Emerging scientists struggle to find post-doc workPublish By NZweek News Staff Updated 20/04/2012 1:31 pm in NZ News / no comments
New Zealand has a funding system that rewards universities for training PhDs but discourages the employment of post doctorates. That is the criticism of Dr Melanie Massaro, author of an open letter to the government last year, challenging the government to create better employment opportunities for new and emerging researchers. Dr Massaro was speaking this week at a New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) conference. After outlining the struggle to cross the post-doctoral void to full employment, Dr Massaro compared post-doctoral fellowships to helicopters that carry PhD researchers over the void, to a position where they are able to compete with the overseas- trained scientists arriving on the international jumbo jet.
“We need more helicopters and we need them urgently.”
Dr Massaro’s challenge was exemplified later that night on TV3 with the story of Oxford University doctoral graduate Jo Chapman who has been unable to find permanent work in her field of expertise since returning to New Zealand.
Last week Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce responded to some of these concerns by proposing changes to the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships to repatriate overseas post-doctoral researchers and ensure post-doctoral researchers within New Zealand have sufficient opportunity to stay in the country.
Science reporter Peter Griffin said the general tone at the conference seemed to be that the minister’s changes were “merely tinkering at the edges” and they don’t address the deeper issue that opportunities for emerging scientists including those wanting to come back to New Zealand to continue their careers, are very limited, and that New Zealand underspends on postgraduate fellowships to the detriment of the science system.
Mr Griffin said that emerging scientists still had numerous issues with the newly established Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, including that the fellowships were available to scientists more advanced in their careers, potentially shutting out early and mid-career scientists who need financial support from beyond a scientific institution while they establish themselves in research.