Science Managing Director

Challenges in Science Management

My current job:
I am working as an executive science manager for a large research cluster in neurology in Munich with 9 university und non-university partners.

My training:
I studied biology, did my PhD in neuroscience and worked a couple of years as a postdoc. Parallel to my PhD, I started a second study in Visual Communications Design. As a freelancer in New Media Branch, I also acquired knowledge in accounting / corporate finance, marketing etc.

How did I get my current position:
I started in 2001, with establishing and managing a Graduate School in Neuroscience, one of the first international PhD Schools in Germany.
In 2005, I established and managed a Research Center and PhD Program in Computational Neurocience.
In 2007, I additionally established and managed a Research Center in Neurotechnology.
Since 2012, I am establishing and managing a Research Cluster in Neurology.

My most important career activities for my current job:
For sure the combination of a scientific and visual creative training. The years when working as a freelancer and also gaining experience in business issues. Managing Graduate Schools and Research Centers with gradually increasing complexity and budget.

What does my typical work day look like:
Not every day looks the same. But of course, often, the daily tasks are more or less alike. However, I am mostly free to prioritize my tasks and duties. My main work includes e.g. financial controlling / accounting, organising events (from seminars to conferences with up to several hundred participants), evaluations, public relations / marketing, writing reports / proposals, implement decisions of the Board / advise the Board, set-up / organise an office with secretaries / assistants, negotiations, recruiting activities.

What is fun in Science Management:
There are a couple of things I like in my job: diverse tasks (less chances to get bored), (moderate) travelling (gets you out of your office time by time, but you do not lose sight of your friends or even family), interaction with different people (young [PhD], old [some professors] / scientists, administrative employees, politicians), bringing in your own ideas (marketing activities, special events), nine-to-five-job (mostly and I like that), close link to the edge of science.

What is not so funny:
Do not hope for a permanent position right away. This may happen, but is exceptional when working in science management at an academic institution.
Payment. You may or are highly qualified for the job. But that is not necessarily reflected in your payment (at least at an academic institution).
You have to adhere to regulations / guidelines which are quite often against common sense. And discussions are useless…
Reminders, reminders, reminders. People/Scientists are so busy…

Skills needed for Science Management:
To put it that way: You need to be a swiss army knife…
In detail, you may need e.g. organizational skills (actually goes without saying…), skills in accounting, skills in public relations / corporate identity, design / marketing, diplomatic skills (!), skills in programming (e.g. databases, webpages), skills in human resources management, recruiting skills.
It may be of advantage to have some basic knowledge in the scientific focus of research center / school / programme. This may help e.g. for public relations activities or when writing reports / proposals.

Is there anything you whished you had studied / done more before you took on this job?
Well, in the meantime, I probably aquired more or less all soft and hard skills for being a science manager.
However, when finishing my (biology) study/PhD I would have appreciated more information for employment options for scientists outside of the academic world. At that time, there was hardly anything / nothing like that at my university. But it is my impression that, in the meantime, this changed in general.