From post-doc to private secretary

Below is a summary of the discussion from Natalie’s presentation.

One of the key take home points from Natalie is this: make a plan and work towards your goal but be prepared to change your plan to take advantage of new opportunities. You will grow and change during your career. Be open to new and exciting opportunities.

Like many PhD students and post-docs, Natalie was looking for a career in academia and with the end goal of getting a professorship. It is important to acknowledge that academic career paths are affected by a lot of things outside your control. Unfortunately discrimination based on gender, sexuality and ethnicity remain ongoing issues within academic and society more generally. Acknowledging the biases that exist does not detract from the achievements of others. Everybody benefits from a fairer system.

In 2011/2012 here is how gender changes with career stage for physics and maths

On applying for jobs

Don’t wait to apply for a job until you meet all the selection criteria. Interestingly, if you match 50% or 90% of the criteria your probability of getting an interview are very similar. Women are far more likely to choose not to apply because they don’t feel they meet enough of the criteria. Forget that and just give it a go!

On applying for lectureships

Do your market research on positions, look at your long terms aims and how they are aligned with the department’s vision.

Apply for other positions at the same time. You might find something better. You might get more than one offer in which case you can use this to negotiate your contract.

On applying for fellowship

Expect to fail. A lot. While we know it is part of the process, it is very different to experience failure. One of Natalie’s inspirations is Dr Izzy Jayasinghe who showed reliance and determination to succeed when faced with repeated rejections for fellowships.

How to improve your odds

There are different ways to increase your chances for academic (and non-academic) positions and fellowships. Traditional ways include: publishing papers, applying for funding, independent research, supervising and teaching. Other less traditional ways include: participate in training opportunities, networking, entering competitions, putting yourself forward (or asking to be nominated) for awards, reviewing grants, engaging with the media and having an online presence.

Here are some hot tips

  1. Don’t wait for invited to talks to come your way. Seek them out and ask to be invited!
  2. Don’t be scared to start in a whole new area! Natalie did and loves it.
  3. Find out what motivates you and what matters to you.
  4. Be true to yourself.
  5. Be brave! Don’t let fear of failure stop you.
  6. Find a mentor (or multiple).
  7. Keep your cv updated so you can act on opportunities. Get feedback on your cv and continually workshop it.
  8. Regularly search for opportunities.
  9. In addition to having a plan, you also need an exit strategy. When will it be time to move on and to what?
  10. Be flexible in your planning and adapt as needed.

How do I get a lectureship?

From our discussion there seem to be two common pathways into lectureships.

Path one: Get your own research money

Then use your research to leverage a lectureship.  Getting your own funding helps in two ways:

  1. It shows you have a bigger picture plan for your research and why it is important. It shows you have passion for your research, else you would not have convinced a panel to fund you. It also demonstrates key skills such as grant writing, budgeting a project, and potentially managing other people. Getting your own funding also means you are more likely to be awarded future grants.
  2. You can negotiate a permanent position based on your fellowship or grant money. Our college has a good history of giving permanent lectureships to post-docs who win a fellowship. While on a fellowship you would likely be employed as a proleptic lecturer. If you bring your grant with you to Exeter from another university there is scope to negotiate a position to be created for you (you will likely have to go through formal recruitment but since the job was created for you to apply it will be well suited to your skills).

Path two: Apply for a job that has been advertised

This has the advantage that there is already a lectureship available, but has the disadvantage that you will go up against your peers and you need to demonstrate you are the best for the position. There are two stages to getting that job. The first stage is preparing yourself and your research. The second is nailing the interview and presentation.

Preparation for the lectureships before you start applying

You should be thinking about this phase before you start apply for jobs.

Mentoring: This is important at all stages but especially when your transitioning between post-doc and lecturer. One mentor can’t provide everything you need. Consider having a few different people in your corner and work out what areas they are best to help you with. Don’t overlook junior faculty, as they have gone through it more recently and can relate to what your going through. Find people who will champion for you – and don’t rule out having a senior mentor who is a different gender.

Get on other peoples grants: Being the named post-doc or a co-investigator on an awarded grant is a really important way to get started on grant funding. It also gives you insight into how grants are written and will give you useful experience in this process.

What’s your vision: You need to know what you want to research in the future and what goals you are aiming towards. Start laying out your research vision and goals. It is never too early to think about this.

Applying and interviewing

Which jobs should I apply for? Don’t wait for the perfect position before you apply. You need practice in academic interviews. Then when the right job does come along you are ready. You might even find one of the jobs you apply for is better than you thought!

