Better work lives for starting STEMM researchers – learning about the world outside will help

STEMM early and mid-career researchers  love their work but have had it with their work environments by the time they complete their thesis or postdocs – even worse they worry they are not equipped for anywhere else

In Nature Human Behaviour, Kate Christian (QUT) and colleagues report the results of two surveys of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine students. They weren’t great in 2019 and worse in  2022.

 Last year, half reported daily stress and 60 per cent considered leaving. Around 70 per cent reported a lack of support from institutional leaders. But while many want out, they worry about where else they could work.

“They are focused on publishing and getting grants – there’s no encouragement to learn how to do anything else and they have no idea what is happening outside so they are unprepared for future careers” Dr Christian tells Future Campus.

It’s a challenge their research institutions are obliged to meet, “they have a moral responsibility to provide PhDs and post docs with better professional development and preparation for life inside and outside academia,” she says.

And government can help – just not in a way DVC Rs will welcome. Dr Christian argues research block grants for PhD programmes should be tied to graduate employment. As things stand, PhD students are cheap labour and there is pressure on supervisors to keep numbers up.

So, what is her message to new PhDs? “Understand that if you want to stay in academia it will be tough. There are other ways you can learn to be a scientist.”



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