A federal government report on career pathways of PhDs confirms that lack of job security is by far the worst aspect for aspiring academics. The survey has revealed that researchers like their work but not the employment system in which More…
I have to toally agree. The system is also skewed to established researches as those on short term contracts are often not elligible or are even dissuaded from being named as a primary investigator on a grant they write. Instead, to get funded we are told to cajole a senior academic to put their name on the application even though they’ve contributed next to nothing to the and are unliklely to do much during the course of the project if it does get funded.
Gascoigne is correct. Australia’s production of PhD graduates far outstrips the job market. This is in part due to the Australian funding mechanism that pays universities for postgraduate students only on completion. As universities view this subsidy as part of their normal operating budget, university’s strongly pressure academics to increase postgraduate numbers, and then press them for a 100% graduation rate. This leads, among other things, to a PhD glut. But it is even more frustrating because many of the resultant PhDs are of dubious quality, so that outstanding graduates are forced to compete with vast numbers of marginal or poor graduates. The industries that are consumers of PhD graduates (including academia) are struggling to identify which PhD graduates are genuinely qualified for the positions that they have on offer. Until we address this at the policy level, I am afraid that this situation will persist.
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Yes, that’s true. We have the same problem at QUT. NHMRC and ARC success is all about “track record”, which used to mean “record of peer reviewed publications in the field”. In Australia today it means “record of previous NHMRC or ARC funding”. A new academic colleague of mine had that strategy backfire on him just this past year. He got an NHMRC grant up last November exactly as you described. Unfortunately, the “lead” CI then had a published paper retracted by the journal in December (presumably fraudulent data), and the rest of her body of work is under investigation. Now he’s being tarred with the same brush, even though the lead CI probably never even read the grant, much less contributed to it. The point is that, to have any chance of success, young Australian academics (who are lucky enough to land an academic position to begin with) have to place themselves in vulnerable subservient situations that have little to do with academic career development. It’s not like she was “mentoring” him. Or at least I hope she wasn’t.
I have to agree with this article. As a early career researcher I am lucky that I am primarily funded by industry. As a researcher with only around 10 science papers, I just would not have a hope in gaining ARC funding. The bar is set way to high for early career researchers. I also have little chance of making tenure within my Department due to lack of opportunities. The worrying aspect is that I never know if I am going to be employed next contract, which is only one year at a time. It makes it very hard to plan for the future. I always warn people contemplating a PhD of the hurdles they will face. The opportunities for young academics in science in particular is grim. Unless you have tenure within a university system, you are expendable. The system has no remorse for removing young aspiring researchers from the system. There is always another PhD graduate sucker just around the corner.
Melbourne university has just made a policy change which makes all research assistants professional staff to make their academic record better, as RA,s rarely publish in their own right. If university’s, the ARC and funding organisations cared less about ‘A” journals and impact factors, and more on the researchers themselves then the retention rate of researchers would be a lot higher.
PhD graduates should not have to spend half their life worrying about where their next source of funding is going to come from.
Academics on tenure have always parasitised from graduates and they always will. That will not change unless early career researchers down tools and refuse to work. then we will see just how vital and undervalued early career researchers really are.
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