Rohn in Nature on “Give postdocs a career, not empty promises”

“The first step is to admit we have a problem, and that the problem is worth tackling. […] The career structure for scientific research in universities is broken, particularly in the life sciences. Fellowships are few, every advertised academic post draws a flood of candidates, and grants fund only a tiny fraction of applicants. To avoid throwing talent on the scrap heap and to boost prospects, a new type of scientific post for researchers is needed. Universities would have to create new permanent positions, and be willing to fund them long term,” says Jennifer Rohn in “Give postdocs a career, not empty promises,” Nature 471: 7, 2 March 2011.

“The recent global recession and accompanying austerity measures have brought it into sudden focus for young — and some not so young — researchers, who face a widening chasm between their cycles of contract work and a coveted lab-head position. The scientific community is an ecosystem […] needing only one replacement per lab-head position, but over the course of a 30–40-year career, hence the academic opportunities for a mature postdoc some ten years after completing his or her PhD are few and far between.”

“An alternative career structure within science that professionalizes mature postdocs would be better. Permanent research staff positions could be generated and filled with talented and experienced postdocs who do not want to, or cannot, lead a research team. Although the permanent staff would cost more, a researcher with 10–20 years experience is probably at least twice as efficient as a green trainee. Academic labs could thus become smaller, streamlined and more efficient.”

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