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Key Structural Issues

Issue #1

That as the Academy trains its own workforce the transition from PhD to employment disguises organizational practices that in other circumstances would be found to be unacceptable – the liminal doctoral and post-doctoral population defines industrial and professional practice as it both disguises inequitable employment practices relating to casual staff and also diffuses systematic identification of real academic workforce needs in terms of facilities, resources and staff development. Moreover the nature of the employment conditions and prospects of this ‘contingent workforce’ are not well-understood, or even known, to commencing PhD students, the majority of whom continue to aspire to academic roles.

Issue #2

That the focus in the literature on organizational culture and ‘biological clocks,’ more recently framed as ‘the baby penalty’ while real and important, has distracted from the importance of employment practices and the impact of widespread insecure and fixed-term employment in the sector.

Issue # 3

That contrary to the established literature a significant proportion of women (and men) do not ‘quit’ science. Rather they remain committed to science (focus group data) and they continue to use their knowledge and skills. This raises questions re ‘the leaky pipeline’ Mason (2010) versus socially constructed (Metcalf, 2010) concepts of science. Survey and focus group data provide a strong narrative about continuing commitment to science. (Case and Richley, 2014) propose the concept of ‘organic branching’ strongly interfaced with family formation.

Issue # 4

That, given the increasingly complexity and rapidly evolving nature of science research the highly individualistic model of ‘heroic science’ is no longer the most appropriate or adaptive. As recently proposed by Kevin Ashton, in ‘How to Fly a Horse’ we need to redefine the nature of the ‘ideal science researcher’ and recognise that the small cohort of elite scientists are only one component of a larger and critically important science workforce that share different priorities and embrace different modes of working.

Women in the Science Research Workforce: Identifying and Sustaining the Diversity Advantage, was funded as an ARC Linkage project 2011-2014 (LP110200480).
Project Cis were Professor Sharon Bell and Professor Lyn Yates. The project was hosted by the University of Melbourne.