This post was written by Dr. Daniela Fiedler and Dr. Thomas Lösch, coordinators of the Working Group “WG1 PostDoc Survey”.
Leibniz PostDoc Network members and followers of our Blog or on Twitter might be aware that we’ve been double-jobbing for the last few months (how appropriate for PostDocs…). Firstly, we have been preparing for and then launched the 2nd Leibniz PostDoc Survey (check out our recent blog post for more information), which is still open until the 15th of January 2023 to all Leibniz PostDocs. Spread the word, because every response counts!
Secondly, we have finally published the Report of the first Leibniz PostDoc Survey via SSOAR, which means the report is available open access! For those of you who are interested, the full report can be read and downloaded here.
What was the first Leibniz PostDoc Survey about?
Postdoctoral researchers play a critical role in scientific research. However, for various reasons postdoctoral researchers are often overlooked or misrepresented as a relatively homogeneous group of researchers. A key challenge seems to be that there is no agreed upon definition of who a “postdoc” actually is. Therefore, the principal aims of the Leibniz PostDoc Survey was to firstly, understand who Leibniz PostDocs are and, secondly, attempt to provide some insight into their experiences, interests, and needs. This data would then allow us to identify areas for development that the Leibniz Association, Leibniz PostDoc Network, and Leibniz institutes can address together to improve the experiences of Leibniz PostDocs.
What are the key findings and recommendations?
In total, 816 respondents from all Leibniz Sections completed the first Leibniz PostDoc Survey. Although the exact number of Leibniz PostDocs is unknown, estimates suggest the respondents to the survey represent around 30%. Our demographic data confirms that Leibniz PostDocs are a diverse group of individuals in a wide range of personal and professional situations. However, they (as a group) still have common needs and problems. In the Report, we summarized three key findings and provide some recommendations of what we – as the Leibniz PostDoc Network – think should or could be next steps for changes in the Leibniz Association or Leibniz institutes.
A high number of questions were connected to the actual working situation, including information on working contracts, working hours, and tasks, as well as career goals and career development. What we found is that Leibniz PostDocs’ career paths are mainly designed to result in a professorship position – a goal that many Leibniz PostDocs neither want nor will realistically have the chance to obtain. Considering that the Leibniz Association is one of the leading scientific organizations in Germany and has the necessary means, we recommend a concerted effort from the Leibniz Association, Leibniz PostDoc Network, and Leibniz institutes working together to broaden career perspectives and options for Leibniz PostDocs.
A smaller but no less important proportion of questions dealt with aspects of good scientific practices, conflicts and discrimination. What we realized here is that conflict and workplace discrimination do not appear to be widespread issues within Leibniz institutes, but still seem to happen to a worrying degree. Particularly troublesome is the fact that of 129 respondents reporting workplace discrimination, 21% did not know who they could turn to for support. This suggests that the arrangements currently in place are, at best, not visible or, at worst, simply not working. We therefore recommend evaluating prevalent measures for prevention and intervention, such as what is needed to let people know where they can find help. In addition, we also suggest investigating cases that have already happened more closely to understand how the system can be improved for Leibniz PostDocs as well as other academic groups.
Leibniz institutes have a significant international footprint and regularly attract and recruit international postdoctoral researchers, who represent around 25% of respondents to the first Leibniz PostDoc Survey. Thus, several questions were designed to explore the experiences of international Leibniz PostDocs. Yet, our data shows that, despite being a relatively large group, local structures on the ground at Leibniz institutes seem poorly prepared to welcome and support international Leibniz PostDocs during their period of employment, resulting in international Leibniz PostDocs facing significant barriers especially in administration. International colleagues are a driving factor of the Leibniz Association’s innovative potential and directly contribute to the international reputation of the Leibniz Association. Because of that, we advise the implementation of more systematic and structured measures to support international scientists in Germany. These measures should include English translations of administrative documents (e.g., contracts or work agreement) that are tailored towards individuals not speaking German as well as considerations on daily communication.
What else can be found in the Report?
The above mentioned findings are our conclusions that can be drawn based on the collected data. However, in the Report we also provide the full results for each survey question organized by sections. For most survey questions, this includes providing descriptive statistics such as item mean (M) and standard deviation (SD) or by providing distribution information using frequencies in text or graphical plots, i.e., violin and bar plots. For a limited number of survey questions, we also performed linear regression analyses.
Overall, we had questions covering the following sections: (1) demographics, (2) contract and payments, (3) working hours and tasks, (4) career goals, (5) career development – experiences, (6) career development – superior and institutional support, (7) satisfaction and working situation, (8) good scientific practice, conflicts, and discrimination as well as (9) international Leibniz PostDocs
The Working Group “WG1 PostDoc Survey”
The group consists of passionate Leibniz PostDocs from diverse Leibniz Institutes working together to achieve a shared goal: Collect and provide data on Leibniz PostDocs to get an idea about who Leibniz PostDocs are and how they are doing at their Leibniz Institutes. Leibniz PostDocs responsible for the development, administration, and preparation of the report of the first survey are the current coordinators, Daniela Fiedler (IPN) and Thomas Lösch (DIPF), the two previous coordinators, Gundula Zoch (LIfBi & University of Oldenburg) and Johannes Breuer (GESIS) as well as the current and/or former team members Gitta Heinz (DRFZ), Tamara Heck (DIPF), Verónica Díez Díaz (MfN), Lydia Repke (GESIS), and Harry Williams (BNITM).
If you have any questions concerning the Report or would like to have a short presentation (of up to 15 minutes) of the findings and recommendations in your working group or institute, please reach out to the working group coordinators, Dr. Daniela Fiedler or Dr. Thomas Lösch.