skill that is useful, almost anywhere, because what you’re able to do is you’re gonna see like a big problem. You can then sort of chunk it down into the things that have to happen to solve this problem.

I think that’s what we do as a PhD. You think about how can I address this and you sort of plan out your project. And similarly, in what we do, we also have a project where we were developing a training module for researchers. Then somebody comes to you and says, Hey, we want to develop this training module for researchers, how are you gonna do that?

And the skills that you need to address this are the same as you do in a research project. It’s that you think about, this is the bigger goal, how do we get there? What are the steps that are needed? Who can do what? What do I need? What are deadlines? I think a lot of these sort of project management skills that a PhD inherently acquires in his or her project are the things that you also need in this world.

My job is relatively close to research in a way that we are also officially an Institute of the Royal Academy. We follow this sort of similar funding scheme and a lot of the things we do is visiting conferences, writing papers, and presenting our results. I think my job is relatively not close to research. It’s just that the projects are different. And you’re not doing your own research, but you’re sort of working on projects.

Natalia 18:30 That was not like a personal question to start with but the first question should have been, how does your working day look like? What do you do? What are the objectives of the project? Since some people who watch this webinar might not have any experience with this type of work? What is your scope of responsibilities? And how does your daily life at DANS look like?

Ricarda 18:59 That’s a very good question. It’s very diverse. I’m part of the policy and communication department. A lot of the things that we do are European projects. We work on different projects basis. My week would start with a meeting of our competence group, the people that also work in policy, and communications, and then we talk to each other about what we’re doing in a week, and sort of the things that are happening, and we try to make relationships between things, where we could help each other or were there things that other people should be aware of? That’s sort of what we start. During my day, I have a lot of calls with the other product partners or with my colleagues who I’m working with.

And there are quite a lot of meetings and a lot of international calls as well because we do have quite some European projects where you work with different people. That’s sort of the things that I do but more content-wise. The projects that I work on are actually also relatively diverse. But some of them are related to training, for instance. 

One of the things we do at DANS is we worked together with other European social science data archives, and we develop training materials on research, data management, and data archiving for archivists, but also researchers. One of the things we developed is this data management expert guide, where we collected all of the information that we have at our archives and other European archives into one online module to give researchers, many young PhDs, the first introduction to research data management.

It’s important for us to think about what a lot of people talk about to know if the audience knows this, but fair is this idea that your data should be findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and reusable? It’s a word that has been around now for a couple of years. These are things we try to educate people on that. We would meet up with project partners to discuss the vital work, that kind of thing. 

Another project I’m leading is on persistent identifiers in the scope of a European infrastructure project. Persistent identifiers are used to identify online resources permanently. And researchers might be familiar with the DOI for an article or like orchids for themselves as a researcher. In this project, we looked at the infrastructure for these personnel and fires and what needs to happen to make those to improve the infrastructure to create training for people to raise awareness about this.

Many of the projects we do are related to infrastructure development and helping researchers make the data available. A recent national project which I’m really excited about is where we develop a data portal for the social sciences in the Netherlands, where people will be able to find any kind of data from the social sciences including Statistics in sort of one search environment. That’s also a cool project that we’re now working on. It’s a bit abstract for people that are not directly involved.

I think we’re busy with this whole infrastructure around science that the people working in science might not that directly see. One of the things that fascinated me about this job is that when I got into it, I realized there’s so much more sort of keeping our scientific infrastructure and sort of the whole scientific world going than you see when you’re doing your little research project. That was really exciting.

Natalia 23:02 I think it’s a common trait of jobs. In large public institutions, there are more meetings because you have to spend more time on logistics and on communication between teams. That doesn’t surprise me. But actually, I’m curious about the structure of management because, currently, I’m working on the battery of aptitude tests that we are developing in the company and I’m actually trying to characterize the job market in what are the different types of professions and working environments you can think of. One of the biggest and the most challenging aspects of this project is how to characterize the big public institutions because they are supplied by the government.

And the management structure in every public institution looks different. Corporations like private companies have to have this very strong and very well-structured management. This’s what makes the company move forward. They have to generate profits. Every big private company has the same goal in principle. The management structure also seems surprisingly similar between companies in different market sectors and private companies. But as for the public institutions, my feeling is that it’s very hard to classify them because every big institution has its own structure. And it depends on what the purpose of the organization is. It’s really hard to come up with any patterns.

