Insights into postdoc life: Balancing effort and reward

The pursuit of a career in research after obtaining a doctorate is highly sought after, but particularly among postdocs, many compromises must be made and sacrifices endured. Over the last years surveying postdocs within the SNSF Career Tracker Cohorts study (CTC), the data point to ambivalences many postdocs face when balancing effort and reward.

Academic renown or a work-life balance?

Still, most participants in the CTC study attach higher importance to work-life balance considerations than achieving academic renown. More than half (51.1%) of those surveyed in the CTC study consider a satisfactory work-life balance a very important aspect of their future career. In contrast, working in a renowned academic environment is not the top priority for many in the CTC study. Instead, 56.2% of CTC respondents attach very high importance to having a secure job.

Ambitions to work as an academic researcher again in the future

It is apparent from the data that a non-negligible share of study participants are contemplating pursuing career paths outside of academia. Looking at those in the CTC data who are employed outside academia, 60.4% have little or no ambition at all to work in academia again one day. Among the reasons for the lack of desire to work as an academic researcher again, the most prominent factors include the appeal of alternative career paths outside academia, perceptions of poor work-life balance in academia, excessive stress associated with academic jobs, and a harsh work atmosphere. Interestingly, perceptions of the difficulties of getting funding or a suitable or tenured position do not appear to influence respondents’ ambition to pursue a future career in academia.

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Newsletter 2023/2

The spring surveys have concluded successfully. In total, 1494 people across the four cohorts participated in the survey, yielding an impressive response rate of 56%. We extend our gratitude to all participants for generously dedicating their time and energy. We highly appreciate each contribution! Currently, we are preparing the data and accompanying documentation for the publication of the complete 2022 datasets.

The majority of parents relies on external day care

A substantial majority (79%) of participating parents disclosed their dependence on external daycare or day schools for their children. Approximately one third (34%) mentioned that other family or household members, distinct from the parents, look after their children.

Mental well-being is lower than physical well-being – particularly for women

Intriguingly, a noteworthy gender disparity emerged in the context of mental wellbeing, with male participants indicating a higher average score compared to their female counterparts (mean = 3.6 vs. mean = 3.4, p = 0.025).

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Newsletter 2023/1

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the CTC study, and we are looking forward to continuing with the monitoring. Before we start the spring surveys, we are preparing the data collected last fall (2022), when 633 study participants completed a CTC monitoring survey, resulting in an overall response rate of 59%.

More permanent contracts outside academia

Among all the surveyed researchers (with or without a current SNSF grant), the majority have a fixed-term contract (84%). The mean duration of the contracts of researchers without an SNSF grant amounts to 29 months. The contract duration of the researchers with an SNSF grant depends on the respective scheme.

Researchers usually cannot report and compensate overtime

Researchers (with or without an SNSF grant) not only indicated working more hours than people working outside academia, but they also rarely replied that they have to report working hours to their employer. Thus, 20% of all the researchers report working hours, compared to 61% of people working outside academia.

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