Education: Scientists need leadership training

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Career scientists need to be able to manage projects, students, postdocs, staff and, ultimately, a scientific team. We suggest that junior scientists should routinely be trained in such leadership skills to maximize the productivity of their future research groups (see also J. C. Seeliger Nature 483, 511; 2012).

Unfortunately, many scientists fail to realize that they need training, and there are only a few leadership programmes on offer. One is the three-day 'Leadership in BioScience' workshop for young investigators held annually by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York (see Through lectures, role-playing exercises, case studies and discussions, participants learn and practise skills such as setting goals, delivering feedback, running successful meetings and managing conflict or difficult situations that can arise in the laboratory. Training is consolidated with detailed constructive feedback from instructors and other participants.

More such programmes should be developed to help junior faculty members in academic institutions worldwide.

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  1. Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Marina Kvaskoff
  2. University of Vermont, Burlington, USA.

    • Stephanie D. McKay

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  1. Report this comment #62947

    Allen Pope said:

    More resources for developing soft skills
    It is encouraging to see early-career scientists (ECS) coming together to develop career-boosting skills (?Self-taught soft skills? by Alexandra Lucs, Volume 506, page 257, 13 February 2014; also, a Comment in the same issue entitled ?Scientists need leadership training? by Marina Kvaskoff and Stephanie D. Kay).
    Beyond the institutional level, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists ( is an example of an organization founded by, created for, and run by ECS, which aims to provide opportunities for professional development. Although focused on polar and cryospheric sciences, many of the resources available through APECS? website provide general advice that is applicable to a much wider range of researchers. Members also organize events focused on learning transferable skills at polar-related conferences around the world. Although initiated by ECS, these workshops and panels always include interaction with senior researchers who contribute to the learning experience.
    Beyond resources, APECS also provides valuable leadership experiences. Members organize task-oriented groups, plan events, and run the organization. Through the support of partner organizations (from professional societies to working groups of the Arctic Council), APECS members serve as early career representatives in workshops, steering groups, and high-level planning committees. These opportunities not only show the ECS how these committees work, but they also ensure that the input from ECS, who often have a different and valuable perspective, gets integrated in higher-level decision-making in science planning.
    It is crucial that ECS are given meaningful and engaging opportunities to develop a range of soft skills so that they can contribute to the direction of science and succeed later in their careers, whether academic or otherwise. By connecting with mentors and partners, APECS hopes to serve as a resource for ECS and as an example for other groups providing training opportunities for ECS.

    Allen Pope — Dartmouth College & National Snow and Ice Data Center, USA;; Ex-officio Council Member, Association of Polar Early Career Scientists;

    Christie Logvinova — Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, USA;; President, Association of Polar Early Career Scientists;

    Jean-Sébastien Moore — Université Laval, Québec;; Vice-President, Association of Polar Early Career Scientists;

  2. Report this comment #63077

    Jose Luis Peñalvo said:

    Building up Leadership in Science: A case-example from Nutrition

    Leadership skills are indisputably an essential asset for a successful scientific career. In response to the latest correspondence from Kavaskoff and McKay (Nature 506:159,2014) stressing this need, we would like to share our success story in developing a model for boosting leadership among nutrition scientists in Europe.

    The European Nutrition Leadership Platform (ENLP) was initiated in 1994 by a core leadership group who identified a crucial need for leadership skills in the scientific arena. To date, over 600 scientists have gone through an in-depth 7-day seminar focused on developing communication, networking, and influencing skills. After the initial training, newly acquired skills are further developed at individual or group level through the application of team building concepts.

    An advanced seminar evolved in 2012 to accommodate the demand for additional leadership skills for scientists already in a leading role. Such evolution over 20 years highlights the development of the ENLP from an annual seminar to a dynamic platform committed to fostering a vision for skilled leaders in nutrition science that support the health of European populations. The ENLP supports training, network and outreach initiatives, organised on a project basis and includes multidisciplinary teams. This structure generates ideas and ensures their implementation throughout the network. The ENLP actively engages with other leadership initiatives, which have used the same winning model of leadership training, in Africa (ANLP) and South-East Asia (SEANLP) and thereby we can align efforts with them towards a shared vision. Sustainability of the ENLP is ensured by a supporting alliance of European academic institutions and funding from major food companies.

    The ENLP has proven to be an effective model to develop leadership in nutrition science, and to translate and disseminate ideas to broader audiences. We hope our experience can inspire other scientific areas to develop and incorporate leadership programmes.

    For more information please go to

    The Alumni of the European Nutrition Leadership Platform:

    José L. Peñalvo – Area of Epidemiology, Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research. Madrid, Spain.

    Majella O?Keeffe – Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Medicine, King's College London. London, UK. majella.o'

    Tsvetan Stefanov – Medicobiological Unit, International Scientific Institute, National Sports Academy. Sofia, Bulgaria.

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