Be proactive in your preparation. Work with a senior member of staff on possible interview questions and how you will answer them. Also practice your lecture with them so you pitch the content of your talk correctly. For example, should I talk about teaching, should I give a broad overview of my research or be very specific on one topic?

For those of us who feel like an imposter: If imposter phenomena is holding you back, then you need to work a little harder on how to describe your research and why you’re best for the position. Practice these with your mentor (this is why you need your mentoring relationship already strong for times like this).

Is the position new or a replacement? Do find out if the position is a new position or taking over an existing post. This will have a big impact on how you transition into the role. You may be expected to teach right away or you may get a 1-2 year transition into teaching. You really want to know which.

Apply for jobs that you do not expect to get or that you don’t fit all the criteria for. Don’t wait for the perfect position. Consider applying for jobs that don’t fit exactly in your specialist area – look out for the wording “or anyone else in a related field“. They may actually want a broad range of applicants. You goal is then to convince the hiring committee that what you do, and you specifically, are a good fit for the position. Also keep in mind that poorly written job descriptions receive less applicants than very polished ones. The polished ones will be more competitive.

Own your luck. There will likely be some element of luck to your employment. But still own your success. Sure you might have been in right place at the right time. You might have even been lucky enough to have a stronger candidate removed themselves from the application or not accept the position. It is okay to see yourself as lucky, but also see yourself as the one who was prepared and qualified, which is why you got the job!

Interview Skill

Before applying for the job


  • Do email the contact person and introduce yourself. This is a great way to ask questions about the position and let the person know you’re interested. No need to attach any documents (i.e. no cv). But do sell yourself and your research interests.

Preparation for the Interview


  • Do try to predict the questions and prepare for them. It is not necessarily to be very specific, think more along theme lines. The goal is not to have a rehearsed answer.
  • Do consider your answers for common interview questions and work out your examples ahead of time. Here are some common interview questions and more common interview questions.
  • Do read some of the papers from the interview panel. Get a feel for their research specialities.
  • Do get a contact number of someone in HR (that is not on the interview panel) in case you run late or there is a problem on the day. They can get a message to the panel (who will likely no have access to emails or their phone).
  • Do work out what you want them to know about you.
  • Do look at common interview questions and plan how you would respond to them.


  • Don’t forget to be prepare to address the personal specifications as outlined in the job advertisement. Work out strategies for how to answer areas you may be a weak in and how you will change that.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of preparation

During the interview


  • Do use the interview was a two way process. You should also be asking: Do I want to work with you and within this company/university?
  • Do remember that if you get asked a question and you blank or don’t hear it properly the best thing to do is stop, collect yourself (eg take a sip of water) and ask for the question to be repeated.
  • Do have a list of questions or points you want to make during the interview and take this in with you on a piece of paper. Just don’t fidget with it or use it too often.
  • Do make good eye contact but don’t over do it.
  • Do shake hands if it feels appropriate. Let the panel lead on this.
  • If you give a seminar, consider writing up a summary of the key points and give it to them on an A4 piece of paper. It will help them remember your talk.
  • Do use the STAR approach for answering questions.


  • Don’t worry about being nervous. It is expected you will be nervous. Work out how to use your nerves to your advantage. They can help you? Often helps when you’re talking about things that excite you.
  • Don’t volunteer humour, jokes or giggling. If the interview panel want a relaxed experience they will initiate it.
  • Don’t forget to check in with your body language.

Finishing the interview

  • You will always be asked if you have any questions. Don’t say no. Always answer that your questions have already been addressed.
  • What questions should I ask at the end of the interview?
    • What would being success in this role look like?
    • You can ask about the diversity of the university culture, but perhaps don’t comment on this at the department level. You can ask about what strategies are in place to address diversity.
    • You can ask about career progression.
    • You can ask about training options. What type of training do you want?
    • You can ask when you will hear the outcome, when you might get feed back.
    • Never ask about pay and benefits. This is to be done only after an offer has been made.

After the Interview

  • Always ask for feedback from the panel.
  • Write down the questions you were asked, how you answered and reflect on improvements you could make.

Where can I get help?

Check out Goinglobal if you want to see differences in other countries. This is helpful for cvs.

Set up a one-to-one with Kate. You can work through mock interview, work on your cv and other areas. Kate has shared with us some more tips on interview skills.

Press Releases

The key points about press releases:

  •  Don’t use words without explanation.
  • Always lead with the punchline in the first sentence. This should be where you answer: You will never guess what…
  • Your first sentence should never be background information or something people already know.
  • If you are in the field or can take a photo of your release, this really helps an article have traction.

What makes a great story?

  • Things that affect me,
  • things that make me feel something,
  • something I did not already know, and
  • good storytelling

When should we contact the media office?

