By David Kent. It seems that my last post created a bit of a stir and unfortunately I was away for a week and didn’t catch up to the comments right away. I think it’s important based on those comments to clarify a few things about my perspective on this before going into ways that we can manage the core issues.
First, I am not advocating for low postdoctoral salaries in Canada – far from it. I know there are many underpaid and undervalued highly educated people out there and the crisis is especially bad in the humanities (low to no funding) and life sciences (very lengthy doctoral and postdoctoral terms). The main point I was trying to make in the article was that we need to provide good sound reasoning why increases are needed and where the money should come from. I also would stress again that the idea of paying more grant dollars into salary will not be palatable without such a measured approach.
Second, I do not view academic research like a private-sector capitalist endeavour and find the comparison to coal mining unfair. To me, research is the stuff governments pay to get done for the public because the private sector won’t pay for it. Unfortunately, that gives academic researchers extraordinarily little bargaining power – if we stop doing academic research, few will notice the effect immediately. Moreover, coal miners worked in the 1800s because they had to in order to feed families. Despite the chronic undervaluing of postdoctoral fellows, these postdocs are not starving nor do they have “no other option” to make more money – they can (and do) leave. It doesn’t mean that academic researchers should be poorly paid, but it does again mean that the case for increases needs to be strongly argued and well justified. Read more...