Friday, December 19

Do the heads of the research councils think the oompa loompas do it?

Sometimes, to someone working as a researcher in a University, it can appear that those who have designed and run the system haven't actually set foot in a University for many decades. One aggrieved researcher writes in the Guardian about how most of the people who do research aren't actually included in the RAE assessment.

One line, where he complains that a potential PI said that they liked an idea of his for a project, but that he wouldn't get a post if it was funded, rings true. I've been involved in a number of applications where a referee has complained that our choice of a PhD student and a postdoc to do most of the work is a "missed opportunity" for more training - i.e. that a postdoc doesn't need research opportunities, only creating more PhD students matters. Not that there's a direct route from PhD student to lecturer - instead there's the slough of postdoc.

Sum them up together - there is the strong impression of a view that postdocs do nothing worth considering. PhD students are here to be trained, PIs are here to create research. That we're the ones who do the research a lot of the time is irrelevant - research and publications cannot even be considered in an RAE if a permanent staff member isn't attached to it.

A very good postdoc I've worked with for a number of years has just had her final day today. She has fled into industry (and one that is fairly credit-crunch proof as well). Arguably, she hasn't fled research - she's escaped academia to be able to continue as a scientific researcher. If she'd stayed in academia, she'd have had to become a lecturer - paid to lecture, judged on research, but actually doing bureaucracy first, teaching second, and no time to actually do any research yourself. But you can hire someone else to do it for you.

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