As PhD researches we must have all heard at least one discussion on how draining living in an academic environment is, and on how many decide to just leave academia, and pursue other jobs, in which – they say – to feel more fulfilled and valued.
We all have at least once individuated an issue within the research community, something that simply does not work, and that refrains others from joining it, or staying in it.
For our Committee post we decided to gather our thoughts on those things academia could to better: from work/life balance, to precarity, to the employment inner contradictions. In this way, we hope to encourage discussion, and – possibly – open up to solutions. After all we are the future of academia, may our awareness fill the gaps left by those behind us.
Séveric Yersin – Contributions’ editor and Techincal editor
In Germany and in Switzerland, the system of chairs and professorates is being debated. One of the option is to create a « third way » between the researcher (usually doc or postdoc) and the professorate – either an administrative position or a teaching position. This person would mostly be teaching classes, grading papers, maintaining faculty life and so on – without having to conduct original research – with the benefit of a full-time contract. You would then have the choice, at the beginning of your academic career, between doing mostly research or mostly teaching, depending on your abilities and interest. By creating this new function – which, admittedly, already exists in different forms in some universities –, some pressure might be taken off the shoulders of scholars, better teaching might be offered to students and better research might be conducted by specialists. It surely isn’t the solution to all of academia problems – but it is a good start, and, more importantly, it already started important national debates about the overall organisation of higher education and research.
Megan King – Publicity editor
I feel like a major reason that people leave academia has to do with the difficulty of finding a work/life balance. With all of the pressures to teach, publish, and remain publicly engaged, it can feel impossible to make time for personal well-being, whether that’s exercising, making healthy meals, resting, or spending time with friends and family. Fortunately, in recent years, academics have been openly addressing this issue, but in the meantime, I hope we can all work to prioritize ourselves and make time for free time.
Giovanna Pasquariello – Chair
Let’s talk about precarity, and about how long it may take to obtain a full-time permanent position in academia. The process often involves a few years of nomadism and jumping from one post-doc funding to another – in the meantime publishing, teaching, engaging in the field, making ‘excellent’ research. I have often heard that there are too many PhDs for very little post-doctoral positions, and even less permanent contracts. There is an expectation that young researchers need to make huge sacrifices, for many years, in order to – maybe – earn just what they have – hard and for long – worked for. This obviously clashes with the personal life of people in their late twenties or thirties, with their need to pay the bills, their desire to call a place home, to feel accomplished. The fact that getting a permanent position in academia is so incredibly difficult, time-consuming (and money-consuming), is one of the reasons why research is progressively devaluated, and academia considered elitist. In light of all this, I feel like behind the bright, blinding rhetoric of excellent research promoted by universities, which attracts many (too many, apparently) students to pursuing an academic career, there should be serious discussion on making academia a realistically welcoming place for them, on the long-term.