25 November 2014 Leave a comment
This post started life as a talk for the National Tertiary Education Union conference on Insecure Work. Thanks to the National Tertiary Education Union for inviting the Research Whisperer to be part of the conference, and for paying for my airfare and accommodation.
In the United States, in biotechnology research, a precipitous increase in PhD numbers over the last few years has resulted in unsustainable numbers of post-doc applicants.
People over there are calling it the #postdocalypse (figure 1). I want to use that as a jumping-off point for talking about insecure work in the research sector in Australia.
The situation in Australia is different to the USA. I’m looking mostly at contract research staff. That is, I’m looking at people who have insecure work, rather than people who are trying to get work. I do acknowledge, though, that the situation generally isn’t as dire as in the US. I haven’t heard of any postdocs here who are living out of thier cars. If you declare bankruptcy here, your student debt is wiped out, just like all your other debt.
Still, our data doesn’t look good, whichever way you look at it.
Australia is currently experiencing the lowest level of government funding for research since we started keeping statistics in 1979 (figure 2).
I’m always hopeful that we will convince the government to restore funding to CSIRO, the CRC program, and to research areas other than medicine. Read more of this post