Academia is now incompatible with family life, thanks to casual contracts

The Guardian | 2 December 2016 | by Academic anonymous
lundi 27 février 2017
par  antonin

I want to be a good scientist but that means I can’t be anything else, as all my time is taken up trying to find contracts

I have just returned from my last conference of the season – half a dozen in total, across the UK and Europe. One theme kept cropping up in conversations with fellow attendees : job insecurity, and the impact it is having on our families and lives.

I spoke to a man, on his second post-doctoral fellowship, who was living across the country from his fiancée for a year to take advantage of a “good opportunity”. The affianced pair were only seeing each other at weekends.

There was the not-so-early-career researcher whose partner takes their daughter to play groups every single weekend, so she can write fellowship applications outside of work hours.

There was the announcement that a top-notch researcher was leaving academia for the private sector, citing lack of job security and pay as the reasons.

The crème de la crème was a lifetime achievement award for a professor who had never had a permanent job contract in her entire academic career.

I am once again approaching the end of another fixed-term research contract. I won’t say how many I have had, but I can say that this last post was longer than most. I had some time to breathe. Time to finish papers from previous posts, time to devote to writing papers for this project before having to devote evenings and weekends to trying to find the next post. I have had more time to spend with my family and friends. I have had time to exercise and take care of myself physically and emotionally. I have had time to think and reflect.

 Fractured relationships

But the other posts, the ones that last a year or less, bring far more stress – for me and my family. I have to spend evenings and weekends on fellowship and job applications, trying to get papers accepted and preparing for job interviews.

My loved ones have always been understanding, but I wonder how long they will feel this way. And, given the common cross-stress of trying to advance in academia at the same time as raising small children, I wonder how many other relationships are being fractured by this set-up.

It is hard when I spend all day Saturday working and come home to find the house is a mess, a load of laundry to be done, and nothing for dinner. But I can’t really complain, because my partner has spent all day with the child(ren) so I can work.

It is hard to forgo spending time with my partner or catching up on sleep after our baby was awake half the night, but I have to work on that grant proposal. If I don’t, I might not have a job after my current contract ends.

This uncertainty means we can only plan our future a few years at a time : we can’t commit to a mortgage, we can’t plan which school our child will attend, we can’t even plan a family holiday next summer because we don’t know if I will have a job then.

It brings a persistent low-grade anxiety that lingers around my heart, sometimes travelling up to constrict my throat as the time remaining on my contract dwindles. Rinse, and repeat. For years. I don’t know what impact this lifestyle is having on my health, but it can’t be good.

 Great expectations

When I finished my PhD, I expected to complete one post-doctoral fellowship then move into a permanent post. I had every expectation of this career path, because that is the route that most of the researchers around me had taken. Quite a few had moved into a permanent post straight from their PhD studies.

When I try to talk about job insecurity with senior researchers, they brush it off. They tell me I will be fine in a few years. They had permanent posts before they were my age. They had free education, great pension plans, and affordable housing costs.

They don’t understand that this is not just about me. It is endemic. Almost everyone else I know at my level, and below, is in the same situation. This is an industry-wide systemic problem that is being brushed under the rug in the name of “challenging funding environments”.

Don’t get me wrong, academia isn’t all negative. I love my job. I love what I do. But I don’t know what the solution is.

What I do know is that universities need to move away from thinking that a hyper-competitive, highly-mobile scientific workforce is good for science. Good scientists are not born, but trained and supported by the people and institutions that surround them.

Here is a new idea : let’s make science better by supporting the people who conduct it. Let’s make rewards and funding to universities dependent on how they treat their staff. Let’s make world rankings weighted on how many staff are on permanent contracts. Let’s make Athena Swan awards dependent on low levels of fixed-term contracts. Let’s reduce the Research Excellence Framework funding for universities for every staff member who is on a temporary contract.

Because, if anything, the less time and energy a scientist has to spend on searching for the next job, the more time and energy they will have to actually do science. Let’s see how much more productive scientists are in making scientific discoveries when they can actually make long-term plans. Let’s reward people for the years of education and hard work they have contributed to the university and science with a stable professional and home life.

We want to conduct science for the public good – this surely includes the scientists.


