Hello loyal AQ readers. Here are the results of my questionnaire:

What is your current position?

  • Postdoc
  • Postdoc
  • Postdoc
  • Postdoc
  • postdoctoral researcher
  • postdoctoral researcher
  • PhD Student
  • PhD Student
  • postdoctoral fellow
  • Ph.D Candidate
  • Senior Research Associate
  • Formulation Chemistry Team Leader
  • PhD
  • Phd student
  • Post doc
  • Post doctoral researcher
  • Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Research assistant
  • PhD student
  • Post-doc
  • Senior Research Fellow
  • Unemployed
  • Radiotherapy physicist
  • Research in medical chemistry
  • 1st year Postdoc

How happy are you in your current position?

happiness of scientists

Are you considering changing to a career outside of science?

pie chart scientists considering leaving science

What is the most pressing reason for you to consider leaving research/science?

  • Job security
  • Job security
  • Lack of security
  • Job insecurity
  • position stability
  • Lack of jobs in industry, lack of support for researchers, lack of long term, full time, or permanent positions in science,
  • The continual feeling of failure
  • Career prospects
  • A corrupt and dysfunctional system.
  • Job stability
  • The pressure/my boss
  • The salary. In Spain for example a postdoc earns no more than 2000 AUD per month.
  • Job stability and salary
  • Shit co-workers. Shit hours. Arsehole PI. Lack of security. Rolling short contacts. Where do I stop?
  • No job security and lack of opportunities
  • Uncertain future after my PhD occupationally speaking
  • Publishing papers in high impact journals
  • Better pay, healthier working environment, better perks, better management, more emphasis on staff satisfaction, better opportunities for development. Ah, just noticed the question was ‘reason’, not ‘reasons’. So, most pressing *reason* would be…. healthier working environment. By which I mean, staff feel valued, are rewarded, open atmosphere etc.
  • Settling down is difficult and rarely frequent before 35yo.
  • Lack of funding/futility of grant writing when it feels like a lottery

Is there anything else you’d like to say about why people would leave science?

  • Because it sucks to have to justify your existence every 1-4 years, and that somehow more experience and hard work makes you less worthy the next time you apply
  • Too cut throat/competitive for limited resources, forces you to sell/lie/exaggerate about research. Not enough room for everyone being trained at the base levels, and it only feeds those already at the top.
  • I am very weary of the pervasive culture of anti-intellectualism, particularly in Australia. To work such long hours (Ph. D research, plus lab demonstrating, teaching, tutoring, marking) in order to survive, only to see our discipline constantly derided as being in the pocket of big pharma/agribusiness/global warming/government is very tiring. There is little acknowledgement of how hard we work, and for how little reward, starting from the general public, and reaching to the highest levels of government policy. I am tired of hearing politicians tell us that scientists should be ‘innovating’ to create ideas that can be sold, as this is a fundamental misunderstanding about how research works. I am tired of having conversations with lay-people about my specialist field, and being told that I know less than a Google search. Before I returned to research for my Ph. D, I worked in industry for 4.5 years before being made redundant. On looking for work, I applied for well over 100 science positions Australia wide, and the best offer that I received was an interstate position on a 3 month contract, requiring I move myself and my family on the promise of continuing work ‘maybe, if the funding comes through.’ This is a problem. If working scientists find it difficult to survive in a career in the industry, we are going to lose talent overseas or to other industries. Just in discussions with my peers, it is not uncommon to hear that people are seeking to finish their Ph. Ds and take post-doc or industry positions overseas, or leave the industry, as finding a viable, long term job in science or research in Australia is so rare. In summary, include many swear words. Lots of them. Because at the moment, Australian science is a fucking joke.
  • This is a tricky thing. I left ‘science’ (a research job in science) 16 years ago, and did science communication instead. That was hard. I came back to research feeling older and wiser (but with a kid and a mortgage) to try to improve science communication (because I really think we are missing something) and finding it tougher because there’s even less money for research outside of science. I have good days and bad days. Most of the time I try not to think about it and stay focused on the really awesome part (being able to learn for my job) rather then whether I will have a job next year.
  • Underpaid, undervalued, lack of jobs
  • Because they stay true to their own values and beliefs and resist to sell themselves out.
  • It’s not all it’s cracked up to be
  • It’s the system man… the whole system
  • The lack of permanent positions and subsequent stress related to job insecurity is a massive issue. Especially for those with young families and the associated financial burden. Contracts are very hard to get and generally too short meaning scientists are spending a lot of time and energy applying and reapplying for positions.
  • Sometimes family life is not fully compatible with a scientific career. People who leave science are probably searching for such stability.
  • Job security (limited funding for academic research positions)
  • Demotivation, money, tricky hierarchies…
  • It’s usually due to short contracts, poor pay, ill defined career progression, and an expectation that work/life balance should be very much in favour of work.
  • Forming a family, moving around the globe, salary, constant dead-line stress, gender inequality.
  • Lack of job security, lots of stress/pressure to work long hours on other’s research projects. As grant funding is so competitive, there is an atmosphere of depression and futility especially among EMCRs about their career prospects unless they are in the top 5-10% of their peers that might be able to win Fellowships or be Chief Investigators on Cat1 grants. A lot of EMCRs contribute significantly in many areas of research (grant writing, reviewing etc) but are unable to put their names on their work as their track records are not as strong as others and will decrease the chance of the grant being funded, and so it can feel like catch22. On the flip side, scientists have lots of wonderful skills and experience that can be transferred to other careers or even setting up their own businesses, and so while many who leave science do so because of lack of funding or due to frustration with the current system in science, others might equally see all the exciting opportunities outside of science and want to explore those. Most scientists I know that left science seem to be very happy with their decision years later and seem to be having fulfilling lives and careers in science communication, outreach, policy, and other unrelated fields, so leaving science can be a good thing even if it’s often seen as ‘failing’.

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