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STARTUP OF THE WEEK: SCIENCE CRAFT

Brian Cusack and Rick Scavetta are co-founders of Science Craft, Berlin. Science Craft serves the needs of young researchers, research institutes, universities and graduate schools by  equipping them with the tools they need to publish their research with impact and by providing high-quality, practical skills training to their students. Brian Cusack comes from Ireland. He holds a B.Sc. from Imperial College, London, a Master’s degree from Leeds University and a Ph.D. from Trinity College, Dublin. Rick Scavetta, is originally from Toronto, Canada. He completed his B.Sc. at the University of Toronto, his M.Sc. at the University of Calgary, and his Ph.D. at the University of Cologne, Germany. Science Craft uses the co-working space of betahaus since February. 

WHAT EXACTLY IS SCIENCE CRAFT AND HOW DID YOU START?

Science Craft was founded in February 2012 to provide training workshops in transferable skills to researchers in the life sciences. Basically, we want to help young researchers to tell the story of their science and understand their research.

Rick and I started to think about offering these services while we were still doing research at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics here in Berlin. We saw that talented PhD students were being held back because they lacked the essential skills in scientific writing, data analysis and visualisation that would complement their excellent research skills. We were surprised that training in these transferable skills was either inadequate or simply not available. So even top-ranking graduate schools had trouble meeting the needs of their students.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO DEVELOP YOUR BUSINESS IN BERLIN, AND TO USE BETAHAUS AS YOUR BASE?

Betahaus offers an inspiring, sociable and supportive working environment. The transition to the business world from life in the lab has been less daunting because Betahaus is like a big ideas lab. So we feel right at home here!

SCIENCE CRAFT OFFERS WORKSHOPS SUCH AS SCIENTIFIC WRITING, PROPOSAL WRITING, DATA ANALYSIS AND DATA VISUALISATION. WHAT IS YOUR AIM, OUT OF THOSE WORKSHOPS AND WHO IS YOUR TARGET GROUP?

Research articles are the main way that scientists communicate with each other and build their career. It is especially important for young researchers to write impactful papers efficiently.

Science Craft’s target group includes young researchers in the life sciences. Young researchers often fall into a “mentoring gap” because their supervisors do not have time to teach them essential transferable skills. Science Craft’s aim is to fill this mentoring gap through our workshops. Our workshops empower young researchers by giving them the tools to build successful careers in the long-term, regardless of whether they want to stay in research or not.

Our aim is to help young scientists to survive in research by publishing successfully or, even if they leave research, to apply their transferable skills to new working environments.

WHAT ARE YOUR FURTHER PLANS FOR SCIENCE CRAFT?

So far the feedback we’re getting from our students has been incredibly positive – so we seem to be on the right track. This feedback is really helpful because we are constantly working on our workshop material. We are very excited to premier two workshops in the Autumn/Winter: Proposal Writing and Data Visualisation. Data Visualisation will teach researchers how to tell the story of their science using the “grammar of graphics”. We think this workshop might turn out to be quite unique, at least in Germany.

We also want to help young researchers to publish successfully by offering an editing service for their manuscripts. As native English speaking researchers, we were frequently asked to edit our colleagues’ papers and that experience told us that there was quite a need for this kind of service!

MOST OF YOUR WORK IS CONNECTED WITH YOUNG RESEARCHERS AND STUDENTS. HOW YOU ARE DOING BUSINESS WITH YOUNG PEOPLE?

Simply put: We want to inspire and empower students! That means we encourage students to take ownership of their research and communicate it effectively. Writing and data analysis are tools that scientists must be comfortable with, but instead they act as hurdles to overcome. By taking command of these essential tools, young researchers become engaged with their work in a new way.

WHAT KIND OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG RESEARCHERS WHO WISH TO CREATE THEIR OWN CAREER?

PhD students need to be 100% focussed on their science if they want to graduate successfully and pursue a research career in the long term. However, by exclusively focusing on the goal of an academic career they are often blind to alternative career paths. This is a real problem since fewer than 25% of researchers will succeed in reaching that goal.

Regardless of whether young researchers find a career inside or outside research, we think they should play to their strengths and realise that those strengths are also transferable to other career paths. It is important for scientists to realise that there is also a life outside of research. Rick and I see our own career path as demonstrating that fact.


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