Science as a temporary job (and current)

Science as a temporary job (and current)

The cold must end and the university landscape should reopen

Photo: DPA / Sebastian Golno

“Lots of flowers bloom!” In this way Oliver Gunther, president of the University of Potsdam, led his guest commentary in “Deutsche Universit├Ątszitung”. In this he warned in 2018 that the German chair system should be carelessly replaced by the US departmental structure.

He knew that his title was reminiscent of a slogan from the Chinese head of state Mao from 1956 (“blossoms a hundred flowers”). However, he by no means wanted the way it ended in 1957, assuring Gunther on Tuesday evening. The Chinese people had sincerely taken the invitation to speak very seriously. So the campaign came to a standstill. Those who came forward with much criticism faced great difficulties.

But no one should put their opinion behind the mountain on Tuesday. opposite of this. The conversation between Oliver Gunther and Tillman Ritz from the Network for Good Work in Science has been explicitly declared as a controversy. Gunther and Ritz agree on some points. Gunther confirms that something will have to change. During doctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley, he himself discovered the chair system during industrial engineering studies and department composition at the University of Karlsruhe.

The structural question is something for experts. But it also revolves around many fixed-term contracts in universities. Finally, the Brandenburg Coalition was invited to the “Deadline Frustration” controversy – according to a self-report, “the unification of trade unions and unions to fight against fixed-period unrest in Brandenburg universities”.

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Many young academics hold temporary positions for ten or 20 years. If they do not manage to occupy the post of a professor at some point, they are out and already at an age in which it is difficult or even impossible to start again. Many people end up in jobs that do not challenge them intellectually. But if science has not worked as a profession then they will have to earn money somehow.

But how can this be changed? Every year, a total of 3,000 open-ended positions are advertised in German universities and research institutes, but at the same time there are 25,000 doctorates, Oliver Gunther calculates. He feels that fewer doctorates will have to be allowed. “The hitch lies in the system.”

The university president regrets that the postponement of posts financed from third party funds is “budgetary loss”. “Because I don’t know if I’ll have money in the future.” When asked directly, Sonja Stack from the Verdi Service Union and Stephanie Sontag from the Education and Science Association asked her role as arbitrator of the debate. The unionist stack says, “When the order is over you don’t break a lab.” Therefore it will be quite possible to do research for an unlimited period, which will be paid for with third party funding. On Sunday you jump in, pointing out that the “core stock of regularly-earned third-party funding” is.

From the chat of the conversation, which was broadcast live on the Internet, comes the comment that the risk here is not greater for a university than automakers who do not know in advance how many cars they are selling. It is not at all comparable, Gunther gets upset. Companies may terminate employees if necessary for operational reasons. “We can do that and we don’t want that,” Gunther says. He also disagrees with the assessment that temporary positions are “uncertain” after completing his doctorate. According to Gunther, this formulation is “difficult” when paying according to tariff group 13 (more than 4000 euros per month).

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Tillman Ritz, however, clings to the word “indefinite” when it comes to perspective that after many years in science, you can end up with nothing. Gunther is in favor of banning these conditions. Anyone who has not made it after three or four years should leave immediately if they have time to set foot outside the scientific community.

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