Read on The Guardian

Photo credit : ‘It is hard to forgo spending time with my partner or catching up on sleep after our baby was awake half the night, but I have to work on that grant proposal.’ Photograph : Alamy



Commentaires

Agenda

<<

2017

 

<<

Mai

 

Aujourd'hui

LuMaMeJeVeSaDi
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930311234
Aucun évènement à venir les 2 prochains mois

Brèves

Salaire des vacataires de l’Université Paul Sabatier : ça s’arrange

samedi 25 mars

La situation semble s’arranger pour près de 600 vacataires du département des Langues vivantes et gestion (rattaché à la faculté des sciences et de l’ingénierie) de l’université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier, qui attendent d’être rémunérés pour le premier semestre. « Le paiement pour les 600 vacataires doit être effectif fin mars, nous a-t-on assurés à la vice-présidence de l’université, a expliqué Julie, vacataire et porte-parole. Ça doit nous être confirmé par communiqué et on espère aussi que ce sera moins compliqué pour payer le deuxième semestre. » [...] La porte-parole de ce mouvement de contestation, qui se félicite des avancées sur ce dossier par l’université Paul Sabatier, veut porter la discussion plus loin. « On demande en effet, explique Julie, des efforts sur le système de paie, peut-être faut-il aussi revoir la fréquence de paiement des vacataires, parce qu’être payé tous les six mois, c’est difficile pour beaucoup. Il est aussi peut-être temps de requalifier le métier de vacataire. J’ai bon espoir de voir les lignes bouger ». par Gérald Camier, La Dépêche, 23/03/2017

600 enseignants-vacataires de l’université Paul Sabatier attendent d’être payés

lundi 20 mars

Environ 600 vacataires de l’Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, soit des enseignants non titulaires, attendent toujours le versement de leur salaire pour le premier semestre qui devait intervenir en janvier dernier. La plupart des vacataires sont de nationalité anglaise, espagnole, allemande et doivent obligatoirement avoir un autre emploi à côté de l’université pour compléter leurs revenus.

L’université, dont le service des ressources humaines invoque un bug informatique sur le nouveau logiciel de paie, indique que le retard serait « de deux à trois mois » selon les cas, « voire six mois », selon une vacataire. Pour Jean-Pierre Vinel, le président de l’université, « il n’a jamais été question de ne pas payer les vacataires, c’est juste une question de retard de paiement ».

[La Dépêche, par Gérald Camier, 17/03/2017]

Sur le Web : Lire sur ladepeche.fr

C. Villani : "on arrive à se sentir étouffé"

dimanche 5 février

[Interview de C. Villani, The Conversation, 30/01/2017]
Revenons en France avec une question beaucoup plus terre à terre : un jeune docteur en mathématique qui vient d’enchaîner un ou deux postdoc à l’étranger décroche un poste de chargé de recherche ou de maître de conférence. Il débute alors sa carrière avec un salaire de 1 800 euros net par mois. Comment qualifier cette situation et comment l’améliorer pour créer des vocations ?

C.V. : Malgré ce salaire peu reluisant, le statut du CNRS reste attractif pour sa grande liberté. Si l’on veut garder son attrait à la profession, il est important de travailler sur le reste : en premier lieu, limiter les règles, les contraintes, les rapports. Je donnerai un exemple parmi quantité : le CNRS vient de décider qu’il refuse tout remboursement des missions effectuées dans un contexte d’économie partagée : pas de remboursement de logement Airbnb, ni de trajet BlaBlaCar… De petites contraintes en petites contraintes, on arrive à se sentir étouffé. Le simple sentiment d’être respecté et de ne pas avoir à lutter pour son budget, par ailleurs, pourra jouer beaucoup. Par ailleurs, il est certain qu’une revalorisation salariale ou d’autres avantages pour les débuts de carrière seront bienvenus.

Les universités vont continuer à geler des postes en 2017

lundi 28 novembre 2016

La crise budgétaire des universités françaises continue depuis leur passage à l’ "autonomie" avec comme conséquence directe l’utilisation de la masse comme variable d’ajustement. Comment diminuer la masse salarial ? Embaucher des contractuels au lieu de titulaires, demander et ne pas payer des heures supplémentaires aux enseignants-chercheurs titulaires, supprimer des postes d’ATER et des contrats doctoraux ou encore geler des postes. Mais que signifie "geler des postes" ? Il s’agit de ne pas ouvrir à candidature des postes de titulaires ouverts par le ministères. Depuis 2009, 11.000 postes ont été gelés dans les universités dont 1200 les cinq dernières années. En 2017, ce processus continuera dans de nombreuses universités : Paris 1, Toulouse Paul Sabatier, Reims, Paris-Est Créteil, Dijon, Orléans, Brest, Paris 8, Bordeaux 3, Artois, Bretagne-Sud, Lyon 3, Limoges, Pau, Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée.

New Analysis of Employment Outcomes for Ph.D.s in Canada

Thursday 5 February 2015

An analysis of where Canada’s Ph.D.-holders are employed finds that just 18.6 percent are employed as full-time university professors. The analysis from the Conference Board of Canada finds that nearly 40 percent of Ph.D.s are employed in higher education in some capacity, but many are in temporary or transitional positions. The other three-fifths are employed in diverse careers in industry, government and non-governmental organizations: “Indeed, employment in diverse, non-academic careers is the norm, not the exception, for Ph.D.s in Canada.” - Inside Higher Edu, January 8, 2015

Soutenir par un don