If you have a publication that you would like to write a press release on, then  contact the press office when the paper has been accepted, or close to accepted. The article has to be new else it is not news.

Do I need to write the press release?

No. You explain your research to the press office and they write the release for you. Their task is to help the researchers phrase their work in a way for journalists to easily use.

Can I write the press release myself?

Yes you can. But you will still work with the press team to fine tune the piece.

How to write a press release:

  • Start with the main findings, then elaborate.
  • Stress the relevance to the publication.
  • Use simple language.
  • Don’t waste words.
  • Focus on the story.
  • Be accurate.

The key to a good press release is that you are not ‘selling’ your findings, but rather to clarify what you found and why it is important.

Is there training offered by the University of Exeter on how to engage with the media?

Yes. The press office organises practical training on TV and radio interviews, run by an external company. There is a waiting list for this. To be added, please email

Leave types

All of the links in the blog are for staff. If you are a student, please see the Learning and Teaching Support Handbook

Quick links: Leave options, parents and careers

Please note that all of the information below is just a guide. You will need to review the current policies and identify the correct policy rules.

What types of leave are there?

1. Sick leave:

a) Sick leave: If you are absent for more than 7 consecutive days you will need a doctor’s certificate. This should be the hard copy version but you can send a scanned copy or a photo initially and this should be emailed to your line manager or supervisor. However you must follow up by sending the hard copy to your manager. Your manager will then enter this on trent. See Sickness Absence Recording

b) Long term sick leave: If you are off for more than 28 days. You will need to provide a medical certificate (e.g. from your GP or from the hospital as appropriate) to cover any continuous period of sickness absence of more than 28 consecutive days.

The maximum amount of sick leave you’re entitled to depends on your length of employment (1-6 months). See the table here for more info.

2. Compassionate or emergency leave (staff only not PhD students):

a) In the event of death or serious illness of a close relative you are entitled to basic provision of 2 days paid leave although consideration may be given to certain circumstances where there is responsibility for making arrangements or significant travel is involved. After this you can consider taking annual leave or other leave types.

b) Emergency leave is 1-2 days unpaid leave to manage unexpected issues which occur without warning.

Continue reading here for more information.

3. Maternity leave

The total length of leave you can apply for is 52 weeks:

  • 26 weeks university maternity pay,
  • 13 weeks statutory maternity pay/maternity allowance (as eligible – see guidance online), and
  • 13 weeks unpaid.

Keep in mind that any bank holidays/closure days that fall within the period of maternity leave are not paid but given back as discretionary annual leave days after maternity leave ends. They should be taken before the return to work. You continue to accrue annual leave during this time.


  • You must be employed at the uni until 29 weeks into the pregnancy.
  • You can start maternity leave at any time after 29 weeks.
  • You need to advise your employer (HoD/Line manager/HR) by the 15th week before your baby is due (eg approx. 25 weeks’ pregnant).
  • There is a return to work period of 3 months (see below).

If I do not return to work do I have to pay back part of the maternity leave? This is a tricky question for fixed term contract employees such as post-docs. Prior to maternity leave, your return to work should be discuss with your line manager and Research Finance to discuss if the funding your position depend on could be paused or extended. If the fixed term contract ends during the period of maternity leave then you would not be required to repay the University maternity pay.

4. Paternity and partner support leave

The total length of leave you can apply for is 6 weeks:

  • leave needs to be booked in 1 week blocks
  • can only be taken after the birth
  • need to notify HR 28 days prior to the start of your leave
5. Parental and carers leave

This is unpaid leave to allow you to take care of dependent children or relatives. More information can be found here.

If you would like further information please contact HR on:

EU Settlement, Leave to Remain and Citizenship.

All of the information provided below is general. Individuals will need to access relevant information for their situation. This information will at some point become out of date and it is your responsibility to know the changes and refer to the latest UKVI guidance. The HR Immigration team can provide information on requirements, guidance and common questions but cannot provide immigration advice or check visa applications. The HR team also has access to a UKVI Premium Account Manager who can help with questions on the policy guidance etc.

EU settlement

There is lots of info on the university website about this. Keep up to date as the conditions do change.

Here are the basics:

  • the application is online and you need a smart phone to apply,
  • it is free,
  • fast turn around (a few days to a week),
  • the deadline is Dec 2020 (no deal) or June 2021 (brexit with a deal), and
  • if you have a European passport and have had resided in the UK for at least five consecutive years you can apply for settled states or less than five consecutive years then you can apply for pre-settled status. When you apply you won’t be asked which one you are applying for, the status will be issued according to how long you have been living in the UK when you apply.

