To avoid throwing talent on the scrap heap and to boost prospects, a new type of scientific post for researchers is needed, says Jennifer Rohn.
The career structure for scientific research in universities is broken, particularly in the life sciences, my own overcrowded field. In coffee rooms across the world, postdocs commiserate with each other amid rising anxiety about biology's dirty little secret: dwindling opportunity. Fellowships are few, every advertised academic post draws a flood of candidates, and grants fund only a tiny fraction of applicants.
The scientific job market has been tight for decades, but the recent global recession and accompanying austerity measures have brought it into sudden focus for young — and some not so young — researchers, who face a widening chasm between their cycles of contract work and a coveted lab-head position.
This is a familiar lament, but I also propose a solution: we should professionalize the postdoc role and turn it into a career rather than a scientific stepping stone. Read more.
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Jennifer Rohn is a cell biologist at University College London and editor of http://LabLit.com. Her most recent book is The Honest Look (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press). e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published online 2 March 2011 | Nature 471, 7 (2011) | doi:10.1038/471007a