13 Examples of SMART Goals for Scientists

Have you ever stopped to reflect on the goals you want to achieve in your scientific career? The SMART system can guide your decision making and ensure you reach those goals faster.

To get started with setting SMART goals for scientists, here are 13 examples of such goals. They can be used as a starting point for your goals, but remember to tailor them to your particular scientific field.

Let’s jump right in.

What is a SMART Goal?

The SMART framework is a powerful tool to help scientists establish practical goals for their research or projects. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Still trying to figure it out? Here’s a closer look at each aspect of SMART:

Specific

Vague goals can lead to misdirection and wasted resources in the lab. But by creating well-articulated goals, you can streamline your tasks, leading to increased productivity and efficiency.

It’s crucial to pinpoint the actions required and who will carry them out. That provides a clear plan that everyone involved in the project can follow, also allowing for early identification of potential hurdles.

Measurable

Tracking the progress of your scientific goals is key to success. It highlights areas where enhancements are needed. Without this element, it’s challenging to determine whether your hard work is paying off in the long run.

Attainable

While it’s natural to aim high, you risk falling short of your goals without a comprehensive plan and realistic expectations.

Given your current resources and timeline, it’s essential to consider what’s actually achievable. Recognize that grandiose ambitions are not a problem, but they should be balanced with practicality.

Relevant

Goals that align with your personal values or the principles of your research are more likely to motivate you to achieve them. Your core values act as a compass, helping you navigate challenges and stay on course.

Time-Based

Establishing a clear timeline helps maintain focus and commitment to your goals. Success in science doesn’t happen overnight; having a set deadline promotes diligence and consistent effort over time.

13 Examples of SMART Goals for Scientists

1. Present Research at Conferences

“Within 6 months, I want to present my research at three local scientific conferences. To accomplish this, I will contact organizers and submit abstracts before the deadlines for each conference.”

Specific: This goal outlines what needs to be done (presenting research) and how often it needs to be done (three times).

Measurable: You can measure the number of conference presentations made.

Attainable: Recognize that presenting research at conferences is a realizable goal.

Relevant: Participating in scientific conferences will help you get your work out into the world and connect with other researchers in your field.

Time-based: You should anticipate success over the 6 months ahead.

2. Collaborate With Other Scientists

“I strive to collaborate with at least 5 other scientists in the field this year. I plan to contact them through email or LinkedIn, attend conferences where they are present, and look for opportunities to collaborate.”

Specific: The SMART goal is clear about what needs to be done and how it will be met.

Measurable: You can track the number of collaborators you work with and measure success.

Attainable: This is feasible because it involves taking achievable steps within a year, such as contact via email or LinkedIn.

Relevant: Collaborating with other scientists is essential for advancing research and knowledge.

Time-based: The time frame for completing this goal statement is one year.

3. Develop a Reputation as an Expert

“I will develop a reputation as an expert in my field by contributing to scientific publications or webinars three times for 8 months. I want to ensure each contribution is relevant and impactful, so I will seek a peer review of my work before submitting.”

Specific: Your actions are straightforward: contribute to publications/webinars three times over 8 months.

Measurable: Track the number of contributions you make and document your progress.

Attainable: Scientists can often find opportunities for contributions in their field.

Relevant: This goal will directly contribute to your aspiration of being recognized as an expert.

Time-based: Establish a timeline that works for you (8 months).

4. Boost Your Efficiency in the Lab

“I want to become more efficient in the lab by streamlining my experimental processes within four months. I’ll set up an electronic record-keeping system for all my experiments and data points and automate manual tasks that can be delegated to a computer program.”

Specific: The scientist wants to streamline their experimental processes and set up an electronic record-keeping system for all experiments and data points.

Measurable: Ensure an electronic record-keeping system is in place and automate manual tasks.

Attainable: This goal is doable since it focuses on making minor improvements in the lab, which can be done over time.

Relevant: The statement pertains to the scientist’s work, relating directly to lab efficiency.

Time-based: You have a deadline of four months to reach goal completion.

5. Reduce Laboratory Costs

“I’ll work with my team to identify areas where cost reductions can be made in the laboratory by the end of three months. We will also work together to establish the laboratory’s budget tracking and analysis procedures.”

Specific: The goal is explicit because it has a clear plan to reduce laboratory costs and establish budget tracking.

Measurable: Determine the cost reduction achieved and compare it with the initial budget.

Attainable: Cost reductions can be made in the laboratory, making this an achievable goal.

Relevant: Reducing costs in the laboratory is a crucial goal for many scientists, making it appropriate.

Time-based: This SMART goal should be accomplished after three months.

6. Improve Scientific Methods

“For 9 months, I’ll take steps to improve my scientific methods by attending one conference, reading three books, and participating in two webinars related to the field. I’ll also set aside 10 hours per week for practice and honing of skills.”