Useful links: UKVI webpage on EU settlement scheme and the university webpage on settled status. If there are any questions regarding the EU settlement scheme please email humanresources [at] exeter [dot] ac [dot] uk

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) for Tier 2 visa holders

The university is able to give guidance but not advise on applying for Indefinite leave to remain. Here is the relevant university website. If you want advice then you will need lawyer or someone registered with The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).  The University can provide details of a Solicitor we refer to for complex immigration queries.

In short, after 5 consecutive years living in the UK you can apply for ILR which means you no longer need a visa to work in the UK. This is also the first step toward citizenship.

Some points to be aware of:

  • you need to have resided in the UK for 5 years at the time of application,
  • the start of the 5 years is the start of your first suitable visa (which visa’s are eligible needs to be considered for example a Tier 4 visa does not count),
  • you will need to list every time you left the UK for the 5 year period so start making notes as early as possible,
  • in any 1 year period you can’t have been out of the country for more than180 days,
  • you will need to sit a life in the UK test (not an English test but a culture test), and
  • you will need a letter from the university, bank statements, and payslips.


  • the earliest you can apply is 28 days prior to the 5 years date,
  • the decision will take up to 6 month (during this period you cannot travel otherwise you may jeopardise your visa application), and
  • you can fast-track the process and have a decision within a few days (for a fee).

Costs per person (accurate at time of posting this blog) :

  • £2389,
  • biometic information £19.20,
  • life in the UK test £50, and
  • fast track process (optional) £800.

To find where you can sit the life in the UK test visit here (there is no expiry date for the test). Of the total costs listed, the university will reimburse (the main application only – ie not partner or children) up to £2300. But note that under the HMRC rules this will be taxable (so you won’t get the full £2300 reimbursed).

Everyone’s application is unique and complicated. So get as much information as you can.

Some useful links: the ILTR pages including guidance on how to calculate continuous residence, the universities Visa reimbursement scheme. To request a letter to support your ILTR application, email humanresources [at] exeter [dot] ac [dot] uk


After being on IRL for 1 year or with settled status for 1 year you can apply for citizenship. You need to consider if you can have duel passports or not; some countries do not permit dual nationality so you need to check and may need to choose between British or retaining own citizenship. Again the process takes up to six months and you will not be able to leave the UK during this time.


  • £1330,
  • biometric information £19.20,
  • Life in the UK teat £50 (if your applying from a settled status),
  • £80 for the citizenship ceremony.

The university will not cover any of the fees associated with citizenship.

For more information see UKVI webpage on British Citizenship

Women in Gaia: from early career researchers to leading experts.

What is a career anyway?

In introducing themselves, some of our speakers observed that we should reflect on what we mean by career.

I never had a career, I had a life I was living“.

I am not interested in a career. A career is a story you tell after you have done it”.

This was a really necessary reality check to hear at the start of the discussion encouraging us to challenge our assumptions. Especially considering we ran a workshop in June on career options.

Our speakers introductions were open and honest reflections on their experiences. One of our speakers observed that participating in a physics undergraduate degree was an environment that increased their insecurity and self doubt: “I was worried I was not a good fit for the job I wanted to do“.

One of our speakers observed that even if you take a ‘traditional academic’ path on paper, it may not feel like a traditional path along the way. Reflecting that they were “following the traditional academic path but in my heart I was looking for ways out. I had strong mentoring and that helped me to find my way.”

How do family and academic commitments change with time?

At times the idea of family and academia are presented as incompatible. This is often said in the context of motherhood but it is important to include fathers in this discussion too. So in discussing family we should be talking about parents, not just mothers.

  1. It can be really hard to keep momentum going when you have a young family. This is a motivating factor for some to have children later in life. The challenge becomes how to keep projects moving and keep opportunities coming in.
  2. Don’t leave science after having children. Do acknowledge that it will slow you down when they are young and you will have less time to contribute to your science. But it is really important to acknowledge that as your children get older you will regain time and energy to focus on your science and other activities.

Some advice on this point: “The advice I was given was not to try to do/have everything all the time, because it is miserable. My approach is to enjoy my family now but to keep engaged in the science just enough to be able enjoy that too and so that I still have a career when my family is older and not so dependent on me.

It is absolutely okay to have a dip in publications. Over a long and varied career I expect it won’t make much difference. The science may take a back seat when you become a parent, but it isn’t forever, and all careers have phases and diversions. It is harmful to think that you have to sacrifice your science for babies. This just simply is not true.

Does the university institution favour men?

  1. It is not uncommon to feel the university system is not working to support you. The goal is to make it work for you. After you have found your way, universities can be amazing place to work.
  2. Think of the university as a vehicle to follow your research interests.
  3. Keep a list of people around you that are setting up flexible work arrangements. Then use this as evidence when you need to request changes to your work schedule to build in more flexibility.

