This year's winner is German firm Boehringer Ingelheim, stealing the top spot from US firm Genentech for the first time in six years. Genentech had to make do with second place, with the bronze position taken by Amgen, up from its position in fourth in last year's survey. The results are based on the responses of over 3,000 participants, each of whom were asked to list firms they regarded at the best, average and worst employers in the various industry sectors. Respondents then had to rate each company on 23 different characteristics, such as financial strength, easy adaptation to change and research-driven environment. Almost a quarter of respondents were located in continental Europe, with a further 71 per cent in North America, and over half had more than 10 years' work experience. There were a couple of notable sharp shifts in the top ten this year alongside the shuffle in the top five. Last year's number three, Swiss firm Roche, plummeted 15 places to eighteenth place in this year's rankings, whereas US firm Schering-Plough sky-rocketed 13 places to land the new number four spot. Schering puts its meteoric rise down to its strategy of "behaving like a small company within a big company," and the launch of a six to eight year plan initiated by newly arrived CEO Fred Hassan in 2003. This year's number one company, Boehringer Ingelheim, was itself only ranked eighth in the 2005 poll, but claims its steady improvement is down to its 'Lead and Learn' strategy that kicked off in 2004. Boehringer can also boast strong loyalty among its employees, with the average time an employee stays with the company an impressive 13 years. The firm apparently relies on internal promotions to fill 80 per cent of its positions worldwide. Although the top employers report low levels of job-seeking among their employees, according to the report authors, almost a third of survey participants said it was fairly likely that they'd be looking for a new job within a year. There were two new additions to the list of top biotech employers, both of whom work outside the pharmaceutical industry. Chemicals firm DuPont and agricultural company Monsanto came in at 7th and 8th positions respectively, shunting AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson out of the top ten. There was little change from last year in the six features that survey respondents regarded as the most important characteristics in ranking their nominated firms. The only change came in sixth place, with 'doing important quality research' replacing 'having a clear vision toward the future.' The most important driver was being an 'innovative leader in the industry,' followed by treating employees with respect, having work culture values aligned with personal values, having local employees and being socially responsible. As well as ranking the industry's top employers, the survey gave respondents the opportunity to voice their opinions on the industry as a whole. Aside from continuing controversies such as drug recalls and medical and legal issues regarding drugs such as Vioxx, and clinical trial failures such as the high profile TGN1412 trial that contributed to negative sentiments, the respondents found plenty to praise the industry about. New products and developments, including new cancer drugs, therapies for rare diseases, progress in medications for HIV/AIDS, and advances in stem cell research were highlighted as having the greatest positive impact. As to what the industry can do to improve its downtrodden reputation, the report seems to have several suggestions from the survey respondents: "Be honest, ethical and more accountable, and educate and communicate with the public," the report says. "That means admitting mistakes, answering tough questions, being forthcoming and open, increasing transparency, and earning the public's trust." The Science report can be viewed online here.