Career area: Science administration / management – EMBL Fellows' Career Service

EMBL Careers

A life science careers blog for early career researchers

This blog aims to inspire early career researchers exploring different career options. We provide interview-based profiles of life scientists working in diverse science-related careers and articles on a broad range of career-related topics, with new content added on a regular basis.

Career area: Science administration / management

Science administration and management is a career area that encompasses a wide range of roles in research institutes, scientific infrastructures, universities, non-profit organisations, governments, funders and scientific societies. The aim of these roles is normally ensuring the smooth running of specific training programmes, funding schemes, services or networks that are aimed at researchers, or supporting the organization’s leadership with strategic projects and analysis. 

Roles and responsibilities

The job titles and the tasks associated with science administration positions vary greatly. Possible tasks may include a subset of the following activities:

  • Organising events and/or training programmes for scientists.
  • Organizing evaluation of applications, including identifying relevant experts and follow-up activities (e.g. quality check of review reports, organising evaluation panels).
  • Reporting on programme activities and key statistics; raising the programme’s visibility by giving talks, attending events and/or organising advertising materials.
  • Identifying trends and advising institute management on institutional / programme direction.
  • Administrative support for activities e.g. monitoring payments and reporting, organizing travel and logistics for events, coordinating committee meetings, and minute-taking.
  • Working with stakeholders (e.g. faculty and early career researchers) to assess and refine programmes. 
  • Collecting and structuring information about opportunities for researchers (e.g. potential funding, career options, industry collaborations).
  • Supporting scientists applying to grants by advising on applicable funding schemes, providing feedback or guiding the administrative parts of the application (budget, description of hosting institute etc).

Knowledge and skills

In our careers & skills survey, 38 science administration professionals told us about the competencies they used most often. The most commonly selected competencies were:

  • Organization (selected by 74%, and rated highest for success in the role)
  • Effective communication (selected by 68%)
  • Teamwork (selected by 53%)
  • Writing (selected by 45%)

Language skills

In many cases, the working language for these roles is English. However, some knowledge of the local language (B1/B2 level) is often advantageous; and, for some roles, fluency at the B2, C1 or C2 level may be required.

Career entry and progression

It is possible to enter the career area in a junior role directly from a PhD or postdoc, without additional experience or training. Hiring managers will be looking for examples of analogous work you have done as a scientist – depending on the role, this may include organizational tasks (e.g. organizing scientific events), communication skills with a variety of audiences  (e.g. working groups, scientific seminars) or experience writing successful fellowship applications. Career progression may involve moving to a more senior role within the same organisation (though opportunities may be limited in smaller organisations) or moving to a different role (at the same or more senior level) at another organization.

Example job titles 

  • Programme officer/manager
  • Research manager
  • Community manager
  • Scientific coordinator/administrator
  • Grants / research funding officer/manager
  • (Scientific) project officer/manager
  • (PhD/postdoc programme) officer/coordinator/manager
  • Researcher developer
  • Scientific strategy officer
  • Science/training officer
  • Career advisor
  • (Mainly in US) Assistant / Associate Dean

Note: there is large variety between organizations; some roles may require experience in a more junior role first.

Why consider this career area?

In our careers and skills survey, scientists working in science admin told us that they appreciate that their work:

  • involves directly helping others
  • can be completed within reasonable working hours
  • is intellectually stimulating

Want to learn more?

Additional EMBL resources

Interview-based career profiles for this career area

Aidan Budd, Node Coordinator, ELIXIR-UK
Ioannis Legouras – Vice Head, Department Strategic Cooperations and Research Funding; Head of International Programs, Max Delbrück Centre
Veronica Caraffini, Project Adviser, European Research Council Executive Agency

Sources / further reading

Further internal resources

For EMBL fellows

Within EMBL, further internal resources (e.g. recorded career seminars) can be found on our career exploration intranet pages.

Informational interviews

For all career areas, we highly recommend first learning more about the careers using the resources above, then conducting informational interviews to gain further insights directly from former PhDs working in career areas that interest you.

Last update: November 2022

EU flag and text, co-funded by the European Union
The EMBL Fellows' Career Service incorporates the EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdoc (EIPOD) career development programme. EI3POD and EIPOD4 have received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreements 664726 (2015-2020) and 847543 (2019-present) respectively.