3 years ago

A survey of working conditions within biomedical research in the United Kingdom [version 3; referees: 2 approved]

Nick Riddiford
Background: Recent articles have presented a bleak view of career prospects in biomedical research in the US. Too many PhDs and postdocs are trained for too few research positions, creating a “holding-tank” of experienced senior postdocs who are unable to get a permanent position. Coupled with relatively low salaries and high levels of pressure to publish in top-tier academic journals, this has created a toxic environment that is perhaps responsible for a recently observed decline in biomedical postdocs in the US, the so-called “postdocalypse”. Methods: To address the gulf of information relating to working habits and attitudes of UK-based academic biomedical researchers, a link to an online survey was included in an article published in the Guardian newspaper. Survey data were collected between 21st March 2016 and 6th November 2016 and analysed to examine discrete profiles for three major career stages: PhD, postdoc and principal investigator. Results: Overall, the data presented here echo trends observed in the US: The 520 UK-based biomedical researchers responding to the survey reported feeling disillusioned with academic research, due to the low chance of getting a permanent position and the long hours required at the bench. Also like the US, large numbers of researchers at each distinct career stage are considering leaving biomedical research altogether. Conclusions: There are several systemic flaws in the academic scientific research machine – for example the continual overproduction of PhDs and the lack of stability in the early-mid stages of a research career - that are slowly being addressed in countries such as the US and Germany. These data suggest that similar flaws also exist in the UK, with a large proportion of respondents concerned about their future in research. To avoid lasting damage to the biomedical research agenda in the UK, addressing such concerns should be a major priority.

Publisher URL: https://f1000research.com/articles/6-229/v3

DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.11029.3

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