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Postdoctoral Life Scientists and Supervision Work in the Contemporary University: A Case Study of Changes in the Cultural Norms of Science

Mueller, Ruth LU (2014) In Minerva 52(3). p.329-349
Abstract
This paper explores the ways in which postdoctoral life scientists engage in supervision work in academic institutions in Austria. Reward systems and career conditions in academic institutions in most European and other OECD countries have changed significantly during the last two decades. While an increasing focus is put on evaluating research performances, little reward is attached to excellent performances in mentoring and advising students. Postdoctoral scientists mostly inhabit fragile institutional positions and experience harsh competition, as the number of available senior positions is small compared to that of young scientists striving for an academic career. To prevail in this competition, publications and mobility are key.... (More)
This paper explores the ways in which postdoctoral life scientists engage in supervision work in academic institutions in Austria. Reward systems and career conditions in academic institutions in most European and other OECD countries have changed significantly during the last two decades. While an increasing focus is put on evaluating research performances, little reward is attached to excellent performances in mentoring and advising students. Postdoctoral scientists mostly inhabit fragile institutional positions and experience harsh competition, as the number of available senior positions is small compared to that of young scientists striving for an academic career. To prevail in this competition, publications and mobility are key. Educational work is rarely rewarded. Nevertheless, postdocs play a key role in educating PhD students, as overburdened senior scientists often pass on practical supervision duties to their postdoctoral fellows. This paper shows how under these conditions, postdocs reframe the students they supervise as potential resources for co-authored publications. What might look like a mutually beneficial solution at a first glance, in practice implies the subordination of the values of education to the logic of production, which marginalizes spaces primarily devoted to education. The author argues that conflicts like this are indicative of broader changes in the cultural norms of science and academic citizenship, rendering community-oriented tasks such as education work less attractive to academic scientists. Since education and supervision work are central cornerstones of any functioning higher education and research system, this could have negative repercussions for the long-term development of academic institutions. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
academic citizenship, academic career, science policy, higher education, postdocs, life sciences
in
Minerva
volume
52
issue
3
pages
329 - 349
publisher
Springer
external identifiers
  • wos:000340887700002
  • scopus:84957427125
ISSN
1573-1871
DOI
10.1007/s11024-014-9257-y
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
c3761da3-6200-4051-98bf-8a63e27b080b (old id 4191904)
date added to LUP
2013-12-06 09:20:39
date last changed
2017-11-05 03:15:44
@article{c3761da3-6200-4051-98bf-8a63e27b080b,
  abstract     = {This paper explores the ways in which postdoctoral life scientists engage in supervision work in academic institutions in Austria. Reward systems and career conditions in academic institutions in most European and other OECD countries have changed significantly during the last two decades. While an increasing focus is put on evaluating research performances, little reward is attached to excellent performances in mentoring and advising students. Postdoctoral scientists mostly inhabit fragile institutional positions and experience harsh competition, as the number of available senior positions is small compared to that of young scientists striving for an academic career. To prevail in this competition, publications and mobility are key. Educational work is rarely rewarded. Nevertheless, postdocs play a key role in educating PhD students, as overburdened senior scientists often pass on practical supervision duties to their postdoctoral fellows. This paper shows how under these conditions, postdocs reframe the students they supervise as potential resources for co-authored publications. What might look like a mutually beneficial solution at a first glance, in practice implies the subordination of the values of education to the logic of production, which marginalizes spaces primarily devoted to education. The author argues that conflicts like this are indicative of broader changes in the cultural norms of science and academic citizenship, rendering community-oriented tasks such as education work less attractive to academic scientists. Since education and supervision work are central cornerstones of any functioning higher education and research system, this could have negative repercussions for the long-term development of academic institutions.},
  author       = {Mueller, Ruth},
  issn         = {1573-1871},
  keyword      = {academic citizenship,academic career,science policy,higher education,postdocs,life sciences},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {329--349},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  series       = {Minerva},
  title        = {Postdoctoral Life Scientists and Supervision Work in the Contemporary University: A Case Study of Changes in the Cultural Norms of Science},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11024-014-9257-y},
  volume       = {52},
  year         = {2014},
}