As in other fields of work, the COVID-19 pandemic also has a strong impact on science and research. Especially early career researchers and those with (child-)care obligations are severely affected by this unprecedented situation. We addressed this topic among the Steering Group of the Leibniz PostDoc Network and developed an open letter to raise awareness for these struggles and initiate an open discussion. In the name of the Leibniz PostDoc Network, its spokeswomen sent the following letter to Leibniz President Prof. Kleiner and Secretary General Dr. Böhm on May 20, 2020:
Dear President Prof. Dr.-Ing. Kleiner,
Dear Secretary General Dr. Böhm,
We write on behalf of the Leibniz PostDoc Network to enquire about possible contingency plans for Postdoctoral Researchers within Leibniz Institutes across Germany.
As we all face increasing uncertainties due to the developing COVID-19 pandemic, the already tenuous nature of Postdoctoral Research short-term contracts and uncertainty facing researchers in these positions has been amplified. We have heard of varied impacts amongst the Postdoctoral Researchers within the Leibniz PostDoc Network. While some researchers are able to do most of their work primarily at home, others within our network have had essential fieldwork activities canceled or major experiments halted. This is particularly concerning as Postdoctoral Research projects are usually planned with a tight timeline, and the respective working contracts are often relatively short. Any delay in progression will have a significant impact on career prospects. Similarly, many Postdoctoral Researchers with children and other dependents have been heavily affected by closed schools and daycare facilities, and work from home has been severely affected.
Currently, the major third-party funding agencies are all in the process of developing a plan to support Postdoctoral Researchers through this pandemic. On May 7, the German Bundestag passed a law that extended the maximum duration of scientific qualification periods as defined by the WissZeitVG by six months. Within the Leibniz PostDoc Network, we have been brainstorming how to best stand in solidarity with Postdoctoral Researchers during this time. Specifically, we are writing to request that the Leibniz Association helps with the application for hardship funds by providing a support letter for affected Postdoctoral Researchers.
We would be especially eager to continue discussions on how to best support Postdoctoral Researchers within the Leibniz Institutes and aid in developing rough guidelines. In particular, we would like to work together with the Leibniz Association Head Office to advocate so that no individual Postdoctoral Researcher is disadvantaged in their career paths by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gitta Heinz & Lydia Repke
Spokeswomen of the Leibniz PostDoc Network
In response to this letter, the spokeswomen of the Leibniz PostDoc Network, Dr. Gitta Heinz and Dr. Lydia Repke, have been kindly invited to a video conference with Prof. Kleiner and Dr. Böhm to discuss the concerns of early career researchers in more detail. We really appreciate the attention the topic receives by the Leibniz Association, and we will report on the outcome of this meeting and the current developments in this blog and via our mailing list.
If you would like to share your experiences in how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your postdoctoral research, please do not hesitate to send us your perspective at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Leibniz PostDoc Network Steering Group