Now it is no surprise that the freshly minted ECR is turned out into the world to navigate the big bad academic terrain alone. Some may be lucky enough to have the continued support of their supervisors and may even have short term positions within an institution, where it is easier to access support. BUT even this “support” comes with caveats.
If anyone else is like me, then we have many hungry ECRs desperate to strengthen their profile. And we all know this means gaining experience in the big 3 areas: research, teaching and administration. One obvious path is to write a successful funding application that allows for this, but once again, there are a limited number of funders who will actually support a lone ECR.
So what to do?
This is where all the strategic networking we were encouraged to do comes in handy. Collaboration with more senior academic staff members who can apply for such funds could be the first step into an academic position. I have tried to write the realities of the numerous problems with this solution several times, but I fear this is one confession too many…for the moment!
This process may seem like a quick and easy move into the academic world, but it is filled with a number of ethical issues. And the ECR will NOT receive any more support for additional academic services, even if they do win a fund.
Here is the real kicker! At the end of the day, senior academic staff members are under pressure to do their own teaching, admin and research work with little time to apply for funds to employ the next generation of ECRs. On one side of the coin senior staff are overworked and on the other, ECRs have no work.
Doesn’t anyone else not see the solution here? There has to be a way to eliviate the pressure for all and surely it means a change in the funding sphere to allow ECRs to have access to apply with institution support. I understand the issue with that: what if the ECR no longer has a home institution. But this is where affiliate status and finding the right mentor could start to mean something more!
The point here is the system as it stands is not working. Academia is a massive stresspot that is boiling over and at some point something needs to happen to make it stop or the whole thing will go up in flames.