Is the “boys club” still a problem?

  1. It is still common for women to be treated as though we are not good enough. Even though we clearly are!
  2. There are often situations where we need to take risks as scientists. This often suits men who more often task risks, make mistakes and in the process become more resilient to failure.
  3. The idea of the “boys club” has two parts: system issues and confident issues.
    • The system issues can include the delivery of education that is often better suited to “male thinking”. This can create intellectual dominance which does not promote diversity.
    • In terms of confidence, the goal is to reach a place within ourselves where we have a base level of confidence as an individual that is resilient to external forces. This unshaken confidence is the single biggest thing you can do for yourself.

The final point deserves highlighting: the solution for all genders is to have both emotional and gender equality.

Careers in Climate

On Wednesday 5th June, Women in Climate hosted Careers in Climate, with funding from the Researcher Led Initiative Awards. We were joined by an exceptional group of speakers for this insightful and motivating day. Over 40 people met to hear a science writer, a journal editor, a teacher, professors, and research institute scientists discuss their careers, with one-to-one sessions enabling attendees to have personal career discussions with the speakers. The event was well-attended by postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists who found the event a positive and insightful consideration of possible options for their future careers.


Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova – Professor of Mathematics for Healthcare and Associate Dean (International and Development)

As a child Krasi thrived on academic challenges, later realising that inspiring learning in others was also very motivating through teaching English in Bulgarian schools. From there Krasi went to work in industry as a statistician and programmer, before venturing to New Zealand to complete a PhD. Reflecting on this move, “I was not scared. I was determined and grateful for the opportunity.” Krasi then did two post-docs in the US and Paris before finding a permanent position in Bristol as a lecturer. Krasi opened up about how hard this time was, “there was barely enough time for lecturing and I was not researching at all”. After three years things started to improve when Krasi started winning grants, getting students and post-docs. From there Krasi’s career started to blossom and Krasi continued to take on new challenges and opportunities.

Krasi shared with us that it was never the goal to become a ‘Professor’ and personally puts no weight on the title. Krasi felt strongly that in hard times, such as in the first few years of lecturing, you need to take care of yourself first and continue to move forward.

Mark Baldwin – Professor of Mathematics and former Head of Mathematics and Computer Science

“I did not want to be a Professor. I wanted to work in a research lab and in time be the head of a research centre”. Mark took a “non-traditional” path into a professorship, working in industry for a number of years. Mark’s key piece of advice is that you need to nail interviews: “Don’t go into interview blind. Go to training, get informed and be prepared”. And don’t forget that your best papers will get rejected, as you push the boundaries of science!

Peter Stott – Science Fellow in Attribution at the Met Office and Professor in Detection and Attribution at the University of Exeter.   Climate communicator in media

Peter’s advice on finding a career you are passionate about is to: “Have a big ambition, but take small steps”. The challenge in finding the right career then becomes about finding your niche and leaving room to take advantage of surprise opportunities that come along.

Peter studied Maths at Durham and then theoretical physics at Cambridge. Whilst studying theoretical physics Peter realised this was not a good fit and the desire for a more practical job developed. Peter went on to be a computer programmer but also felt this was not a good fit. Peter then completed a PhD which included research on atmospheric dispersion following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. He continued working in atmospheric science, taking up a post-doc in Edinburgh on ozone depletion, but Peter still had not found his perfect niche.

When the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report came out this sparked a new interest in weather and climate. That was the point when a Met Office graduate position opportunity came up – “This was the niche I was looking for”. An early career highlight was being invited to Japan as an expert scientist during the Kyoto Protocol signing.

Later Peter realised an ambition to develop public communication skills and do media engagements. Peter is now a regular point of contact between the Met Office and the media, and in the last year has featured on a David Attenborough documentary and co-led the ‘Climate Stories’ project blending art and science together to improve climate communication.

“Media training and coaching is essential. There is a real need to get a broader diversity of scientists involved in media engagement. Start small, just go out and do it. Get support and encouragement”.

There is no ‘typical’ day, as days change and evolve over time, and Peter regularly switches from research to user engagement (government, public and policy makers).

Robert McSweeney – Science Editor at Carbon Brief, climate journalist

Robert did an Engineering Masters at Warwick and a Science Masters in Climate Change at UEA. After this, Robert went to work as an environmental scientist in the large engineering consultancy firm ‘Atkins’ for eight years and five years ago joined the website Carbon Brief.