Is there any viable advice you could give to the job seeker when it comes to working for public organizations? My question for you would be, how do you see this have done? What is the structure of this organization? And who is your boss? Maybe the question should be how many bosses do you have? Or maybe you are the boss to other people? I’m very curious about how the structure looks like.

Ricarda 25:35 I can tell you more about it. First of all, I don’t think DANS is really a big public institution. We have about 50 people. We’re not that large. Currently, the structure is also changing. But how it is at the moment is that we have these different competence groups. I’m part of the policy and communication department or group. 

And then we have some people working more on the technical infrastructure of our archive. We have a couple of software developers who are working on the sort of services that we offer. We have data depositing services for researchers and institutions. We have a search portal for research information. We have developers working on that. Then we have a research department where people work also on different sorts of projects related to data management research.

And then we have some people working on the sort of overseeing the services. We have service managers as well. I have a boss directly. Let’s say that is sort of the head of this competency group. In the project that we do, there’s the Director who oversees the whole institute. But in the projects that we have, we have different project leaders who then have a team of people that work on your projects. I’m also a project leader for some projects. It’s kind of very natural development in the sense that it’s known as a super hierarchical institution. If people are excited about a particular project and they know something about it, then then they can lead the project. Only specific people could do that.

In my case, I have a project where I’m the project leader, and then some of my colleagues would work on the project for me. I’m the one reporting back. We have a very good system where we report on all the different projects. The management is done within this sort of system which is nice because we work on multiple projects at the same time. And to manage all of these hours, we also have some people working on as a project bureau, overseeing the products well. All of the hours are distributed so there’s a lot of help for some projects. My colleagues would be the project leads, and then I’m the one helping with them. It’s different because that gives you an idea of what you want. Do you want more information?

Natalia 28:47 I think it gives me an idea. There’s a bit of influence type of structure. I guess it’s more like a liquid. I know that many organizations work like this. My question is what was your biggest surprise when you started working in this place? What was the thing that drew your attention when you came to DANS?

Ricarda 29:17 I think when I came here first, I was a bit blown away by all of the acronyms that people use, and all of these projects and different sort of things that I had never heard of. It was all about scientific infrastructure. People make use of it but I had never heard of that. I think that was the biggest surprise to me. What I mentioned earlier is that there’s a whole world out there, basically making sure that our science is stored well. It’s managed well and is sort of coordinated. There’s a lot of work going on that you don’t see as a researcher is just focused on your own project. That was kind of really exciting for me because I thought we need all of these things.

And I wasn’t so aware of that. I thought that was cool. I was a bit blown away by the acronyms. I thought, Oh my God, what is all this? But after a while, then you get to understand what it is. That was a surprise. I think the second surprise that I had was actually how useful my skills as a PhD are in this work. Because I thought I know nothing about data archiving. I know nothing about all of this technical stuff. But they were really happy with my work. And, as I mentioned, PhD is very valuable in other aspects of organizations as well. That was also a surprise for me that I thought it was not only me that wants to work for them, it was also that they want me to work with them. That was a nice surprise.

Natalia 31:02 I didn’t think about the infrastructure. When I was working as a PhD candidate, I was doing the data analysis most of the time, and I was like, hey, just take the data, right? The data is there on the cluster. I didn’t think about how I found it. There was this folder of the data that was all my concern. But indeed, when I think about this like there are many teams of people around the Netherlands who make sure that we have access to the data. And that’s great that you can be part of this and make the open science happen. Open sides movement is very strong at the moment. Can you also tell us in what direction Open Science is moving? And what we can expect coming up in the next few years?

Ricarda 32:08 That’s a really good question. I think some of the things, we still struggle with are those things that we started with before. The whole system is still based on publications, rather than on publishing your data, and things like that. It’s just really hard to share your data. We also think the European general data protection regulations were set in place. There’s a lot more focus on the privacy of data and also how that affects research. There are a lot of open questions there. Sharing data that has privacy-sensitive information is a big sort of challenge and a big issue. I think sometimes people are afraid that they cannot share the data because it has privacy-sensitive information. That’s not necessarily true.

