Nature Jobs interviewed four researchers who made the news in 2015 and asked what they’d change about science. I think all are very indicative of current issues within the scientific research enterprise and issues that are frequently discussed on CauseScience. Check out the full article here.
From an article on Nature Jobs, even though scientists may be happy with their research, lack of funding is eroding their spirits. From the post:
Although nearly two-thirds of the survey’s 7,216 respondents across the world report being satisfied or very satisfied with their job, nearly half say that they think that the morale in their lab or department is slipping, and two-thirds of those who responded to the question do not believe that the funding environment is improving
Interviewed respondents also said that the funding malaise is starting to affect multiple aspects of their job satisfaction. Some said that worries about funding caused them to downgrade their job outlook from very satisfied to satisfied; that spending more time writing grants means less time for research; and that it has created uncertainty or is making the transition to their next career stage more challenging.
It’s hard to be happy with a career that has dim prospects for the future!
From the NatureJobs blog, a more positive commentary about the leaky pipeline from PhD to a career in academia. Are there too many PhDs? From the article:
For scientists, the reality of short contracts, relatively low pay and highly competitive progression into more senior positions is, in general, well acknowledged. In truth the idea that there is an issue only at PhD level is short sighted; scientists leave in high numbers at each stage of the possible academic career.
Many efforts have been made to stem the ‘leaky pipeline’ from PhD to Principal Investigator. But for those who believe in the scientific method, could it not be seen as a positive thing, that former researchers are entering other sectors? Evidence-based decision-making as a way of forming policies is becoming more and more popular in both governments and industries. A workforce that contains employees with formal scientific training is, to me, no bad thing.
Julie Gould has posted a terrific Q and A with Gerjon Ikink on NatureJobs blog. The Q and A focuses on Ikink’s pending move from academic science to science policy, with a goal of fixing the ailing academic science system. It also highlights a lot of the reasons scientists are more and more becoming disillusioned with how academic science is run today. The post includes a lot of pertinent info about why scientists are leaving academia, what needs to change to retain scientists, and how scientists in policy can make these changes. Gerjon Ikink on becoming disillusioned with science:
I saw that career scientists were no longer driven by curiosity, instead they spend hours producing papers so they can get funding to keep doing their job. And in order to get funding they are evaluated on metrics like the impact factor of the journal in which they are published. Many believe that too much emphasis is placed on these metrics, and that a full evaluation should be based on more. Here I mean that it should be based on actual proposed research plans, combined with the experience and motivation of the researcher. Past successes shouldn’t (and don’t) guarantee future success in science. The successes come from plenty of money and time, motivated staff, a good infrastructure and to be honest, luck.
With the current overabundance of PhD’s and shortage of academic career options, the more scientists that go into policy and politics, the better. While academic career scientists should advocate for policies that support them, we certainly need people who have science policy as their main focus. CauseScience wishes Gerjon Ikink and other science-to-policy researchers the best of luck!