University scientist job description

Some more musings on the odd notion that a university PR officer would act as a gatekeeper between journalists and scientists:

Academic scientists are typically (but not always) university employees, however they are generally hired as more independent actors than a scientist at a corporation or government agency (as demonstrated by the fact that most research universities have a tenure system).

In addition to teaching and various administrative duties, the job description of a university scientist is primarily the following:

1) Conceive of a research plan

2) Get that research funded

3) Carry out the research

4) Communicate the research

These tasks are generally distributed among the PI (professor), graduate students, and postdocs, with the key to the balance of power among these people being that the PI is generally the only one eligible to apply for lab-wide funding, and the PI has hiring/firing/graduation power. These scientists are carrying out the four primary tasks on their own, not under the supervision or control of some university manager or officer.

University scientists are not like corporate scientists or government scientists. There is no reason why scientists and journalists cannot communicate directly with each other.

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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