Not IUPS-related tonight – but something that should concern the people there – should concern *us*. Especially the people WITH senior positions.
Scientific research has a lot going for it as a job.
There’s the big money, for a start.
[Actually, that was a joke, as my scientific readers will have spotted. The money is pretty lousy compared to other higher-end ‘graduate professional jobs’, at least if you factor in the years spent getting your PhD, aka your ‘Union Card’, and some postdoctoral experience. I don’t know what a PhD with quantitative/ mathematical/ computer skills makes going into finance, but I strongly suspect it is rather more than a postdoc gets. And I don’t know what a moderately successful lawyer with twenty-plus years experience makes, but I suspect it is a whole lot more than I earn after 25 years as a lecturer.]
But… the money is a living wage.
I live on it, so I should know.
And there is lots of other stuff to put in the plus column. You get to do something interesting and challenging. And, hopefully, something ultimately useful. You get a varied job. You get to solve problems. You get a lot of freedom to set your own timetable and what you are going to do. You get to travel. And you get paid to read, and think. I mean, how many jobs are there where they pay you to READ?
So all of those are positives.
And: for many – probably most – people in scientific research, there is much, much more to it. For most scientists, the ones who get or want tenured or permanent jobs, science is a vocation. For one example of how I know that, try the story here.
But, and increasingly so these days, a career in scientific research is an awfully hard road.
That is especially true for those in the trying-to-transition-to-a-permanent-job phase of a scientific career.
I think there are real systemic problems with a profession that does this to its most highly-skilled junior members. That takes people’s dedication, and years of training, and just lets it all go because they weren’t quite lucky enough.
Other people have said this on Occam’s Typewriter. I’ve said it before.
People have said it elsewhere.
It is time, in my opinion, that the Great and Good of science did something about it. At the moment, far too many of those in positions of power simply look a bit glum and wring their hands. The response when the problem is discussed often sounds a bit like the guys in The Sopranos when they learn that one of their fellow wiseguys has been ‘whacked’ (killed)
“Fuggeddaboutit. Whaddya gonna do? This, it’s the business we’re in.”
Well – it shouldn’t be.
Not like this.