I think there’s a lot of advocacy work that we still need to do a lot of education around how we can do this. I think PhDs now are more aware of this topic than I was when I started. That’s really nice. But I think there’s still a lot that we need to do. I think the questions that we have are still the same as they were like 10 years ago. One of the things which I find a bit worrying is that the big publishers instead of focusing on, asking your money for like publishing your paper and now are investing in sort of the whole data and metadata information. There was a recent deal between universities and Elsevier, who’s now really investing in sort of research information about who is citing what and what data is used with, what type of information and what of this is open access to all of this kind of additional information.

And I’m a bit worried that they will sort of market that as well. We have been fighting for years to create journals that are open access so that anybody can read them. Now, the publishers are finding other ways of sort of making money. I think we have to be a bit sort of aware that when we are sort of winning on one side, where big corporations try to make money out of science are sort of giving in to the movement of open access, that they’re making money on some other side. I think that’s often a bit worrying. That’s something I’m concerned about.

Natalia 34:47 I was thinking about this topic, like everyone who is in science always has doubts about this current publishing system. One question I always had in my mind was, why are the scientific journals published by private companies in the first place? Why don’t you create a national agency that is publishing and releasing a journal? And they’re paying editors and reviewers for reviewing papers on how it should be done. Do you think that this might be also a possibility that in the future, you might have new journals that are published by public institutions?

Ricarda 35:40 I’m not sure whether they will necessarily be published by public institutions. But when this whole open extra movement started, you haven’t seen that communities are setting up journals themselves and people who are fed up with Elsevier just tried to make alternatives. I think that will continue to happen. If it does, then they offer other services. I mean, they end up doing a good job. I think it’s good that their company is sort of regulating these things and making them offer the services. I mean there are so many papers that have been published and there also needs to be a good infrastructure behind that.

The problem is that these companies are just trying to make a lot of money out of it. And I think it will be much better if a lot of the journalists are based on nonprofits. You see alternatives coming up. You see a lot of people choosing to publish and sharing the information in other ways. I think there’s a whole movement trying to sort of tackle this issue but it has been around for a very long time. I think there’s also a question to check which maybe relates to this.

Natalia 37:13 Shall I read the question? It’s quite amazing. Rockey is asking, one of the biggest problems that I face is that indexing Dutch researchers for open science nurses is not complete. And there is a lack of connection between research and information systems and universities and the masses. Are there efforts from DANS in this regard? The researchers have to work on the Open Science contribution and that contribution has to be measured. This is where I think nurses can play a role.

Ricarda 37:54 I think we can have a complete webinar talking. To be honest, it’s a very complex issue. We have been trying to collect information on the Dutch research in research infrastructure and the Dutch research information. What he’s just mentioned is a portal that DANS is operating and where we collect information on Dutch scientists, publications, and data sets in the Netherlands, and we get this information from the universities. What happens is that this information is not always complete. Because universities have to get information from researchers. We have to get the information from universities and sometimes there’s this information is lacking. This is also the reason why it’s very difficult to measure how much open science is happening in the Netherlands.

How many data sets are used and renewed? This information is really difficult to gather. One of the things that I know is that as the LCV is also investing in this, so there’s a lot of value in having this data and in analyzing sort of what kind of research is done, how much is open, what data has to be used, and how is it reused. This is something that has been coming up in the past years.

And then we are also very aware of other institutions, for instance, Elsevier, but they’re also the other adopt institutions that are looking into this investigating this. This is a whole sort of topic in itself as that has become much more interesting in the latest years when our focus shifted from just publishing papers to also publishing data. I think once our understanding of the importance of the data has increased, there also has been this increase in wanting to know more about how all of this information is used. This is definitely something that we’re aware of. Some things that we have been doing are related to this project or business and identifiers that I was talking about. Because what we tried to do at DANS is also promote the use of persistent identifiers because they help us to link information together.

This is something that makes it in the future much easier to see whether a data set has been reused in a particular paper or which author has been publishing which data sets because if we have sort of identifiers that these people are using, we can link all of this information, then it much will be much easier for us to monitor everything. I think there is some sort of technical solutions that people are using, and the DANS is also investing to make it easier to understand this whole system. And the second thing that Rockey is mentioning is this sort of shift in how we evaluate science and also when we sort of think somebody is successful because it was based on publications Impact factor and what nobody cared about your data.

