Crisis conditions for young researchers – after twelve years it is over

Am Wilhelm-Ostwald-Institut für Physikalische und Theoretische Chemie der Universität Leipzig arbeitet der 33-jährige Chemiker Dr. Jonas Warneke mit den Mitgliedern seiner Nachwuchsforschergruppe, der Chemikerin Ziyan Warneke und Dipl. Physiker Harald Knorke (l-r) an einem Ionen-Depositions Instrument zum Abscheiden gasförmiger Ionen auf Oberflächen. (picture alliance / dpa / Waltraud Grubitzsch)

Amri Bahr in conversation with Nicole Ditmer

Young scientists are highly motivated. But their future is often uncertain. (symbol picture) (picture combine / dpa / Waltraud Grubitzsch)

Many students dream of a career in science, even becoming a professor. In reality, the offspring are turned away by fixed-term contracts. Young researcher Amrei Bahr says this has fatal consequences for German science.

For many students, “scientist” is a dream job. But the road to your career goal of professorship or research group leader is rocky. If you want to pursue a career in science, you will need to expect a number of fixed-term contracts.

Years ago the federal government stipulated that young academics could be employed with fixed-term contracts for a maximum of six years prior to and six years after their doctorate. Official reason: A large number of permanent employees stifled the scientific system – and this is an obstacle to innovation in research and development.

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After twelve years it’s over for most people if they haven’t gotten hold of at least one junior professor by then. Because open-ended contracts as researchers without a professor are extremely rare.

Many young scientists in waiting position

This is in contrast to a sharp increase in the number of scientific workforce, such as A current report from the Federal Ministry of Research (BMBF) revealsIn universities, the number of academic and artistic workers under the age of 35 without a professor increased by 78 percent between 2005 and 2018. In the 35 to 45 age group, that too without a professor, the increase was 43 percent.

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The long-running dispute between the affected and the BMBF is now boiling. He finds expression on Twitter under the hashtag #IchBinHanna, among other things. The name refers to a young researcher whom the BMBF used as an example to explain its law on fixed-term contracts.

PhD Philosopher Amrei Bahri Belongs to the great army of women scientists working precariously. He is one of the initiators of #ichBinHanna. She herself finances her research life with two 50 percent jobs at the University of Düsseldorf. During her doctoral thesis, she temporarily received unemployment benefits as there was no follow-up contract initially.

“The problem is not only with no employment protections for employees, but also that research and teaching suffer from the fact that highly qualified people with many skills and expertise are left out of the system,” Bahr emphasized.

Some fall into the pit after twelve years

Existential fears are pre-planned, so starting a family is also an unsafe affair. Eventually, some people fall into a deep hole after a total of twelve years: with no opportunity in science and almost too old to start something new outside the free economy.

Explaining the problem, Amrei Bahr says, above all, universities are short of funds, with a large portion of research funding coming from project-related third-party funding – which is then used to fund positions. goes. This infamous, often leads to series contracts of only six months for doctoral students and postdocs.

It’s About More Than Employment Contracts

There is certainly an open ear to the problem in politics – this has become evident in the present day in the Bundestag, where the topic was discussed.

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Bahr hopes that initiatives like #IchBinHanna can show that it is not just about improving working conditions in science, but the sustainability and innovation of science depend on it.


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