Dec 202016

Last week, while most young scientists were participating in awkward Christmas parties and celebrating the prospect of another 3-month contract extension, a publication was released which looked at the career aspirations and postdoctoral experiences in Australia. The question posed by the publication is “What do postdocs need to succeed?.

The publication is co-authored by Margaret Hardy, Adrian Carter and Nikola Bowden and, even though they look like the cast of an ALDI version of Three’s Company,


the clever trio analysed the responses of 284 early career researchers (ECRs) to questions including “How many hours a week do you work on average?” and “How confident do you feel that your career aims will be met?”. Should the study be repeated I think the question “Are you sad?” would be much more revealing.

Between the moments of watery eyed self-realisation, ECRs have revealed that although 80% of them have a plan to stay in research for the medium to long-term, there’s a significant amount of concern around long-term viability due to job security and the shortage of funding. These results will come as no surprise to those currently fighting their way through the system, or to the unemployed scientists currently sat on a stained sofa wearing nothing but a rented academic robe.

The paper also revealed that 75% of the ECR respondents work more than 41 hours per week (above the 30 hours legal maximum for full time-work). Perhaps the study can be re-titled “How much free labour do universities receive from success hungry ECR’s?”.

The report culminates in a number of recommendations such as mentoring, closer connection to industry partners/collaborators and more high fives in the workplace. Although they’re all probably useful, they’ll do nothing to actually help the plight of ECRs because they rely solely on Australian Universities implementing change. It’s as futile as asking your dog to stop humping its toys when guests are over because it makes you feel uncomfortable.


  1. What do postdocs need to succeed? A survey of current standing and future directions for Australian researchers

  One Response to “What do postdocs need to succeed?”

  1. It’s sad but it’s funny, but it’s sad. :/

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