How to disappear completely

As I promised a couple of weeks ago (where does the time go?), I wanted to ask you all for input on another topic that I think about a lot.

In particular, there is obviously a great group of people who get their Ph.D.s, do postdocs, and then decide that they are crazy enough to dedicate themselves to academia.* These people then have an obvious interest in making themselves/their research known to the external world through publications, websites, conferences, etc., as this is the way they are evaluated for tenure, awards, grants, etc.

However, there is another great group of people who are highly educated and trained, but decide they are not crazy enough to become professors. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say they all go to industry (to big pharma, small biotechs and start-ups). These people (or their companies), in stark contrast to professors, mostly have a significant interest in not making themselves/their research known to the world. The company websites don’t list contact information. The things that do get published or presented are often projects that failed or are out of date,** or come from the rare companies doing basic research.

This is really frustrating for us because these great minds are basically disappearing into a black hole, even though we would value their input as review writers, referees (particularly when people are claiming to have a new drug or method for drug discovery), or general sources of information. And since there are so many people in industry, it would really broaden our options if we needed an expert in one particular field (where there might be only a couple of professors working on the topic) or if we just want a completely different point of view. Finally, from what I hear, it’s also valuable to many industrial people to serve in these writing and refereeing capacities in term of their internal evaluations.

So the question for the day is, how can we find these non-academic scientists?? Sadly, I have no suggestions to kick this one off, so please help!

Catherine (associate editor, Nature Chemical Biology)

I say this in the kindest way possible. You have to admit, though, it’s a little crazy at times…

*And, there’s no guarantee that the person you’re searching for is the corresponding author, and no one else’s contact information is given…