DORA … are we getting there?

Yes, we probably all agree that we should evaluate research quality and not quantity. DORA works in that direction, but it avoids specifying what quality means. Perhaps we can even trust each other to identify ‘quality’ and ‘excellence’ just like that.

But consider the following guidelines:

  • “The total number of publications or the number of publications per year is not considered to be the only indicator of performance.”
  • “Each applicant may list up to 10 scientific publications.”

Both of these are attempts to put DORA into practice. In the former, the number of publications per year cannot be used as the sole indicator (“not the only indicator”). In the latter, we actually remove the possibility to do the former (unless we’re evaluating researchers with fewer than 10 outputs).

I don’t know… I’m not convinced we’re changing much other than how we structure CVs and what we highlight. And thinking about it prospectively (early career researchers; planning what research to focus on), can we even guess which research (output) will have a “big” impact on other researchers or society?

Academia: reduce your working hours to get more work done⸮⸮⸮

I sometimes love how honest guides to academic “careers” can be. Take this description of a lecturer position (maître assistant):

In some departments, lecturers can obtain a reduction in their working hours in the final year of their contract so that they can devote more time to developing their research dossier. It’s worth obtaining information from colleagues about the department’s practices and where necessary negotiating a reduction.
“career advice” for lecturers

I realize this particular information is no longer updated, but the advice is quite simple: reduce your working hours to get more work done! Makes perfect sense⸮⸮⸮

It’s quite an honest description, though: temporary posts are dangerous and may undermine an academic career.

If you feel that your administrative responsibilities are jeopardising the development of your research dossier, you must have the courage to renegotiate your workload as soon as possible as temporary posts are dangerous and may undermine an academic career.
temporary posts are dangerous!

OK, but doesn’t this make you wonder why universities actually offer these positions that by their own admission are “dangerous” for a career, that do not include enough paid hours to get your work done? This particular guide suggests that lecturers “must take precautions against being overwhelmed by student supervision” and, better still, they “renegotiate your workload as soon as possible” — as if such a renegotiation were realistically possible.

It probably makes economic sense to have this kind of jobs, but if universities were seriously against precarious positions and exploitation, perhaps they could tackle this kind of position — maybe jointly with “part-time” PhD positions? Just an idea.

Inspiration for a career in academia

Scientia Futura provides inspiration for a career in academia, especially for women in the social sciences and humanities. Excellent initiative and very interesting and insightful interviews with outstanding scholars in the field. As it’s focused on inspiration, we don’t need that bit about survivorship bias.

Seeking blog contributions: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Junior Researchers

The NCCR on the move is going to run a blog series on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on junior researchers. This is your opportunity to tell the world how Covid-19 disrupted mobility and may have disrupted your career.

The full call is here: https://nccr-onthemove.ch/events/disrupted-mobilities-disrupted-careers-the-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-junior-researchers/ — write them until 4 December 2020 if you’re interested.

The focus is on early career researchers as the most vulnerable among the academic tribe, often in precarious positions and apparently pushed to international mobility to hopefully get ahead.