2022-06-22-22 Andrew Akbashev changes in academia

Andrew Akbashev (@Andrew_Akbashev): PhD students don’t want to be postdocs. Faculties are leaving academia... Intriguing discussions are published by both Nature and Science. Key points are:

  1. U.S.-based researchers reported challenges recruiting in all #STEM fields: “This year … we received absolutely zero response from our posting,” one wrote. “The number of applications is 10 times less than 2018-2019,” another wrote.

  2. Faculty: “It took 2 months to receive a single application [for a postdoc position]. Money is just sitting there that isn’t being used … and there’s these projects that aren’t moving anywhere as a result”.

  3. Ph.D. graduates are “voting with their feet” and finding ways to contribute outside [academia]. “They recognize that there’s exciting career opportunities out there that don’t actually necessitate postdoc training”.

  4. Re: salary of a postdoc: “If a research grant has postdoc salary that they pay at a national lab [$20,000 more per year], the program office is going to look at it and say, ‘Look, I can’t give you this much money. It’s so out of line with what everyone else is asking for’.”

  5. Funding agencies and universities set many of the policies that determine postdoc salary and working conditions. “It really is going to need to take an all-stakeholder effort here to turn some things around.”

At many universities, faculties (like postdocs) are also viewed by administrators as capable of “free extra labor”. This is resulting in a “great resignation”:

  1. Reasons are: increasing teaching load and pressure to win grants, duties and administrative tasks beyond the lab, organizational politics or bureaucracy, a lack of support, micromanagement, increasing right-wing hostility towards academics, and [low] salaries and pension cuts.

  2. Statistics:

  • The Professor is Out [FB group that advises how to leave academia] has grown to 20,000 members in the past year!
  • PhD Mamas [FB group that supports academic mothers] had 1,500 members for years. Now, it is 12,000 + 300 mothers exploring how to leave academia!
  1. Lack of explicit written criteria for tenure promotion “leave the door open for implicit biases against women and people of colour”.

In my opinion, this is an alarming and disheartening situation that has been clearly developing for the last decade (and fueled by an increasing competition for senior academic positions). Despite all the bells and whistles, things were exacerbating from year to year.

We should do a MUCH better job as a community in voicing our concerns and working out the solutions to the current situation. A lot can be done when a strong consensus is reached by a broader community.

Links to the articles:

“As professors struggle to recruit postdocs, calls for structural change in academia intensify” https://www.science.org/content/article/professors-struggle-recruit-postdocs-calls-structural-change-academia-intensify

“Has the ‘great resignation’ hit academia?” https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01512-6

Pages that link to this page