Jobs gloom

June 11, 2004

In response to Julia Goodfellow ("Women told to find 'lab of their own' to succeed", June 4), I would love to have a lab of my own and a grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to fund research in it after five years of postdoctoral work.

How, though, am I supposed to do this without a permanent academic appointment at a well-regarded university? In a recent round of appointments at my present university, there were 209 applicants for a lectureship in biological sciences. Reports from other institutions offering these rare opportunities for junior lecturers suggest similar application levels.

Research assessment exercise pressure on institutions has resulted in many appointments being made at professorial rather than lectureship level. It has also led to the appointment of scientists in fields that are likely to make research headlines, rather than the hiring of biologists who can maintain a balance of research that can deliver a broad learning experience to the next generation of undergraduates.

There are many male postdocs in the same position as myself - working in areas regarded as "unsexy" by funding councils, in small research groups, which inherently limits the length of one's list of publications, and joining the large group of people chasing too few jobs.

I don't see my gender as inhibiting my career progression; I have no children or dependants and I don't lack self-confidence. Lack of opportunity to get on to the career ladder seems to be the problem, not lack of drive to succeed when on the bottom rung.

Carol Wagstaff
School of Biological Sciences
Royal Holloway, University of London

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