Sunday, December 18, 2011

Academia and its Discontents

About four years ago I spoke with a friend, an academic from the US who illustrated the plight of professors and research scientist in a scary way. He described how several of his friends had to pack and leave after they failed to make tenure because they could not secure grants that could get them graduate students and publications. He talked about scores of colleagues and friends from graduate school who abandoned their science/research careers because they could not earn their keep in an era of scarce grant resources and tight institutional budgets.

I came away thinking about life as a scientist and academic as nasty, short and brutish.

But there seems to be real crises Down Under.

Academics unhappy
“Australian academic researchers are rallying behind a report that laments their working conditions. The government-funded study, out in September, surveyed 5,525 academics across all career stages and fields at 20 universities. It found that nearly half of academics under 30 want to leave the country or the profession owing to low pay and lack of job security.

Researchers are frustrated by teaching obligations that cut into research time; low grant success rates; and 70- to 80-hour working weeks. Emmaline Bexley, a lecturer in higher education at the University of Melbourne and lead author of the study, says she hopes that her research will “help government and universities to work together to replenish the academic workforce”.

-AArticle published as in Nature Volume 478 pg 549, October 27 2011

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