Here's a thread about #ichbinHanna for those who'd like to know more about the situation for academics in Germany, and the massive casualization problem Germany has. 1/
Casualization - the phenomenon of tasks that are stably necessary in the long-term being systematically carried out by people on temporary contracts - is a huge issue in Germany. 2/
This is not a new situation. There are - to a first approximation - no permanent jobs for academics in Germany below the full professor level. 3/
But the situation has got much worse over the past 50 years. This graph shows the proportion of non-professorial (black) vs. professorial (grey) research and teaching staff at German universities since 1975. 4/
The overall number of staff has grown (in line with demand in the sector), but the permanent jobs have not kept pace. Again, *to a first approximation*, the black line is people with temporary contracts, and the grey line is people with permanent contracts. 5/
In 1975, profs constituted 24% of German university researc and teaching staff. In 2019 it's not even 13%. 6/
These figures include most doctoral students as non-permanent staff members, as is the norm in Germany (doctoral students tend to be on temporary contracts rather than stipends etc.). But that doesn't improve the situation much. 7/
In fact, one of the reasons the problem of casualization is so serious in Germany is because doctoral students are systematically conflated with post-doctoral but non-professorial staff, as the so-called "Mittelbau", administratively and statistically. 8/
I've sometimes been asked to provide a good single-word translation for this term in English, an impossible task, as the corresponding CONCEPT is not widespread in Anglophone academia, and for good reason. 9/
Part of the reason for the conflation is that German academics are expected to complete a further qualification after their first one, called a "Habilitation". It's essentially a second doctoral thesis on a different topic in the same broad field. 10/
The Habilitation is widely viewed as a necessary criterion for appointment to a professorship, unless you're coming from a country that doesn't have Habilitations (like me), in which case you have to argue that your post-PhD achievements are Habilitation-equivalent. 11/
Importantly, full professorships are not something you can just be promoted to in Germany (like you can for instance in the UK). They're a radically different beast, to which you have to apply in a slow and very bureaucratic process. 12/
On the whole (and there are exceptions), professors are civil servants, which means they have a fairly cushy package of benefits in terms of health insurance, pension, etc. Other research and teaching staff are not. 13/
Because of this extra qualification and the severe lack of professorial positions, even those who eventually become professors (and hence get permanent posts) don't do so until unacceptably late in life. 14/
This article from 2002 says that the average age of first appointment to a professorship is 42. I don't think it's got any better since then (though I'd love to hear otherwise). 15/…
But wait! It gets worse. Everyone knows that this system would fall apart instantly without the hard work and goodwill of the vast majority of staff who are on temporary contracts. And so these people are often given repeated short term contracts. 16/
This is both a blessing and a curse, as - given the shortage of professorships - it's usually the only way to stay in the field. But there's also a law, the much-despised #WissZeitVG, that limits the length of time you can be on permanent contracts in academia. 17/
Basically, you can have a temporary contract for up to six years pre-PhD, and up to six years post-PhD, in total. After that you're out. Game over. Goodbye. 18/…
Whatever the intent of the #WissZeitVG - presumably (on a charitable reading) to prevent exploitation through repeated short-term contracts - it's undeniable that it's added to academic precarity in Germany in a disastrous way. 19/
So the people who the #WissZeitVG is (again, presumably) supposed to protect in fact uniformly loathe it, and want it abolished. The hashtag #95vsWissZeitVG is all about this - the "95" is a reference to Martin Luther's 95 theses as part of the reformation. 20/
Unsurprisingly, when the BMBF - Federal Ministry of Education and Research, responsible for higher education - praised the #WissZeitVG as providing "a certain degree of flexibility" for institutions, these people flipped out. 21/
So to summarize so far: we have a system that effectively prevents non-professors from getting permanent contracts in most cases. And a law, the #WissZeitVG, that prevents individuals repeatedly getting temporary contracts. 22/
This created the environment for #ichbinHanna, originally a patronizing video posted by the BMBF on their website. They've since taken it down, but you can view it here (in German): 23/
In the video, we follow Hanna, a cartoon PhD student who, we are informed, "knows that she has to start planning her career early" - mainly so that she can navigate the tortuous, byzantine and unnecessarily restrictive pathways set out in the #WissZeitVG. 24/
Now the government knows that there is a problem here. They've been making half-hearted noises about reform for decades. But the big problem is that, rather than actually making the funding available for more permanent positions at universities .... 25/
... they prefer to piss their money away on ludicrous, anti-intellectual vanity nonsense like the so-called Excellence Initiative.… 26/
The Excellence Initiative is a failed attempt to create a class of elite German research universities comparable to the US Ivy League. Its failure was not an accident. 27/
One can argue about whether it's good to have a two- or three-tier research university ecosystem like the US one. I tend to think it's bad. But regardless of that, the funding mechanisms behind Excellence Initiative are fundamentally unsuited to creating such a system. 28/
US Ivy Leagues have billions of dollars of *endowment*, allowing them to plan sustainably for the future (at least in principle). By contrast, German Excellence funding is limited to periods of seven years or so, thus can realistically only be used for temporary hires. 29/
More than that - professors (who are paid by the state(s)) have to spend countless hours in meetings and preparing monstrously massive grant applications with a very low chance of success in order to try for it in the first place. 30/
And because Excellence projects have to be absolutely massive, they are invariably intellectually incoherent anyway. 31/
To pick one example: the University of Hamburg's sucessful 2019 application bears the title "WE invest in people – WE foster networks – WE create impact". WTF does that even mean? Does that sound like the sort of thing academics should be spending time on to you? 32/
Germany has spent billions on this charade. And the money goes into temporary and administrative positions. Without demonstrable effects on research quality.… 33/
As @brembs puts it in that blog post, "the available data indicate that the “Excellence Initiative” was without any tangible effect scientifically, worsened job prospects ..., exacerbated the socioeconomic drivers behind the replication crisis and bloated administrations". 34/
Can good research be done under the umbrella of an Excellence project? Absolutely. Because brilliant young researchers will usually find a way to do the important and cool things they wanted to do anyway. Despite the system, not because of it. 35/
But the money could be so, so much better spent solving the problems alluded to upthread. It's not a question of resources. The resources are there to fix the problem. The (political) will simply isn't. 36/
There are other problems. One is the tendency for universities to trade professors like elite footballers, trying to suck them in by promising them total personal control over an ever greater number of academic positions to be filled short-term. 37/
And I could go on. But this thread is already way longer than I envisaged, so I'll wrap it up here with this: Germany, you need to do better. You owe it to your "young" researchers (i.e. those under the age of 50 lolsob), as well as to science itself. 38/38 ~fin~

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