Are Researchers fleeing academics? It sounds risky since a recent survey has highlighted the dissatisfactions, not just financially, of those working in academics. It is happening all over the globe, so what about Italy?
"The profession of researcher, in Italy, has never been a lucky choice: often brilliant minds are forced to 'emigrate' and to put their skills to the advantage of other countries" underlines Dr. Antonio Giordano, Founder and Director of the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine of the Temple University of Philadelphia and Professor of Anatomy and Pathological Histology at the University of Siena, who has known the problem ‘closely’ and analyzes the current situation, in the light of a recent international survey published in 'Nature'.
"The data from this recent survey indicate that scientists employed in the pharmaceutical industry are more satisfied, professionally as well as financially than those engaged in an academic career. And this is despite the fact that the pandemic has brought out the importance of scientific research ", highlights Dr. Antonio Giordano.
If the two worlds go hand in hand in the 2016 survey, "there will be a difference of 5 years". The survey carried out by the ‘Nature’ group included, statistically, that one-third of the researchers are actively working at companies and the remaining two-thirds are working in academics”, states Dr. Giordano.
Well, "what has emerged should alarm academic leaders around the world, given that the morale of the sector is deteriorating: for example, academics from 58 UK universities had organized a 3-day strike starting from December 1 due to an ongoing dispute over pay, working conditions and planned cuts to their pensions. Also in the UK, more than 1,000 lecturers and other members feel that university leaders are using the pandemic as a pretext for cost-cutting measures. "
"Unfortunately, the Nature article also underscores other inequalities in industry and education: about 30% of respondents in the academic world report discrimination, harassment, or bullying in the workplace, compared to 15% of those in the industry. Coincidentally, a research director at a global bioscience company said in an interview that about 60% of job applications come from academia and only a few percent of those go back to their previous jobs in academics.”
In short, if you decide to 'change your shirt', it is difficult in this sector. “The labor market economy could provide an explanation for the difference between the two, which is - higher salary and higher satisfaction of respondents working in the Industry sector. In fact, new pharmaceutical companies”, continues Dr. Antonio Giordano “that emerge every week, are in need of staff, and it is plausible that they offer high salaries and additional benefits precisely to attract valid candidates ".
“Public institutions, on the other hand, are generally poorer and full of brilliant and underpaid Ph.D. students and post-docs. This is why the 'stagnant' salary of the university leads many young brains to look for work in companies ".
Now, what will happen? "In general, universities are unlikely to compete economically with the industrial sector, but it is important that the two worlds learn from each other. Academic careers” adds Dr. Antonio Giordano, “are certainly more rewarding and, if universities acted like businesses, their staff would probably be happier and wouldn't try to leave. On the other hand, the company should also be eager to allow its research staff to publish in scientific journals ". In practice, they should not penalize the aspirations of the researcher.
"It would be great if the academic world could be more competitive than the industry sector, leaving researchers the ability to do what they love, where they live, and with the right rewards. If our main goal for current and future generations of academics is to thrive, then we need to learn from other sectors ", concludes Dr. Giordano. Therefore academic institutions should learn from industry to recruit, retain, retain and reward the staff. “This is the only way to avoid the escape of the most interesting talents”, concludes Dr. Antonio Giordano.
This article was originally published in the Italian language by Margherita Lopes, it can be found Here.
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