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Career options for scientists

Biological age or academic age?

In my office I find the application of a female academic in her early forties. The file feels heavy, 22 pages. Once I see that she is applying for a full professorship, I also know why. Fortunately, there is a table of contents, telling me what to expect at one quick glance.

By now she has been unsuccessfully applying for positions as a professor or team leader for two years. As an example, she has attached a job posting she applied for. She didn´t even get invited for an interview, although she thought she was perfect for the position.

Career options for scientists

I immediately jump to item no. 7, the list of publications, which is still the most important selection criterion in academia. 13 papers, of which she was the primary author on 8. The really big journals, like Nature or Science, are not among them, but the journals in which she has published are definitely respectable. I flip back to the section “Education and academic career”: She had started writing her PhD thesis in 2000. 13 publications in 16 years, that is probably not enough to show for when applying for a full professorship, I think to myself, perhaps even the reason why her application didn’t make the cut. Then I start working my way through the documents. On page 5, I come across the section “Maternity and parental leave”.

She had been on maternity leave for 10 months for each of her two children. In the fine print, I discover the following footnote: “Since 2009, I have been working part-time (65%).”…

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