Ron Mobed joined Elsevier in April 2011 to direct the science and technology group and oversee the interests of research professionals. He became CEO of Elsevier BV In August 2012. A petroleum engineer by training, his early career work with the collection and analysis of data from oil rigs in the North Sea set the stage for his understanding of the role that data plays across a number of industry sectors. The British expat has traveled extensively and worked in many emerging nations in Africa and southeast Asia. His international experience in these countries has given him an appreciation for the advances science has provided to a modern society and he has seen first hand how providing a person with skills changes not only that person but the whole family and community at large. Elsevier’s STEM initiatives for early career researches is an integral part of his personal philosophy and sees the company’s support for researchers in developing nations as crucial to the advancement of science and medicine everywhere. He believes that science is global therefore it is important for Elsevier to develop the technologies and tools that enable researchers to tap into the very best minds of a vast array of disciplinary expertise. His advice to young people is simple — that the key to success is the ability to understand one’s innate character, skills and capabilities, and to use those effectively. He encourages young people to have a career plan, be willing to take risks to achieve their goals and, above all, to think about how they can add value to the organization. Mobed is a graduate of the University of Cambridge with B.S in engineering and earned a masters degree in petroleum engineering from Imperial College London. He currently lives in Amsterdam.
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 33,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries. www.elsevier.com. The Elsevier Foundation founded in 2002 has awarded over 80 grants worth millions of dollars to non-profit organizations focusing on the world’s libraries, nurse faculty and women scholars during their early and mid-careers. The Elsevier Foundation Awards for Women in Science in the Developing World provides annual awards to early and mid-career women scientists in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.
The issue of STEM education and what to do about it has been part of the national conversation for well over 20 years, so it’s encouraging to see the investment being made by many of the world’s leading corporations and I’m awed at the scope and level of commitment. It’s fantastic. As a publisher of STM journals and books Elsevier has a vested interest in supporting STEM based initiatives, but I’d like to look at the issue from a couple of different perspectives. First: science literacy. Not every child will want to become a scientist or engineer but STEM subjects are essential to a well-rounded education and useful for all career paths. Science is the search for truth, and science research is the inquiry-based process by which truths are uncovered. It encourages the “why’s” and “how’s” and challenges to the status quo and accepted thinking. Science research encourages risk- taking and learning how to learn from failure as much as success, all the intangible skills that make for the type of worker required for the 21 st century job market. Employment aside, understanding how the world works is important when today’s students become tomorrow’s voters who must decide on issues that have direct impact on their own communities and personal lives. Should “fracking” be allowed? What’s the difference between global warming and climate change? Why does medicine cost so much? Should we be spending so much taxpayer money on space missions when there are so many problems to sort out on earth? Should we invest in basic research or stick to applied and clinical research? What is the role of government and the corporate sector in science? There isn’t any facet of our lives that isn’t touched by science in some way. We owe the benefits of our modern civilized society to the millions of unsung heroes in the global research community who toil away, often for years, at painstaking studies to make incremental advances in a cure, an innovation, or a way for us to know more about our world and where we came from. It’s a tough job that requires years of erudition, patience, dedication and personal commitment to working for the greater good, not to mention a significant investment of money in getting the education that’s needed for this career path. Which leads me to my second point – the support that’s needed for those students who decide to pursue a career in science. At the under-graduate level, most of the scholarships that exist are only open to high school students, e.g. the prestigious research competitions and their generous prizes supported by tech giants Intel, Siemens, Toshiba and Google and others. However, once in college opportunities for scholarships are practically non-existent, especially at the graduate level. If they’re not lucky enough to have financial support from the family, graduate students either must take out additional loans, work part-time, or possibly delay graduate school until they have enough capital to pay their own way. None of these are particularly satisfying answers especially when you consider the average starting salary of a researcher is quite low. For example according to Salary.com the average salary for a biochemist with two years experience is about $48,500 per year. So what can be done? Several things: Provide stipends, grants and scholarships for graduate and post doc students for tuition, research and professional career development such as conferences where they can network with their peers and colleagues. The Elsevier Family Support Awards provides grants for early career researchers (male and female) wishing to attend conferences who don’t have the resources to cover child-care. Address the issue of STEM workforce retention especially among female researchers. A study funded by the Elsevier Foundation and conducted by the Association for Women in Science of more than 4,000 researchers about their work-life challenges, revealed that 40 percent of female researchers delayed having a family because of their careers, compared with 27 percent for men. All the millions of dollars being spent by private and government institutions to encourage girls to consider STEM careers will be for naught if we cannot create family-friendly STEM workplace environments. Impress upon policy-makers the importance of all forms of research: basic, applied as well as clinical. Cutting funding for medical research, while it may seem to make financial sense in the short-term, is not conducive to ensuring that we will be able to cope with the costly, chronic problems of an aging population or to ensure that babies and young children have a healthy start in life and become productive citizens of their world. Encourage investment and provide resources to early career researchers in developing countries especially for women. We live in a global society and the challenges faced by the developing world affect us all. Encouraging STEM education in all societies and providing role models for girls such as the winners of the Elsevier Foundation Awards for Women in Science in the Developing World will help developing nations build their own sustainable educated workforces that can contribute to the global economy. Investing in STEM education is crucial to ensuring there is a pipeline of talent for future generations of science research and a STEM educated workforce who will have the scientific literacy to understand why we need to do so.