Time to rethink the scientific CV

From Nature Careers

Reading Time: 3 minutes

CVIn December 2021, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the largest public funder of UK science, announced that it was abandoning the use of the conventional CV — curriculum vitae — in funding applications. The funding body said it would adopt a new type of CV to “enable people to better demonstrate their contributions to research, teams, and wider society”.

As institutions and funders around the world reassess their approach to researcher evaluations, there’s a growing call to revamp the academic CVs used to support applications for jobs, funding, promotions and awards. Researchers need to find fresh ways to document their accomplishments and value beyond a mere listing of publications, and committees overseeing promotions and grants need to change their protocols and expectations, says Needhi Bhalla, a cell biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “CVs should reflect the authentic experience of being a scientist,” she says, including mentorship, work on committees, outreach and many other contributions that don’t result in publications. “I’m excited that we’re in the process of rethinking them.”

CVs have long been part of the currency of scientific promotion. Scientists seeking a position or a grant often feel obliged to list every publication, presentation and award in a single document intended to sway committees through its sheer length and volume. The typical CV follows a time-worn template, says Robert Morrell, an education researcher and former director of the New Generation of Academics Programme at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. “ ‘I was born, I went to school here, I had these publications, these are the students I graduated.’ People who write CVs like that are missing the boat.”

The UKRI is not alone in seeking to rethink the CV in response to a renewed focus on team science and equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). It modelled its new CV format on ‘Résumé for Researchers’, introduced in 2019 by the Royal Society in London. Similar initiatives have been unveiled by research councils in the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

In response, researchers are learning how to rework CVs to emphasize quality over quantity, and to include narratives about their broader impact. Meanwhile, hiring panels and grant evaluators need to rethink how best to assess these documents.

The core problem with standard CVs is that they tend to reduce scientists to numbers, says Rebecca Pillai Riddell, a behavioural scientist and associate vice-president of research at York University in Toronto, Canada. Evaluating researchers on the basis of sheer number of publications or using related measures, such as the impact factors of the journals in which they publish, ignores many things that go into a scientific career, Pillai Riddell says. Conventional CVs “are supposed to be quick-and-dirty summaries”, she says. As someone who has seen many over the years, she knows that those summaries can contain valuable information, even if the emphasis is often misplaced. “They focus on counting, not on what’s important.”

Read the full article on the Nature Careers Website –

You can also read a blog by Dr Yvonne Couch who explored the issues with the narrative CV –

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