Editor’s note: One reader alerted us to a long (19 pages) email. Soo desperate. If you have that long a grievance, why don’t you leave? Collective begging doesn’t work. Leave and find a job in industry. You love science, but academia will not pay you. As an adult, you should choose and choose to look elsewhere.
20160118 Current Perspectives(1)
Some of us involved in the drafting of this letter are in our late 30s and early 40s ALREADY and are still working as ‘slave’ postdocs under our bosses since many years or have been forced by the short-term stipends & various funding organizations which demand perpetual mobility for granting fellowships/grants (as if scientists are supposed to live gypsy lifstyles) to constantly hop from one lab & country to another! But slowly we are getting tired of this INSECURE, EVER-mobile, short-term stipends. It has already taken huge toll on our lives. Most of us do not manage to meet/find suitable partners (as our long working hours hardly leaves much free time to lead a sound & healthy private/social lives) and for those who manages to find a partner have constant problems/fights/stress in our relationships due to negligible time we dedicate to our personal lives! No wonder MANY young scientists often end up being single or paired up with OTHER scientists as the only possible partners one can meet or who can understand the reasons for the lack of free time! Is this not a matter of great pity & shame for the scientific system? The perpetual mobility expected for a successful scientific career & short-term stipends cause major negative impacts on our personal lives like – not be able to settle down with a partner (most nonscientific partners want to settle down at ONE place and can’t keep hopping around the world, most of them can also not work all over the world as many qualifications for eg those typical for Germany are not internationally accepted (and vice versa many international qualifications are not accepted in Germany), often causing non-scientific partners to become unemployed during the years of mobility (which is often detrimental to their careers & also selfish from the scientific partner to expect). This is specially problematic when the non-scientific partner has a better salary (MOST of the TIMES) and thus the major source of our livelihood is lost due to such incompatibility in professions caused by the mobility (expected by the funding agencies)! Of course this often causes broken relationships/ marriages, when the non-scientific partner is not ready to give up their career, which is very much understandable, but becomes unavoidable if the scientific partner needs to pursue mobility to fulfill the grant criterion! Hence unhappy personal lives of scientists begin. Besides professional problems, mobility also causes scientists to plan personal lives like – family planning (getting kids), settling down (to feel at home and have a sense of belonging to a city/lab), gain some financial security (like buying whatever property one can afford from the poor earnings as a scientist). And for those who are having kids its even more difficult with the whole mobility aspect, as moving countries with small kids with new schools, environments and life-styles is a highly stressful. In short we feel afraid/insecure that inspite of making all the above sacrifices (NOT USUALLY DEMANDED by other professions), we will one day be in our mid 40s, without a permanent position (not even Scientific Staff), hence UNEMPLOYED but OVERQUALIFIED for the rest of the jobs, and have a FAMILY of kids and an unemployed non-scientific partner (who sacrificed MOSTLY her/sometimes HIS career for our constant stints of “mobility” with the hope to BUILD my career)! We hope that the readers of this letter can understand the gravity and seriousness of our concerns and will be convinced to take necessary steps to improve the situation of work and life of the young scientists in the GAS! Before we end, we agree that many of our statements might have been perceived as purely emotional outburst & frustration laden criticism to certain readers (Univ Prof/MPI Directors) who might find them uncomfortable, but then we are human after all and we don’t think there is anything wrong in freely communicating human problems and issues with other humans with the hope of being humanly heard and the rightful to be done in a human way! Furthermore if someone feels uncomfortable then it shows that there is something WRONG about the whole issue and it causes them to be uncomfortable while deep down in their hearts they know well that there is truth in our raised points and its not right the way they are being allowed to go on as now! Not just the raised problems, some readers might find many of the suggested solutions as restrains on/questioning their authority, which shows that they DO ADMIT/FEEL that they DO wield some sort of authority/power/sense of control over the issues which is probably not the way science should be RUN! And just because Science has grown into this ugly affair as depicted above, with ‘big-shot’ Profs/Directors running the show & jeopardizing the lives of millions of young scientists without any control (till now), does not mean that things should continue to run in the same chaotic, UNSUSTAINABLE way. ENOUGH is ENOUGH! Its time to change the system for greater good of the scientific community. Science ORIGINALLY was the endeavor to unravel the secrets of nature and generate technological advances for the betterment of this world and NOT an industry monopolized by paid publishing of ‘PUBLISHABLE research’ often “generated” by the exploitation of young scientists paid on short-term stipends/contracts and expected to constantly hops labs, until mid 40s before they end up without a permanent job to be thrown out of the GAS! Please do the necessary to make Science the holy discipline of pure reason based on the pillars of genuine curiosity, reproducible experimentations and freely shared knowledge! Thank you for reading and feel free to share with all those who might be relevant! Sincerely, A random bunch of ‘young scientists’ from the MPI BPC.