Improving research life for early career researchers
I recently joined the Pufendorf and LMK initative “Idéforum”: with 10 other early career researchers (ECR) from all but one faculty at LU, we went to Björkliden to discuss how to improve the way research is done. We quickly realized that despite the diversity of backgrounds, we had very similar experiences of what works, doesn’t work, and what should be improved for ECR. We identified three points, each corresponding to different levels of action and political decisions.
1. Clear career plan
There is a need for a clear career plan for researchers in Sweden, and Lund University in particular. The dependency on external funding for salaries create insecurity for researchers, which lead to a focus on short-term plans and instrumental approaches that are detrimental to the excellence of research. Departments and faculties should have a transparent hiring scheme that show clearly which fields and skills need strengthening, allowing junior researchers to plan accordingly.
2. Opportunities to develop ideas, set up projects and collaborations
Opportunities to develop ideas, set up projects and collaborations are lacking. Most funding is lumped in large amounts for research projects, which makes it impossible for ECR to develop small projects or explore new research tracks. We suggest that a University wide fund could be used for small-scale funding (e.g. project initiation, short-term visits and collaborations).
3. Underutilized existing material and intellectual resources
A large amount of the existing material and intellectual resources at LU are underutilized, because most of us do not know about them or cannot access them. Lack of information flow between departments and faculties could be improved through a centralized initiative. For instance, seminars are a key aspect of academic life, but many cross-overs between fields are missed by researchers because seminars are announced only at the department level. A campus wide seminar database or newsletter could allow everyone to identify where and when they want to access this rich pool of knowledge.
Note that this is not a translation of the official text published by LUM (and circulated amongst faculties); it is my subjective rendition of the group’s discussions.
About Paul Caplat
Paul Caplat is a research fellow at the Centre for Environmental and Climate research at Lund University, Sweden. He studies species' dynamics in response to global change: bird range-shifts in response to temperature range, bird community changes when forest roads are opened, trees invading semi-natural grasslands etc.