Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Scientists at Breaking Point



By Toss Gascoigne

Australian researchers are finding their careers more difficult to manage, with job security, uncertainty of funding and workload at the top of their concerns.

Toss Gascoigne is a communication consultant, and formerly Executive Director of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, and the Council for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Australian researchers like their work, but not the system in which they work. It’s the lack of employment certainty, the overly-competitive race for grants, fellowships and jobs, and (for more senior people) the onerous burden of teaching and administration.

The best thing about their work in research, they say, is working on interesting and important issues, and working in a stimulating environment. To counter that, researchers have to put up with systems that are often opaque, wasteful and frustrating.

These insights come from a new study where 1203 researchers participated in an online survey and focus group discussions.

Respondents generally agree about what makes a career in research attractive irrespective of gender, age, career stage, employer or discipline, although they did disagree on how attractive such a career is. “Attractiveness” increased in almost a linear fashion with seniority, from graduate student to late career researchers.

The Australian Council of Learned Academies was commissioned to conduct the survey and eight focus groups by the Commonwealth Department of Innovation. The aim of the final report, Career Support for Researchers: Understanding Needs and Developing a Best Practice Approach, was to identify the pressure points in the research career pathway and identify possible solutions.

Nearly half the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.