Reflecting on working as an environmental scientist: “The pros of the job include the wide variety of work and training. The cons included having to fill in time sheets and the corporate focus as you might not be working directly on climate related projects”.

At Carbon Brief: “The pros of the job are that it is fast paced, creative and has clear impact. The cons are that deadlines are tight and you can get a little down when you are reporting so often on the negative impacts humans are having on the climate.”

A typical day at Carbon Brief involves a morning briefing and an editorial meeting. This is followed by writing or editing deadline pieces followed by a mix of short and long term projects.

Robert summarised with the following advice:

  1. Don’t fret about past decisions
  2. You don’t have to do the same thing forever
  3. Get work/volunteering experience
  4. Think about your personality and make choices that suit you.

Tamara Janes – Manager of Climate Information for International Development, Met Office

Through high school and university Tammy was strong in Maths and Physics, choosing to do an undergraduate in Astrophysics and a masters in Atmospheric Science, both in Canada. Tammy then set her sights on the Met Office with the goal of working in the UK.

Tammy provided a great perspective on their career path, reflecting on the dreaded interview question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. Tammy observed that as an undergraduate in 2005, the goal for 2010 was to be doing a PhD in Astrophysics. But in 2010 Tammy was doing a PhD in Earth and Atmospheric science instead. In 2010 the goal was to work for Environment Canada doing weather forecasting by 2015. Instead Tammy was working in core science at the Met Office and planned to working in similar role in 2020. Now in 2019 Tammy is working as an applied scientist travelling all around the world.

Tammy’s key point is that it is good to have a direction and set goals but realise that what you want from life, take the opportunities you have and change your goals on a regular basis.

Graham Simpkins – Editor at Nature Reviews Earth & Environment

Graham did a Bachelor degree in Physical Geography at Sheffield, a Masters in Climate Change at UEA, and a PhD in Climate Science at UNSW Australia. During this time Graham’s primary career goal was to be a lecturer.

Graham shared with us that he really struggled about half way through the PhD process and considered quitting; the honesty around the difficulties faced was really appreciated. Graham made some big life changes and the final year of the PhD was one of the best years of his life. Graham then went on to do a post-doc in the US, but during the PhD and post-doc Graham had started re-evaluating the lecturer goal and realised this was not the right path. “I felt there was an expectation that I would do a post-doc. Doing a post-doc was not for me but doing one helped me to realise that I did not want that life. There are so many other options, so don’t feel you have to do a post-doc.”

Graham liked talking to people about their own research but no longer enjoyed doing the research directly. When an editor job came up at Nature Communications, Graham applied, never realising beforehand that this was a job possibility! Graham loves his new career. In roles within Nature Communications, Nature Climate Change and Nature Reviews Earth and Environment, Graham’s jobs have included: reading a lot of manuscripts, working with authors to improve their papers and commissioning new pieces. Graham attends conferences and goes on lab visits to see trends in research focus and the latest developments. “At Nature we are not experts in all areas, we assess if papers are novel and if there is a breath of interest to our readers.”

Angus Ferraro – Physics High School teacher

Angus did a PhD in Atmosphere, Oceans and Climate at the University of Reading and post-doc at the University of Exeter. During the post-doc, Angus really enjoyed the intellectual challenge and the freedom to manage your own schedule. The catalyst for the change to teaching came about after a rejected NERC fellowship. “It was not the rejection itself, just that I became aware how much I would need to do in order to get a fellowship and the timeline was not compatible with my personal life”.

From there Angus decided to teach Physics at High School. “I wanted to be a teacher before anything else. Because I really enjoyed teaching people”.

“The job can be stressful due to the pace of the day and amount of work you need to do on each day.” A standard day starts at 8am to review the days lessons, before the day of teaching. There is then two hours of tasks to do at the end of the day, which includes marking and teaching preparation.”

Angus feels the job can offer a good work-life balance but this has to be self-regulated. Your work-life balance depends on the school you’re in and there are a lot of overworked and stressed teachers in the UK. One of the biggest challenges is the level of under-funding which makes it much harder to do your job as you don’t have the resources you need. The second biggest challenge is the accountability process which can make you feel like you are not a professional if you are being micro-managed by your school.

If you’re wondering if teaching is for you, then go to a school and get some work experience and see if it is for you. Use the English governments “Get into Teaching” initiative to find a school or email the school reception to get put in contact with the Head of Science. It can happen that people commit to teaching and realise that half way through their training that they don’t like kids. So work out if this is what you want to commit your time to.

Don’t believe all the negative things said about teaching. “Nearly all of my days are spent teaching Physics which I really enjoy. I spend 99% of my time in the company of really fun people leaning about really interesting stuff and it’s great.”

