Built-in obsolescence

March 30, 2007

Much of the debate about the redeployment of postdocs displays a profound ignorance of the structure and mores of the postdoctoral research system.

Because their skills are often highly specialised, postdocs are being trained, and are thus expected, to display a significant element of independence.

The thought that principal investigators will be expected to take on redeployed postdocs who are lacking in these skills should be strangled at birth.

A vibrant system requires regular renewal, and an employment system designed to serve the needs of both service staff and postdocs identically is bound to fail.

A rational university realises that many postdocs will de facto become "redundant" by any narrow definition en route to other careers and, because paying such redundancy is a cost, will simply make this part of the full economic costing.

Flexibility and intelligence are required to make this happen, of course.

Douglas Kell
Manchester University

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