Now, you’ve seen in recent years that they’re changing their sort of approach on when people are awarded. And I hope that in the future, they will also look much more into the people sharing that data. Do they make them openly available? Is it good? Is it well documented? I think this is a very complex thing. I would love to talk about this more. It goes very much into the context of the work that we’re doing it then. I’m not necessarily involved in all of this myself. These are definitely things that we are dealing with. On a much larger scale, these are really important things in the field of science and open science that we’re sort of struggling with a whole bunch of people. I’m not sure it answers your question but I hope it gives us a bit more context.

Natalia 42:05 What are we doing? I guess the one thing to say is that Rockey, if you have more questions or you feel like asking more about this particular topic, then you can always contact her through LinkedIn. I hope that’s fine.

Ricarda 42:20 That’s fine.

Natalia 42:25 I think for many years, all the other activities apart from publishing papers and getting grants were also important for your research career. I hope this changes. There are some quantitative ways of doing this. Because indeed, if you don’t have a system, if you don’t have rules, if you don’t have parties for people who produce data, then it will not be done probably. I guess it has to be institutionalized in some ways.

Ricarda 43:06 I think what we are trying to do is we are advocating for sort of a change in the system, but it just takes. What is really important is that PhDs sort of stuck with this because it’s so much easier to share your data when that is on your mind when you start your project because if you now, at the end of your project, say to somebody, please share your data, that’s hard. Because you have to document it and you have to think about the format. You have to think about so many things. But if you take that into account, when you start a project, it’s much easier. I think the shift that we need is just taking time because we need to start with people doing it well from the start of the PhD project.

That just takes a couple of generations. I think we will be getting there. And I think that it’s really cool being on DANS and being part of promoting that. I think that was what I found really nice. I’m not doing research but I’m still contributing to science by being part of the sort of bigger movement and facilitating infrastructure. The information people need to make science more open is valuable.

Natalia 44:29 It’s funny for me to hear all this because it’s like a few years ago when I was a PhD candidate. I was also interested in open science practices and I still am but now since I started the company, I’m kind of on the other side of the fence, right? Private companies always protect their IP and the game is exactly the other way around. How to protect everything you’re doing and protect your website, your data, and all your methods, so that they cannot be cracked from the outside. It’s kind of funny because like a few years back, I was thinking exactly the way you’re thinking right now. Now, I have to focus on exactly the other way around, the opposite thing. How to best protect the data and protect it from sharing? It’s just a fun change.

Sometimes you don’t think about this when you choose to do a new profession. But then all of a sudden, you figure out that your values and not even values, but your goals completely changed next to it. I totally understand that open science is paid from the taxpayers’ money. It’s a primary goal of science to contribute to the human heritage and knowledge. I totally get that. It’s just exactly the opposite way of thinking about the data. I think Rockey has one more question. We have open science monitoring indicators coming out of the European Open Science Cloud and from other projects. I plan to propose those to NWO. That’s interesting. Ricarda, do you have something to add here?

Ricarda 46:30 I’m really curious where Rockit is working from because I think a lot of people are not even familiar with the old European Open Science Cloud. This goes very much into detail about the work that we’re doing as well. I think it’s maybe for the general audience, probably a little bit too detailed. But I’m curious to know where Rockey is working and what he is doing. I think it’s cool that he is so active in this. That’s really nice. Because a lot of researchers are not necessarily so concerned with this. I think it’s a very good proposal to interview.

Natalia 47:24 We have a question for Rockey which is, where do you work? Since this question was just asked, so please tell us. Tell us where you work.

Ricarda 47:41 Go on with a little bit more general things because it goes into a lot of detail.

Natalia 47:49 I was going to change the topic a little bit. I’m coming back to your career path. This is the main topic of this webinar. I was curious how your career path from this point looks like? What is your way of developing yourself forward? Since you mentioned there are 50 people in DANS, this unit is not particularly large. What are the next career steps I can make in many public institutions? And that’s also true about the jobs or the universities in the Netherlands that are not on the academic career track like other jobs such as grant writers, Graduate School coordinators, and management. In many of these jobs, what people do is they have secured contracts. They still change jobs quite often and they do a lot of diagonal promotions.

