Siri Leknes’ annotated CV


Professor of Social and Affective Neuroscience

  • I unsuccessfully applied for at least four tenured positions in my department before I got this one in 2016
  • Norway lacks a tenure track system, so you just have to try to stay funded through project grants until it’s your ‘turn’ to get a tenured job

Postdoctoral positions (2008-2016)

  • I chose to postdoc in Oslo to be near my family for the last years of my mother’s life
  • I experienced a large academic culture shock upon arrival in Oslo, and missed the thriving research environment of my D.Phil at FMRIB enormously

Dept. Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway

  • When invited to give a public job talk for my position, I was on leave with 6-week-old twin babies
  • Despite working in the public sector of one of the world’s most family friendly countries, I did not dare ask that my job talk to be postponed until I had fully recovered from childbirth

Universities of Gothenburg and Oslo

  • My first postdoc in Oslo was a complete disaster and it took years to recover the confidence I lost during nine months with a bad mentor
  • I will forever be grateful to Håkan Olausson who hired me in Gothenburg and let me ‘commute’ there once a month whilst remaining close to my family in Oslo


MSc + D.Phil in Neuroscience (2003-2008)

  • The MSc was probably the most stressful period of my academic life
  • In contrast, the D.Phil was delightful, mainly due to the supervision of Irene Tracey, who gave me lots of academic freedom and encouragement

BSc Cognitive Science (1999-2002)

  • Exeter is such a tremendously boring little town, my globetrotting 21-year-old self had nothing to do except study. So I did.

University of Oxford, UK

  • The professor whose research interests aligned most with mine was known to overstep barriers (#MeToo) and I was warned off
  • Instead I lucked out with Irene Tracey. I strongly advise all trainees to ask around about any potential mentor before joining a lab

University of Exeter, UK

  • I took 3 gap years to travel the world before university. It was glorious.


Successful grants

  • ERC Starting Grant (2019)
  • 5 PhD/postdoc grants from the Regional Health Authority (2012-ongoing)
  • 1 Researcher grant from our national Research Council (2009)
  • 4-year Neuroscience Doctoral Studentship from the Wellcome Trust

Unsuccessful grants

  • ~2 yearly applications to the national research council for ten years = 20 straight rejections. They even rejected the proposal that won me an ERC
  • Other highlights: Some years ago I had the dubious honour of being the 1/9 finalists whose fellowship was rejected by the Lundbeck Foundation
  • I gave up counting my rejected proposals, too depressing. However some rejected grants were recycled (and refined) and eventually funded elsewhere


The Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize

  • I’ve never applied for an award, nor do I really feel I understand their role in academic careers
  • I lucked out by collaborating with the wonderful Brock Bastian, who nominated and secured us this award for the most innovative theoretical contribution to Social/Personality psychology in 2015


Invited plenaries

  • I’ve given two, the first as an early postdoc. I made the mistake of complying with instructions: give a talk on the future of neuroimaging. Trouble was, I had no idea about the future of neuroimaging (still don’t). I stayed up all night and stumbled through, eliciting this classic response from the organiser: ‘You know, it’s good to practice the talk before giving it’

Conference talks

  • Numerous, e.g. at S4SN, SfN, IASP, EBPS meetings, typically after I’ve organised a symposium proposal. I still don’t really understand how these are evaluated or how to get invited to more proposals organised by other people

Invited seminars

  • Numerous, e.g. departmental seminars at Utrecht, Yale, Hamburg. Most went fine but at least one still makes me cringe whenever I think about it. My main advice on giving talks is to add just a bit of new stuff at a time (either that or practise a lot!)

Commissions of trust

Board member, Society for Social Neuroscience

  • I signed up for this on an impulse. It takes time but the people on the board are fantastic and I’m excited about being able to suggest and implement changes to research incentive structure, e.g. new awards for Open Science practices such as publishing null findings or sharing data and code

Grant reviewer & grant committee member

  • Reviewing grants is super useful for learning grantsmanship. Especially for ERC grants, which differ a lot from other grants. I now get invites from many European research funders and usually accept

Associate Editor, Pain (current); SCAN (2016-2020)

  • How to get an editorial role is not widely known, and seems to depend on who you know in the field. I know my name was suggested to the SCAN EiC by a friendly colleague I’d originally met via my D.Phil supervisor



  • I’m not good at coding


  • Academia throws rejection in your face round the clock. I once got a desk rejection on Christmas Eve!
  • What helps me past each disappointment is my colleagues and trainees. They’re so brilliant, there’s simply no way I can be as useless as I sometimes feel


  • I prefer editing text to producing it. This is a privilege as a PI.


  • Supervise good people who like your mentoring style
  • My mentoring style is erratic, fiercely loyal, and works well mainly because my trainees are and have been fantastic. I warn them about my shortcomings before they join the team. The rest of the team also helps make up for my flaws


Track record

  • Aiming high is the only way to win a prize in the publishing lottery. It is not always worth the time and effort though. My personal record started with submission to Science and was eventually published at PLoS ONE
  • Don’t check your citations outside of Google Scholar, it’s depressing. Also don’t look too far into the specific publications that make up that Scholar count …