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Editor's Note : Boasting for Dollars

In many quarters, bragging about oneself or one’s accomplishments is considered bad form. Modesty and humility are the virtues most ascribe to. However, things have changed.

by Pamela Ahlberg
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Pamela Ahlberg


In many quarters, bragging about oneself or one’s accomplishments is considered bad form. Modesty and humility are the virtues most ascribe to. However, things have changed. Think of the dance some football players do in the end-zone after scoring a touchdown. And while watching such displays might make us wince, we have come to accept it from professional athletes. But for scientists to engage in such a display of hubris is unthinkable. However, that may need to change. This month’s cover story makes the case that in challenging economic times, tooting one’s own horn may be crucial to an individual’s and a research institution’s success. “Marketing, selling, promoting, positioning, branding—to some, these smack of vulgar business methods breaching and sullying the sacrosanct integrity of science. But as researchers consider their options in a time of tight money and a job market where supply exceeds demand, the utility of promotional and marketing techniques exerts considerable appeal,” says author Key Kidder.

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Another long-accepted image of the scientist is someone alone in the lab, hunched over his or her bench or microscope, singularly toiling away to solve some scientific riddle or heretofore undiscovered mystery, with the operative word being “alone.” So much for stereotypes. In this month’s management article, “Teaming Up,” author John Borchardt makes a case for partnering with other research institutions or with academia to improve individual research outcomes and business success. “Cross pollinating various styles of thought, problem-solving approaches, and training is a powerful driver of breakthrough innovation,” says Bernard Munos, an adviser in corporate strategy at Eli Lilly & Company.

Lab managers who don’t understand the importance of lab safety compliance should probably rethink their career choice. And Vince McLeod should not need to—but does—remind us of that in this month’s Lab Safety column: “A lab safety audit is a serious undertaking and preparation beforehand is paramount to success and ensuring your findings are ultimately useful.” However, a less familiar compliance issue, and one that affects mostly U.S. biotechnology companies, is that of export control. “The U.S. government has national security interests in certain types of information and goods that may cross borders and exercises those interests through export controls. Understanding the export control rules related to products, equipment, and know-how is critical for U.S. biotechnology companies, and proper compliance is the only way to protect the company and its employees.” Click here to find out the consequences of  non-compliance as well as what’s required to change that.

This month we publish our second annual laboratory spending trends report in which academic, government and industrial lab professionals share their expected budget growth rates for 2013 as well as where those budget dollars will be going. While the picture is not entirely bleak, there is some cause for concern. “Survey participants are pessimistic about 2013, in good part because federal fiscal policy may become restrictive at a time that the economy still needs stimulus.” But on the other hand, “While many respondents cite tight budgets and rising costs as negative factors affecting their labs, some positive factors also are cited. These include demand generating factors such as emerging markets, green initiatives, increased emphasis on quality, legislative and regulatory issues, and an aging population.” 

With the threat of federal cuts to science and research, what does your lab anticipate and how are you preparing? Please share your thoughts and, yes, don’t forget to vote.

Pamela AhlbergPamela Ahlberg