The Board of Die Junge Akademie
We want to take this opportunity to state our position on the situation of advanced postdocs and group leaders (i.e. researchers in category R31) in temporary positions within the German research system. In Germany, this group of researchers is often amalgamated with researchers who have only developed limited research independence (e.g. at the doctorate or early postdoc phase) in one joint category for “early career researchers”. This categorisation does not make sense, for example, when considering how appropriate it is for positions to be temporary.
Positions being made temporary beyond the early postdoc phase results in problems for individual researchers and the German research system as a whole. These problems are not new and have been well documented especially given that they impact negatively on how competitive the German research system is on a global scale.
The precarious situation in which these researchers find themselves is a well-known structural problem that has not been sufficiently prioritised thus far in terms of finding a solution. As it stands, researchers cannot reliably plan out their career paths and the associated risks are being borne by those individuals rather than at the institutional level.
It is highly unlikely that there is a quick win that could be applied to all disciplines across the board to solve this problem. For that reason, we do not back the recommendation to rely on the model of a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, we are in favour of an open, solution-oriented debate and permanent academic restructuring. Advanced postdocs and group leaders need to be involved in this process for it to prove fruitful.
For us, it is a matter of urgency that researchers in temporary positions should be fully involved in any future structural decisions about careers in research rather than being overlooked and excluded from that decision-making process. This applies to consultation processes for future legal framework conditions and their implementation at German higher education institutions and other research organisations.