The silent crisis in science

Thanking young researchers for a scientific career

opinion | The door of Rosanne Anholt and Megan Pollack

September 17, 2021 | Young researchers are increasingly abandoning a career in science. As a result, a crisis began that received little attention, the president and vice president of Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) wrote. “Only retaining young talent can guarantee future science.”

“Talent but disappointed doctoral students see the current state of Dutch science and are thankful for an academic career,” write PNN’s Roseanne Anholt and Megan Pollack.

The new school year started last week. The public debate mainly relates to the wisdom of allowing universities to fully open their doors again to large numbers of students. However, little attention is paid to the massive workload of universities, the days of alerts for the WOinActie working group and the PwC report showing that universities have a structural shortfall of one and a half billion euros. With that said, there is another crisis unfolding within science, and one that receives no less attention. Young researchers give thanks for a scientific career.

An estimated 20,000-25,000 young scientists do doctoral research in the Netherlands. The PhD track is a test of abilities in which the doctoral student demonstrates his or her ability to conduct independent scientific research. However, simply being good at research is not enough to advance to the coveted position as a postdoc or university lecturer. Therefore many PhD students do additional (often unpaid) work in addition to their PhD research, for example in the form of teaching, translating research findings into advice for practical organizations, participating in employee engagement boards, and participating in public debate.

Many PhD students are thinking about quitting smoking

Therefore, getting a PhD is a difficult process. from private search It turns out that more than forty percent of all doctoral students sometimes consider leaving their doctoral program. More than 38 percent of doctoral students show severe symptoms of fatigue and 47 percent have an increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder, such as depression or anxiety. International PhD students with their own scholarships are exposed to additional risks; They can hardly get sums of up to sometimes only fifty to 75 per cent of the minimum wage. These doctoral students are actively recruited by some universities.

About 1 in 5 PhD students in the Netherlands also encounter undesirable behavior in the workplace. This ranges from minimizing perceived work stress to discrimination, violations of scientific integrity (eg by a supervisor) and sexual intimidation. In a subordinate position – after all, PhD students depend on the supervisor(s) and supervisor(s) – however, the boundaries are hard to set, as is also the case Ryan Leechert, Dean of Maastricht University, says in it Interview with de Volkskrant On the third of September.

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Heavy reliance on promoters and moderators

In particular, “star researchers”, scientists who receive large research grants and therefore also have many doctoral students, can take or break a nascent scientific career. Universities according to the most recent Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers Structurally underfunded, and therefore do not want to lose the scholars who bring money. They are still often held above their heads during this Victims must be silent.

At the same time, there are also many PhD students who have a good relationship with their supervisors and supervisors and who complete their PhD path without any problems. However, they are also increasingly looking to the government or business community as a possible next step after their doctoral research. Recent Research He shows that eighty percent of doctoral students do not continue in the sciences – not only because there is simply no room for everyone in the sciences, but also because of what awaits them if they continue in the sciences.

In addition to enormous work pressures and (sometimes sinister) mutual competition, young scientists mainly face structural job insecurity. Many PhD graduates begin working as “disposable educators”; For one or two years with a teaching designation of 0.7 Ft, which everyone in education knows is full-time work in practice. But anyone who wishes to continue in science must keep pace with his or her research; This should be done on your own time. After the longest possible tenure, it is often advised to leave for six months, after which one can return (under a new temporary contract), because teachers are always in dire need. It is no coincidence that working groups are now opposed to the flexibility of academic work, as groups 0.7 employment Leiden keel.

Talented but disappointed

Talented and disillusioned doctoral students see the current state of Dutch science and are thankful for an academic career. So the question is no longer “How do we attract talent”, but “How do we retain talent?” This will take more than an email from the Executive Board on how to identify and evaluate its employees; Recognition and appreciation must be translated into concrete actions. This means that institutions should give scientists enough time to do their jobs, take their research seriously rather than seeing it as a forced leisure project or volunteer work, and give them a perspective.

Retaining talent will require a cultural shift. Many young scientists do not want to work at the moment survival of the fittest-A culture that makes the academy more a steal than a ‘cool sport’, like Marcel Levy, the new head of the most important Dutch science funder NWO, Description of the flag. Acknowledgment and appreciation requires a culture in which we take care of each other instead of exploiting each other, where we take responsibility instead of silencing each other, and where we help each other get the best of ourselves instead of keeping each other small. Only retaining young talent guarantees future science.

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