22 SES 10 D, Academic Work and Professional Development
The present article has two objectives. First, to open the black box of this formally, still in the Netherlands not legitimized category of academic employees, we analyze the job satisfaction of postdoctoral researchers. In order to make their position more transparent we study 1) the organisational context of postdocs, 2) their working conditions and 3) whether the gender of postdoctoral researchers, their nationality, and their career perspectives/ambitions are important determinants of career success. Secondly, collecting empirical data of postdocs may serve as input in developing HRM policies within academia.
Despite their increasing substance and importance for research and society in the longterm perspective, there is currently little systematic information available concerning postdoctoral researchers and their career perspectives. The post-PhD segment is increasingly important for economic and social development in developed countries in general and in Europe in particular (Häyrinen-Alestalo and Peltola 2006). Gradually, the interest in analysing their professional working conditions and careers increased (European Commission 2003). We are particularly fascinated by their agency (their intentions, hopes, goals) and the way postdoctoral researchers (further: postdocs) see their own career prospects and intend to forward their career, although we acknowledge that investigating post-PhD career possibilities is rather challenging (McAlpine & Amundsen, 2013).
We have investigated the postdoc staff at the Technical University of Delft, the Netherlands.
The numbers of PhD’s awarded and postdoc positions created are increasing at a quick pace, e.g. in the Netherlands there were 2559 postdocs in 2005 and 3548 in 2010, an increase of 40% (Van Arensbergen, 2013, et al[CT1] .). In 2005, postdocs made up about 35 per cent of the category of ‘other academic staff’; in 2011 this was 43 per cent (De Goede et al., 2013). In contrast, only few options are available for permanent positions at universities, and consequently the period between graduation and permanent position can be rather long (e.g. Nerad & Jenny, 1999). Similar developments are going on in other countries:…
The lack of a further career perspective within universities is felt quite strongly by postdocs and affects their job satisfaction (Van Balen, 2010). There seems to be a lack of fit between supply of tenured or other positions at universities and demand for such positions by the postdocs. There are great discrepancies between fields of research, as in one area there are too many positions, while in the other there may be too many PhD-holders. In the humanities, career prospects outside academics are rather weak, while in the sciences their further career options are good and even very good in the medical sciences (VandenBrink et al., 2012). De Gier et al. (2001) propose the idea of the postdocparadox, on one hand postdocs cannot find a suitable function in academics, in the other hand employers complain that it is impossible to recruit suitable researchers
Moreover, individual career perspectives can be unrealistic. Most young academics pay little attention to the possibility or necessity of a career outside academia. They are ambitious and think they belong to ‘the happy few’ who can make it in science (Freijsen, Van Arendsbergen & Van der Weijden, 2011). Therefore, we want to provide the floor for the postdocs’ own, personal views, as they are still an underresearched group.
Cantwell,. B. and Taylor, B.J. (2013). Internationalization of the postdoctorate in the United Stats: analyzing the demand for international postdoc labor. Higher Education. DOI 10.1007/s10734-013-9621-0 Arensbergen, P. van, L. Hessels & B. van der Meulen (2013) Talent Centraal. Ontwikkeling en selectie van wetenschappers in Nederland. Rathenau Instituut. SciSa 1330, Den Haag. Goede, M. de, R. Belder, J. de Jonge (2013) Academic Careers in the Netherlands, Facts & Figures. www.rathenau.nl (retrieved 7th of November 2013). VSNU (2012) Prestaties in perspectief: Trendrapportage universiteiten 2000-2020. Den Haag: VSNU.
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