May 2011

Science without borders

Online resources for scientists interested in training in Europe.

American scientists will happily cross the Atlantic Ocean to attend scientific meetings and set up collaborations; however, few seek postdoctoral fellowships or scientific jobs in Europe. In fact, less than 3 percent of U.S.-born science doctoral recipients choose to train or work abroad. In contrast, 55 to 60 percent of postdocs in the U.S. are foreign citizens, according to the National Science Foundation.

Why is this? Logistical hurdles such as obtaining funding and a work permit may seem overwhelming. Many young scientists also fear that a stint at a European lab might make it harder to obtain a tenure-track job when they return to the U.S. These concerns, combined with language and cultural barriers, prevent many scientists from even considering leaving the U.S.

In reality, an experience abroad can expand a scientist’s network and expose him or her to different approaches to science. Many former expatriates report that their experience was worth the journey overseas both culturally and scientifically. And there are many support networks to help overcome challenges in finding the ideal European job that can help launch a successful scientific career and provide a rich personal experience.

EURAXESS and EuroScienceJobs are two websites that provide a wealth of information on available jobs in Europe. The EuroScienceJobs site is broken down into four sections: job search, upload CV, career guides and recruiters. The job search section contains hundreds of job postings organized by scientific discipline, job type (academic versus industrial) and country. By registering, site users also can upload their CVs to the site for potential employers and recruiters to look at. The career guide section of the site gives advice on preparing for job interviews and updating a CV and also offers a self-evaluation guide to help job candidates highlight their strengths during interviews. The recruiters section gives an overview of the site’s users (55 percent have doctoral degrees and 93 percent are willing to relocate) and shows that some of the site’s clients include Johnson and Johnson, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and CERN.

EURAXESS, a European Union-supported initiative, also lets users post their CVs and hunt for science jobs based on country, organization, research field and career stage. In addition to helping users find jobs, the site offers a broad range of other services to assist scientists in making smooth transitions to their new countries. This includes a support network for European researchers working outside Europe and a section listing more than 300 funding opportunities.

EURAXESS also will provide customized assistance free to any researcher looking to relocate to Europe. The site has 200 centers in 37 countries to assist scientists and their families. Users are walked through the process of obtaining a visa and work permit and supplied with useful information on legal issues, social security, health and taxes, everyday life, and family support. The site even includes information on accommodations.

Language barriers can be an additional burden for researchers doing training abroad. Luckily for Americans, most science is conducted in English. However, people adapt best if they learn enough of the foreign language to follow casual conversation. With that in mind, EURAXESS provides information on language classes in different countries.

Several countries also have websites to facilitate finding and transition into jobs:

• Destination AUSTRALIA
• Destination CHILE
• Destination JAPAN
• Destination SOUTH AFRICA

EURAXESS also has a separate section on the rights of researchers and a code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers. Although abuse of researchers is becoming less common, it is important to understand a scientist’s rights to help prevent or lessen conflict.

Remember: Great science has no borders – the perfect job could be waiting for you across the ocean.

Nancy Van ProoyenNancy Van Prooyen ( is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.

found= true1346