They are looking for jobs in other institutions. This is the way for them to develop their careers. They are looking for something that is one step ahead in a different institution because in that institution they are working for, there is not much chance to get promoted. They switch and they move around quite a lot. That’s a question for you. And it’s a tricky question because it’s also a question about, do you think about your potential next moves? Or do you think that DANS is a place where you see yourself working for another decade or so?

Ricarda 49:45 I think there are multiple things. First of all, I don’t have a permanent contract at DANS because of how we work at DANS and I think it’s the case for a lot of jobs at sort of universities or research institutes or these sort of institutes work similarly to the universities and postdocs where people don’t get permanent contracts directly. There is a large chance that I cannot even stay at DANS. I don’t have a permanent contract. I do have to think about what I’m going to do next. It’s just a difficult funding situation because we are funded by the Royal Academy and then by project money. It’s just hard to give people permanent contracts because it’s difficult to know what the future will look like. They work with temporary contracts a lot. I have to think about the future. But I find it interesting that you sort of focus on this idea of development and progress.

For me, that’s not the case. I’m not that interested in making a typical career. I want to have a job where I think I’m contributing something to the world. But I don’t necessarily want to have more responsibility. I really liked my job. But I also have a lot of other things in my life that I find more important. When I switched from academia, I have to go to the next step. It’s just not my thing. I think more about what are the things that I like to do? And what is sort of ways in which I can work somewhere that is contributing to the world in a good way rather than thinking about, Oh, I want to make a promotion, I want to be to earn more money or sort of that.

It’s much more related to what I’m looking for in a job. I think it’s much more related to having a company that has a sort of goal that it’s useful to society, either promoting open science, infrastructure, but also maybe in other ways, and having like a nice working environment, doing working on interesting projects, rather than thinking about sort of stepping up on the career ladder. I think that’s different. I find it interesting because you frame it in that way.

Natalia 52:21 I also swear because my experience is true for most people. This is also the way we were conditioned by social media and by this external pressure, we’re conditioned to think that once we are somewhere, we are already supposed to think about the next step. And that’s also maybe partially to the way we used to think in academia, you kind of have to think about the next step. That’s what my experience is. Like many former academics, once they move to the industry, they still keep this way of thinking and that’s typically their first job in the industry. They often already think about it. I really like your approach because in the end, when we were in the middle ages, as a few 100 years ago, you had to be on the top of the ladder to be well off enough to feel safe because the lower steps of the ladder didn’t guarantee you to be safe.

Poor people were starving and the middle class was not a good place to be. Now the middle class can live off on a very good level, at least in first-world countries, with this rule. We don’t have to struggle anymore to be able to feel safe and sound and to have our needs fulfilled. This is something that we still have in our minds from these ancient times or Middle Ages when there were not enough resources for everyone. Now, there are enough resources for everyone, so attractive doesn’t necessarily mean being on the top of the ladder. Now it means to be happy, and people still don’t see that change. They still think in these categories: what do I do next? Where do I go next?

This is maybe not the best way of thinking about jobs. That’s my experience. Most people after PhD, think of these categories, where do I go to secure myself a good path of development meaning promotions. I really like your attitude, I kind of working on developing a similar attitude. I chose a type of job where you kind of doesn’t get any promotions like, what kind of promotions do you get if you have your own company and you write books and you make courses.

There is no other way of getting promoted other than making more people know about you and benefit from your services. That’s all the kind of development you have. It will never be like a formal promotion. I don’t care about being the head of a big international organization or anything like that. It’s more about how many interesting projects I can do and how many problems I can solve.

That’s the way of development and I don’t see myself being a boss to hundreds or thousands of people. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. But that’s not my aim either. And let’s ask you this quite common question. I asked PhDs who successfully transitioned outside academia which is, do you have any regrets? Maybe regret is not the best word. The question is more about, is there anything in your transition, in your PhD graduate that you would do otherwise if you had the chance? Is there anything you would change if you had an opportunity?