Training paths for High School teaching:

1. University path:

Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) is a one year course with in general is 1 day at University and four days a week at a placement school where Angus taught 10 hours a week. Angus did this option as it was the least intensive option and allowed him to study the science of leaning and develop more core skills as a teacher. Due to skills shortages in this area there are bursaries you can apply for while you teach which is more than enough to live on (amount depends on the subject, with subjects like Physics currently having large bursaries attached).

2. School path:

In this option you are paid an unqualified teachers salary. In this option you teach a lot more and in a way you are thrown in the deep end. For natural teachers this might suit you better.

  1. School Direct is a programme run by consortiums of schools locally.
  2. Teach First is a national program designed for top graduates and for teaching in more deprived areas.
  3. Researchers in Schools is a mix of all the above for PhD graduates. There is lots of teaching but also time for researching (education focused) and training, and the programme is designed to increase the number of state school pupils applying to top universities, especially from under-privileged areas.

Mailing list for climate related jobs in the UK and abroad

The Met-jobs mailing list sends out lists of job adverts in meteorology, oceanography and climatology (including vacancies in research, forecasting, technical support, and also course/study vacancies). Sign up to Met-jobs here.

Publishing in Nature

Publishing in Nature – a guided tour from our guest speaker Dr. Graham Simpkins

We acknowledge that selecting the right target journal is an important decision and WiC are not advocating for publishing in Nature. We just want to pass on information to people who do want to publish in Nature.


How to choose the right journal for your manuscript?

In order to find the right fit within the Nature family, consider the following questions:

  1. How big is your story?
  2. What audience do you want to reach?
  3. How fast do you want it out?
  4. Is open access important to you?
  5. Does your work build on any recent papers in the journal?

What makes a Nature paper?

To publish in Nature the work must be new and have a very wide interest. In particular, the work has to report the most significant advances that have the widest impact. The significance should be easily appreciated by non-specialists (ie apparent to people outside your area of science). Only 10-15% of submissions go out to review.

What makes a research journal paper (eg Nature Geoscience or Nature Climate Change)?

To publish in one of the research journals the paper has to report the most significant advances within the discipline or communty. In particular, the significance should be easily appreciated by non-specialists with the discipline. Only 20% of submissions go out to review.

What makes a Nature Communications paper?

Publications in Nature Communication tend to cover important advances in a specialist area where the main audience is other specialists. This journal is multidisciplinary and open access. Nature Communications send 40% of submissions out to review.

What makes a Nature Scientific Reports paper?

Like Nature Communications, Scientific Reports is a multidisciplinary and open access journal. The differences is that manuscripts do not need to be novel but do need to be technically sound. Scientific Reports send most manuscripts out to review and publish about 60% of the manuscripts sent out to review. Unlike the other journals, it is not run by professional editors but rather an editorial board (like many of the major journals with academic editors).

What is the editorial process?


There are two hurdles to get past in order to publish in Nature.

1. The editor hurdle:

Each editor will thoroughly ready the manuscript and assess if it is suitable. This decision is ideally communicated back to the authors within a week of submission. The editors are primarily looking for two things: What is the conceptual advance and what is the breadth of interest? They will then consider the importance to the field, the practical applicability and what the paper’s key conclusions are.

Some of the reasons why the paper might be rejected without review include the following:

  • out of the journals scope,
  • the advance is incremental,
  • too specialist,
  • lacks experimental evidence to support conclusions, or
  • the results have been seen before (ie a modelling study showing an observed process).

2. The peer review hurdle:

The editors will select appropriate peer reviewers based on their research background. In general three reviewers are needed with often different expertise.

The reviewers will assess if the:

  • results are technically correct,
  • conclusions are supported/robust,
  • data is high quality, and
  • approach and analysis is up to standard.

The reviewers will then advise on the:

  • The scientific advance,
  • interest,
  • impact, and
  • overlap with other work.

What are some of the most common reasons why a paper is rejected after peer review?

Some of the most common reasons to reject a paper include:

  • conclusions are not sufficiently supported,
  • significant technical flaws,
  • interpretation is too ambiguous,
  • not novel,
  • results not significant enough,
  • lacking a critical element, and
  • too specialist for the given journal.

Nature is launching Nature Reviews Earth and Environment in January 2020.

What does this journal have to offer that others don’t?

You will not be working with academic editors but rather with professional editors (all editors have a PhD in relevant fields). These editors have more time to work one on one with the authors. In particular the editors give input on content, structure and focus. Nature also can generate high-quality artworks for the paper.

How do I publish in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment?

