Paper Calls Out Pressures On Postdoctoral Researchers

These graduates have added to human knowledge by completing their PhDs, but many will find themselves working in short-term contracts far from their support networks. Rawpixel.com

Dolan took his life at 34, despite authoring 13 scientific papers, most in prestigious journals. He'd spent the nine years since his PhD at five institutions in four countries. One of these subsequently held a conference in his honor, emphasizing the scale of his loss to science, as well as to friends and family.

A blog post by Dr Sabine Hossenfelder, a physics research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies, reports that those who knew Dolan believe his movements interfered with his ability to access health care, and living so far from his partner placed him under additional stress, contributing to his death.

Rosten's paper was initially accepted for publication two years ago, but with the condition the acknowledgment be removed, as it was deemed “out of place”. Two other journals rejected it, one of them over the acknowledgment, but Rosten stood his ground, something he noted to IFLScience was made much easier because he's left academia to work as a computer developer. Eventually, Rosten submitted with pre-approval from editors that if the paper itself met their standards, they would publish the acknowledgment.

Asked for specific proposals to reduce post-docs' pressures, Rosten told IFLScience positions should have a three-year minimum and pay should be increased. Rosten also suggested: “Every institution should have members of staff, ideally with training in mental health issues, whose sole job is to support the postdoctoral community.” This role would include responsibility for those transitioning between institutions and providing retraining on leaving academia.

Rosten also believes that greater awareness of the crucial role post-docs play in science, and therefore in the benefit of humanity, might also help.

Rosten asked IFLScience to include a link to the Samaritans website, for those who are struggling. We've added a list of helplines by country.

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