Ricarda 56:44 I think it’s a very hard question. I think what I would change is I was always really worried and still, right. I mean, you just talked about sort of how we used to have this insecurity we don’t have anymore. I think we do have that. And I still worry about my next job because I think our society is very unstable. And a lot of my generation sort of has this issue of not getting permanent positions. I think our economy is in a terrible state. 

A lot of people lose their jobs. I think there’s a lot of insecurity. I think it caused a lot of stress. That’s also true for me till now. I was really worried. I really had this like, Oh my God, what am I going to do? And would it be fine? I was really stressing about this. If I could change anything, I would like to have been a bit more relaxed about this and also have given myself a little bit more time because I had this idea that I need to find something.

I was looking for it already during my PhD. And it’s just a lot of work. It’s quite stressful. I think it turned out good for me in the end. It would have been nice to have a little bit more confidence that there will be something for me. And now I know that as a PhD, you have a lot of qualities and I think you have a lot of options. It’s not always you never know. But I think, looking back, it would have been nice to do that to take a little bit more time in between just to have a little bit less of a stressful transition. Because when I was starting my new job, I still needed to finish the last bit of my thesis which I think is the case for a lot of people.

It was very stressful. It would have been nice to sort of have a little bit more time there. It’s just hard. You need to earn money. It’s just a difficult thing. I think it wasn’t possible to do that otherwise. But having a little bit more confidence is going to be fine and having a bit more time to sort of reflect on, what do I want to do?

Natalia 59:01 Great. What would be your advice for the PhD candidates who are still doing their PhDs or who are now looking for their first jobs in the industry?

Ricarda 59:15 My first advice would be, it will probably be fine. Don’t underestimate your capabilities. I think I’ve heard so many people say, I’m gonna continue with a postdoc because what else could I do? Because people don’t think that they have a lot of qualities, that industry or government or any other sort of employee or employer except for the university would like to have, so I would say to people, you have a lot of qualities. There’s a lot of work out there. There are lots of possibilities. Don’t think that staying in science is the only option. 

There is one thing. And the other thing is the best thing which is you can talk to people. How I got this job is also by going to events for PhDs by talking to people. Before I decided to take this job at DANS, I also talked with quite a lot of other people at similar Institutes. I was still sort of focused on the science work because there was what I know. And I think I would have liked to look even broader. My advice would be to talk with people and find people on LinkedIn.

Our graduate schools also organized an event where they invited people from previous years and had them talk about the jobs that they did. I think that was nice. If there are these events, then I would advise people to go there. If there are not these events, I advise people to organize them. And that’s also why I think this webinar series, you’re having Natalia is nice. Because people just need to know, what are the options, and they need to have role models and sort of people that they can see, this is what they did.

I would also encourage everybody to watch more of these webinars to get an idea of what people do. And then contact people on LinkedIn. Send them an email and just ask them, what are you doing? I think most people are really happy to tell you more about what they’re doing. I think people like talking about themselves. If you’re enthusiastic about a particular job, just don’t be afraid to send a message to somebody and ask them, can I come and have a cup of coffee with you, and talk about your job? And sometimes it might lead to your first job outside of academia?

Natalia 1:01:49 Fantastic, great. I like your insights. Thank you for recommending our webinars. It’s also something I started because I felt maybe my career was going a different way. And I would possibly make some strategic decisions much earlier if I was aware of such materials. That’s also why I started producing them because I feel that there was not enough information, or at least it didn’t reach me. It took me a long time to find a new way after a PhD than it might otherwise take me.

Thank you so much, Ricarda for all your insights. Thank you so much for accepting our invitation. Guys, if you have any questions, then ask. I think we have no questions for now.

Ricarda 1:02:55 Thank you for inviting me.

Natalia 1:02:57 Thank you so much, Ricarda. And one thing I would like to tell the audience is we are very open to all the questions and comments and every question will be approached. You can contact Ricarda through LinkedIn. If you have more questions about open science and careers in organizations like DANS, I’m sure she will be happy to take all your questions. Thank you so much again, Ricarda. And thank you so much for your insights.

Ricarda 1:03:41 Thank you for having me, Natalia.

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2020, September 20th). E020 What Do PhD Careers in Institutions Building Infrastructure for Open Science Look Like? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/career-development-strategies-e020-what-do-phd-careers-in-institutions-building-infrastructure-for-open-science-look-like/

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