The majority of manuscripts (90%) will be commissioned by the editors. These will be on hot topics, trends in the literature or stagnant topics that need to be reopened. Authors will be selected who have authority, a strong publication record and respected by the community.

Can I pitch an idea?


To do this you will need to supply the following:

  • working title,
  • proposed authors,
  • key messages,
  • rationale and scope (200 words),
  • the sections and subsections (ie a paper skeleton), and
  • key references.

What is the journals scope?

There are three primary areas covered: i) weather and climate, ii) the solid Earth, and iii) surface processes.



What types of articles will be included?

  1. Reviews (6000 words): an authoritative, balanced survey of recent developments in an area of research.
  2. Perspective (5000 words): an opinionated review of a topic which is typically forward-looking or speculative.
  3. Technical review(5000-6000 words): accessible summary of techniques, devices or materials. It may be comparing different methods or providing guidelines for data analysis.

What topics will be covered in the front half (ie the more news section)?

This will include world views, comments, news and views, features and research highlights.

What is the cost to publish?

It is free to publish. The journal is accessed through subscription.

Tips for publishing in the Nature family of journals

  1. Ask your colleagues (who is not a specialist in your field) to read your papers. They will help you to understand if the significance is appreciated outside your field (as well as help you explain the concepts to non-specialists).
  2. If your paper has gone out to review and you get comments back which you can’t address, then email the editor and explain (rather than leaving it to explain in your response to the reviewers). The editor will be able to provide guidance on whether something must be done in order to move forward with the publication process.
  3. If you are rejected, consider a ‘transfer’ to another Nature journal. The online submission process will move all your user entered data so you don’t have to re-enter it all. The reviewers comments will also transfer to the new journal.
  4. There is no secret formula.


What does the embargo on the manuscript mean for me?

You can continue to present the work at conferences. You can’t talk to the media, make the manuscript publicly available or write about it in a blog/website etc. The manuscript can go into archive databases.

Do editors or reviewers decide on the manuscript outcome?

The editors make the decisions on manuscript outcomes and will overrule reviewers comments when needed. They will take into account the reviewers comments and if there are very different perspectives then the paper may go out to be reviewed by another referee.

What is the ‘consult’ option during the application?

This is a tick box as part of the application. The consult permits editor of different Nature journals to discuss your manuscript. This is very helpful when transfers are suggested to make sure the receiving journal would consider the application favourably.

What is the difference between article types?

There are multiple manuscript types within the journals (eg letters, analysis, article). The major difference between them is the length of the article.


Friday 9 November: Outreach

Here is the extended list of points we discussed in the outreach themes meeting.

  • Outreach generally has two types of audiences: a smaller engaged group (may be higher level science, or young children!) or a more general science talk directed at a larger less specific group. Your task is to know which group you’re aiming for and what group you want to engage with. Both approaches can be very worthwhile.
  • Outreach is not a one way interaction. It is not about just disseminating your information, but is most successful when it is a shared experience. Not only that, but you will learn how your research is perceived by others too. It will teach you how to describe your science simply, and what metaphors or comparisons are understood. This will make you a better academic communicator as well. It is likely to increase your motivation for your research and the impact you feel you are having.
  • Outreach can be a great way to help with your mental health. You may find it helps balance the stress of the job. However, it is time consuming, and getting the right balance between outreach and your research can be difficult. Not everyone has the right personality for outreach, and some people may find it too stressful, but for those who can do it well, we should be using outreach to explain our taxpayer funded science in ways that will reach more people than journal articles and conference presentations.
  • Merging art and science is a very powerful approach for communication. Climate Stories was a recent outreach project doing just that. However, you may wish to reach people who are unfamiliar with climate science, and thus reaching them through something not related to climate may be most effective (i.e. at a market rather than a specific science event), or for example, through song rather than climate specific poetry, which someone uninterested in science or poetry may be unlikely to pick up. However all approaches will reach someone and have value, and sometimes it is best to focus on a quality exchange of information rather than focussing on reaching as many people as possible.
  • It is sometimes difficult for people to know about outreach opportunities. In addition to disseminating information to their colleagues, many climate communicators are focussed on actually doing the Outreach, so do just go and knock on their doors and they will be more than happy to help you get involved. Some of the opportunities we discussed include the Exeter Branch of the British Science Association (lots of opportunities through this!), the Brilliant Club, Soapbox Science and Pint of Science, and local science cafes and festivals, and well as one off opportunities.

If you’re at the University of Exeter and want to start going some outreach then some good points of contact would be Engaged Research Manager Grace Williams, or Engagement Officer and Researcher, GSI Georgie Tarling. A lot of projects will have outreach stated as part of their grant applications, so your outreach skills can come in handy when fulfilling your project goals as well.