Specific: The scientist knows what to do (attend conferences, read books, participate in webinars) and how much time to set aside for practice and honing skills (10 hours per week).

Measurable: You can count the number of conferences attended, books read, and webinars participated in.

Attainable: The listed action items are achievable and allow scientists to work toward excellence.

Relevant: Improvement in scientific methods will likely lead to improved accuracy of research findings.

Time-based: An end date of 9 months is provided for goal attainment.

7. Mentor Junior Scientists

“I will mentor at least two junior scientists in my lab by the end of the year. I’ll set up regular meetings with them to give guidance and feedback on their projects and ensure they have the necessary resources to progress.”

Specific: You have a clear time frame (by the end of the year) and a precise action plan (mentor two junior scientists).

Measurable: You must set up regular meetings and check in with the junior scientists to assess their progress.

Attainable: This is a realistic goal—it requires commitment and dedication, but it can be done.

Relevant: Mentoring junior scientists is an integral part of a scientist’s job; this goal is related to that responsibility.

Time-based: You should expect to reach this goal by the end of the year.

8. Secure Funding for Projects

“I want to obtain funding for three projects within one year. I hope to do this by submitting grant applications to 5 foundations and speaking with 5 potential donors.”

Specific: The individual aims to obtain funding for three projects within a year.

Measurable: Check if the person has submitted grant applications to 5 foundations and spoken with 5 potential donors.

Attainable: It is feasible to secure funding for three projects in one year with the right resources.

Relevant: The SMART goal is appropriate because it addresses an essential requirement in research: securing project funding.

Time-based: Success should be accomplished after one whole year.

9. Become Better at Public Speaking

“I want to become a better public speaker over the following two years. I will attend one conference per year and give a presentation at each conference.”

Specific: The goal lays out what will be done, how it will be accomplished, and the time frame for completion.

Measurable: This can be tracked by attending conferences and giving annual presentations.

Attainable: This is a realistic goal as it is achievable over two years with practice and dedication.

Relevant: Becoming a better public speaker can benefit career advancement and personal development.

Time-based: There’s a two-year window to meet your desired goal.

10. Network to Make Connections

“I’ll try to network and attend conferences related to my field for 7 months. I will build relationships with experts in the industry and look for potential collaborations.”

Specific: The statement is well-defined, outlining the objective and how to attain it.

Measurable: By actively networking, it can be tracked whether or not relationships were established and collaborations explored.

Attainable: This goal is achievable as it will require the scientist to make an effort to network with experts in the same field.

Relevant: This relates to the scientist’s development as it’ll allow them to make valuable connections and work on collaborations.

Time-based: You have a 7-month deadline for networking success.

11. Get Published and Win Awards

“I will publish three research papers in peer-reviewed journals and win one award for outstanding work related to my field within the next 12 months.”

Specific: You know what to do (publish three research papers and win one award) and by when (within 12 months).

Measurable: You could count the number of papers published and the number of awards received.

Attainable: Publishing research papers and winning awards are feasible for a scientist.

Relevant: This SMART statement is related to professional success as a scientist.

Time-based: Goal achievement is expected within the 12 months ahead.

12. Pursue Further Education

“I want to pursue additional educational opportunities related to my field for the 8 months ahead. I will research and apply for online courses or seminars that can help me become a better scientist and leader in the workplace.”

Specific: You aim to pursue additional educational opportunities in your current field.

Measurable: Ensure you research and apply for online courses or seminars during the 8 months.

Attainable: This is reachable because there are many educational opportunities to pursue in any field.

Relevant: The goal is appropriate because it will help you become a better scientist and leader in the workplace.

Time-based: Eight months are required to accomplish this particular goal.

13. Improve Laboratory Safety Procedures

“My aim is to create a comprehensive laboratory safety manual for our research team. I’ll conduct an online search and establish a draft within the next month. Once this has been done, I will solicit feedback from key stakeholders on the manual’s content.”

Specific: This is explicit because it outlines the steps needed to complete the task.

Measurable: Track the timeline of tasks outlined and evaluate feedback from stakeholders on the manual’s content.

Attainable: Given enough time and effort, creating a safety manual within a month is possible.

Relevant: This SMART goal is suitable since laboratory safety is a priority for many research teams.

Time-based: The goal statement should be completed within one month.

Final Thoughts

You must realize that establishing SMART goals is just one part of the process. As a scientist, you must also take action and be accountable for your decisions.

Take the time to review your goals frequently to ensure you’re on track with success in mind. It’s also vital to recognize any milestones during your journey to stay inspired.

From there, you can adjust your goals and continuously strive to improve. The more thoughtful steps you take in the goal-setting process, the more likely you’ll reach them.

Photo of author

Rei Shen

Rei is the founder of Success in Depth. Based in Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He brings years of experience in goal setting to empower readers to reach their aspirations.