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The share of doctorate level attainment across the OECD is increasing fast. Many young doctorate holders are joining a growing contingent of postdoctoral researchers on fixed-term contracts without permanent or continuous employment prospects – the research precariat. The deterioration of the working conditions of these researchers raises issues of their wellbeing, the diversity of the research workforce and the attractiveness of the academic research career to national and international talent. At the seminar, I will present work in progress that seeks to answer the following question: how to promote better management of academic research careers to address the current challenges and ultimately improve the quality of research being produced. To answer the question, information on OECD countries’ policies was sourced from: the international database on Science, Technology and Innovation policies – STIP Compass, information provided by 15 countries specifically for this project, and follow-up interviews with policy officials, funders, employers of researchers, and representatives of researchers, in 11 countries, at the European level and with the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC). The data collection protocols were based on the conceptual framework developed for the project, which resulted from a literature review and analysis of existing data. We found a number of challenges relating to a longer postdoctoral period on fixed-term contracts, outdated career structures, unstructured postdoctoral phase, excessive dependency on senior researchers, late selection into the career, low inter-sectoral mobility, incompatibility of family life and academic career, negative effects of international mobility, under-developed human resource management in institutions, and poor evidence base regarding the career trajectories and experience of doctorate holders. The covid-19 pandemic has added to the sense of insecurity and the need to safeguard the research pipeline and pre-empt the loss of research talent. We will finish by presenting a number of initiatives being taken to address these challenges and discussing the factors enabling or hindering their effectiveness.
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