From leaving academia to finding my way back
And how this shaped my approach
Hi, I'm David.
I’m a researcher and professional trainer in Marseille, France. I’ve had a highly unusual career, shuttling in and out of academia. Over the years, I learned techniques from marketing, journalism and design, which I adapted for research to enable fast, clear and compelling writing. Here’s how it came about.
After my PhD, I left academia – forever, I thought – and set up an educational charity. I had to continuously write grant applications to keep the charity afloat. They were submitted to non-academic funders, so I had to write them in plain language with a focus on convincing, rather than on technical details. I realize now that not learning to write research grants was a blessing – I learned to write ‘naturally’, avoiding the bad habits and clichés of academia.
Meanwhile, a small finding I had made during my PhD nagged me. Over the next 7 years, I did bioinformatics research in my spare time and managed to author one paper on this finding. I didn’t know it then, but this paper would allow me to come back to academia...
Learning what happens on funding panels
My first stroke of luck was to land a job at a major research funding body: the Wellcome Trust, in London. Being on the other side of the fence and learning what goes on in funding panels was a fantastic experience. One day I heard of a ‘career re-entry’ fellowship, which enabled people who had left research to re-enter it. I had never thought I’d go back to research, but this was a perfect opportunity.
I wrote my fellowship application applying the techniques learned during my time as director of a charity, adapting them to research – and it worked! The panel was enthusiastic, and considered the paper I had published in my spare time the equivalent of a postdoc. I found myself a research fellow in Oxford... 8 years after having left academia.
My goal: help you write and present compellingly, so you have more time for research!
As a researcher, I continued to develop efficient methods for designing proposals, papers, talks… and enjoyed passing them on so much that I decided to become a trainer. After 10 years, these methods are honed to the point that they can be conveyed in short, simple books.
These books will help you design compelling proposals, articles, talks, CVs…. The books are very different from other resources on these topics, because they’re based on what works (techniques from journalism, marketing, and design, complemented by insights from having worked in funding body), rather than on mere habits. Each book presents a simple aspect, with step-by-step methods that you can immediately apply.
At last, you'll have less admin and more time for research...
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