Early Career Researchers – Uncertain lives in an intermediary zone

In recent years there has been growing attention to the quality of life in academic research with particular attention to career perspectives. One the one hand, attention has been focused on the phase of the PhD (e.g. Nature surveys and regular reports on the well-being of PhDs) and identified it as a moment of deep ambivalence where enthusiasm and commitment to research often goes hand in hand with high levels of anxiety and distress, causing mental health issues. Solutions have been discussed through creating improved mentorship and other support structures. On the other hand, career structures have been in focus, in particular the paths to more stable employment situations e.g. through creating tenure systems and scrutinizing selection mechanisms. Much less attention was so far devoted to postdocs. Only last year, for example, the journal Nature did its first ever survey on the situation of postdocs in research which brought to light a number of issues which demand close attention – the post-doc phase seems to become the tipping point where academia might lose some of its brightest minds.

Thinking about sustainable academia, this panel aims to focus on this “intermediary zone” of being no longer PhD and not-yet on a tenure track. This can last considerably long, plays a key role in the process of selecting future researchers and thus deserves closer reflection. We will do so by exploring three sets of questions:

  • What degrees of flexibilities (e.g. in terms of temporal structures, mobility, productivity) are essential to assure that this phase of academic life is fulfilling for early career researchers?
  • Is the logic of “up or out” the right way to imagine careers in academic research or do we need more diverse career paths?
  • What kind of support and funding structures are needed to assure that this phase is productive?

Dr. Donia Lasinger

Deputy Managing Director at WWTF – Vienna Science and Technology Fund

Donia Lasinger is deputy managing director of the Vienna Science and Technology Funds (WWTF). She is mainly responsible for the career program “Vienna Research Groups for Young Investigators”, a prestigious grant for young excellent researchers from abroad to give them the opportunity to lead their first own group in Vienna. In addition to her funding activities, she is also involved in studies, evaluations and consulting activities at WWTF GmbH and manages various projects, including the EU-funded GEECCO and Co-Change projects in the field of gender mainstreaming and further RRI topics like open innovation. She studied business sciences in Austria and Ireland and specialized in strategy and innovation management. During and after her doctoral studies she worked as strategy and management consultant on a national and international level. Her main competences include expertise in innovation management, strategic development and research and innovation.

Dr. Jürgen Janger

Deputy Director at WIFO – Austrian Institute of Economic Research

Jürgen Janger is Deputy Director for research coordination at WIFO (Austrian Institute of Economic Research). His main research interests are the relationship between innovation and education, innovation policy, business-science links and research organisation as well as career structures in academic research. His projects deal with studies and evaluations at the regional, national and European level. In the FP7-funded research project “WWWforEurope” and in the EC-funded studies “Mobility of Researchers” he has looked at the attractiveness of the European Research Area. He obtained his MSc from the London School of Economics and his PhD from the Vienna University of Business Administration and Economics. He is the author of numerous presentations and journal publications, such as in Research Policy, Higher Education and Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Prof. Alan Irwin

Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Alan Irwin is a professor in the Department of Organization at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). He has previously served as an academic dean at three universities across the UK and Denmark. He has been Acting President and Vice-President at CBS and a head of department at Brunel University. His PhD is from the University of Manchester and he has held academic positions at Manchester, Brunel and Liverpool. He is currently the principal investigator on a research project examining research and innovation policies in China, Denmark and the USA. He is also completing a book on the societal impact of business school research. He has published in Environment and Planning A, Research Policy, Minerva, Public Understanding of Science, Science, Technology, & Human Values, Social Studies of Science and The Sociological Review, amongst others.  

Prof. Eva Fodor

Co-director, Democracy Institute, Central European University, Vienna

Eva Fodor is Professor of Gender Studies and Co-Director of the Democracy Institute at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research work is focused on topics related to gender inequality, labor markets and welfare states in post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe. Her most recent articles address the concept and practice of the motherhood penalty, informality in the implementation of work/life balance policies and the impact of the COVID epidemic on the distribution of childcare labor in families. In a forthcoming book, she analyzes “The Gender Regime of Anti-Liberal Hungary” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2021). She is the founding director of CEU’s Institute for Advanced Study and between 2016-2020 she served as the Pro-Rector for Social Sciences and Humanities at the Central European University.

Prof. Jean Robert Tyran

Vice Rector, University of Vienna

Jean-Robert Tyran is Vice-Rector for Research and International Affairs at the University of Vienna. During his service, he has chaired more than 100 hiring committees for tenure track assistant professors across a broad range of fields. He has implemented more than a dozen doctoral schools and has designed new programs to promote early-stage researchers (e.g., the Schlick career-development programme for post docs), and junior female researchers (e.g., the Marie Jahoda Programme to bring women back to research). Jean-Robert Tyran is also professor of public economics at the University of Vienna, director of the Vienna Center for Experimental Economics, and part-time Professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen. Before moving to U Vienna in 2010, he was at U Copenhagen since 2004, and at U St. Gallen since 1997. He has earned his PhD in economics at the U of Zurich finishing in 1997.