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The "job box”: an innovative tool for shifting researcher demographics

The aim of the “job box” is to use a given object as a starting point for exploring all the careers to which it is connected. This project [1] is the brainchild of Science Animation and was developed by the Federal University of Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées, CNRS, INRA, INSERM, and the University of Toulouse III—Paul Sabatier, as part of a partnership with the C. Génial Foundation. The goal is to increase awareness among secondary students of the diverse careers possible in public research and to encourage girls in particular to enter certain fields. At the beginning of the 2017–2018 school year, a dozen classes in Occitanie will be invited to explore the “job box”.

Scientific committee responsible for the research “job box” @INRA. © INRA
Updated on 11/20/2017
Published on 06/07/2017

A surprising diversity of careers

When young people think of working in a laboratory or research institute, they often imagine a handful of stereotyped jobs. They are frequently unaware of the true diversity of available careers. Yet, there exist around 250 jobs in research or research support [2] that are accessible to those with a level of education ranging from the CAP to the PhD. Some examples are astrophysicist, legal advisor, technical assistant in materials science, research engineer in biology, and human resources manager, just to name a few. The target audience of the research-focused “job box” is high school students (ages 14–18); it is hoped that this original activity, which feeds the imagination and offers alternative perspectives, will encourage young minds to consider previously unimagined career paths. The goal is also to broaden the horizons of young women, who account for just 30% of post-secondary students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) [3], as well as to abolish the gender stereotypes often associated with certain jobs.

Learning about scientific careers by role-playing research professionals

Each workshop is led by a scientific facilitator and starts with a description of what it means to be a researcher. Armed with a laboratory notebook, students discover the researcher's daily life, the scientific method, the diverse tasks involved in carrying out research, and the skills needed to succeed. Then, six team leaders are chosen (equal gender ratio), and they are assigned a specific research task (see the sidebar below for an example), which may be identifying a compound involved in cardiovascular disease, determining if evidence exists for life on Mars, or developing methods for converting organic waste into energy. To carry out this work, they will need the help of other professionals, which are played by the students. Using role-play, anecdotes, scientific explanations, and rounds of Q&A, the activity aims to immerse young people in the world of research and to inspire them to consider alternative job paths. To complement this first workshop, a second workshop can be scheduled during which scientists come to share their experiences and interests with students.

Download the press release (in French)

[1] Focusing on four themes—health, aeronautics, space science, and technological industries—the “job box” was tested out on around 940 students in Occitanie schools.

[2] National Catalogue of Careers in Higher Education and Research, which is published by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research and describes 242 potential careers found across 8 professional domains. http://www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/cid106062/referens-le-referentiel-2016-des-emplois-types-de-la-recherche-et-de-l-enseignement-superieur.html

[3] Repères et références statistiques sur les enseignements, la formation et la recherche [Information and statistics on academic programs, specialised training, and the domain of scientific research], published by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, 2016 edition.

Léna Robert / Scientific Outreach Coordinator


Genetics is a field of biology that is concerned with heritable traits in living organisms. More specifically, it looks at how trait variation (i.e., mutations) are transmitted across generations. Although the DNA in all the cells of a given individual is the same, we note the presence of mutations when we compare DNA among individuals of the same species. Genetics research helps us better understand the genomes of living organisms and the genetic factors that contribute, for example, to an individual's state of health or risk of disease. Furthermore, such research can also lead to new methods for preventing or treating disease.
Since humans first became farmers, they have always sought to empirically improve their crop and livestock species. At present, we can use genetics to improve the productivity of such species in a more methodological fashion and thus deal with challenges related to human and animal health in a manner that respects the environment. These issues are of major economic and social importance given that we must ensure that food quality and quantity are sufficient while adapting to environmental and demographic changes.

For more information: http://www.sunrise-project.fr/en/