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What are the biggest barriers facing young scientists?

Young scientists attending the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting highlight some of the biggest barriers they have faced during their academic career

  • Student life
Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

Seeta Bhardwa

Editor, THE Student
May 16 2017
Science research


Lack of funding and gender bias are among the biggest barriers faced by young scientists looking to continue their research and education, according to a survey of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students.

Some 420 young scientists, from 78 countries selected to participate in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting dedicated to chemistry, were asked a series of questions about their education so far. Their answers shed light on some of the challenges that students considering a career in science might encounter.

One of the biggest obstacles they identified related to financial restrictions – both because of personal reasons and through a lack of funding from institutions.

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In particular, students from Asia, South America and Africa identified finance as a concern, with some saying that research and science was not seen as the most prestigious career path in their country.

Sheela Chandran, a Malaysian student at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said that in her country, science was not “considered the most lucrative career” and that her family and society could not see how important science was in the world. She said this meant that she had to work to overturn these stereotypes in order to pursue her research.

Many of these respondents also stated that in order to continue with their studies they moved to the US or the UK to pursue their path as a science academic.

This is a decision that Felipe Jimenez Aspee is considering, having already moved from his hometown in Chile to study at the University of Talca. Now he and his wife have to decide whether to move abroad so that he can continue to further his career.

Florencia Marchini, from Argentina, studies at the University of Buenos Aires. She said that in order to pursue scientific research, she had to make financial and personal sacrifices. “A lot of time, money and determination is needed…you probably will always be underpaid, you will work extra hours every day, you will work at home on weekends, and so on. But there is something even more valuable [that happens]; you will be doing what you really like.”

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A number of female respondents said that they faced a gender bias – some on an almost daily basis – from others in their field.  

“Being a woman in science, especially in an area that is more physics-oriented, where men are more dominant, has been very difficult. I constantly have to prove myself to show that I am just as capable, if not more, as a woman in science,” said Hannah Noa Barad, a student at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Marian Nkansah from Ghana, studying at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, said that there were no “female role models in my field of study”.

Interestingly, many students from the US, Europe and Canada left the question about barriers and restrictions blank, suggesting that young scientists in these regions face fewer barriers to education.

The students were also asked which scientific or societal topics were dearest to their hearts, and many of the female respondents said that they would like to see more women in science. In fact, diversity of academics in science was one of the key issues that many of the respondents identified.

More information on the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings can be viewed hereThe scientists in the survey consisted of undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral students, all under the age of 35.

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