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Thread by @cat_oakley: "Day 14 of . Here are some thoughts on the particular challenges facing Arts & Humanities researchers post-PhD, as they try to […]" #ucustrikes

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Day 14 of #ucustrikes. Here are some thoughts on the particular challenges facing Arts & Humanities researchers post-PhD, as they try to forge career pathways following 3-4 years of doctoral training, including, in many cases, a whole unpaid 4th year.
Firstly: my own doctoral research was funded by @ahrcpress. They funded a wonderful 3 month international placement in my 2nd year @librarycongress, & my current 12-month postdoc, ending shortly, is built into an AHRC award. I would not be in academia without their funding.
The AHRC, like other RCUK subsidiaries, has a vision & strategy which includes support for researchers to develop their skills & leadership capacities at postgraduate level and key stages of their careers subsequently (if in academia). ahrc.ac.uk/about/visionst…
Yet, most Arts & Hums researchers who have just completed their PhDs will readily attest to the fact that we are now in a situation in which the readiest job openings for A&H scholars at this stage are insecure teaching posts, often with little or no paid research time.
Those who manage to get posts as postdoctoral research assistants on larger projects (few & far between) have more opportunity to work on their research profiles: there are convos to be had about inequities of post-PhD pathways as they fork into teaching & research, respectively.
Yet even these “lucky” few postdoctoral RAs (PDRAs) face significant challenges. These were highlighted in a recent survey of 100 Hums & SocSci postdocs on fixed-term contracts that @sophalexjones & I conducted for forthcoming Project Short on “The Precarious Postdoc”.
Quick preview of some of these challenges: contract length (12 months or less in many cases); difficulties of working on independent research profile whilst duties focus on PI/team project, questions of intellectual ownership for work completed.
But then: what about funding opportunities for independent postdoctoral research? Well, @ahrcpress funding opportunities for “early career researchers” mostly stipulate permanent employment at a UKRI in their essential criteria.
Leverhulme, British Academy & Wellcome Trust all offer postdoctoral funding opportunities for those without a permanent job. But putting together an app for these hugely competitive schemes takes considerable time & requires dept support & mentorship (not always available).
In addition, competitiveness of these schemes is compounded by the expansiveness of the category of “ECR” (anything from “just-submitted PhD” to 5-6 years post-PhD). So newly-minted PhDs effectively competing with senior colleagues who may have an established publication record.
Whether your post-PhD route is teaching-focused, as postdoctoral research assistant, or towards independent postdoctoral grant applications, if you are an Arts & Hums scholar, the paradox is the same: you need to write a book to get a permanent job. But when? And with what £££?
If a monograph is now, in effect, an essential requirement to secure a stable career pathway in academia, then junior researchers need time & financial support in the form of dedicated bridge grants so they can transform their doctoral research into high-quality scholarship.
Would be interested to try and trace the creep of the “monograph-as-passport-to-permanent-job” over the past 5-10 years. How many established Arts & Hums lecturers faced this situation at entry-point? Who is excluded from these careers when the goalposts are shifted like this?
The most immediate answer to this question is that these impossible requirements to effectively write a monograph in your spare time exclude those without independent income, those with caring responsibilities, those with chronic mental or physical illnesses.
If this thread maps the problem, what might the solutions be? No space to cover them all here, but interested to hear what people think. Personally, I think bridge grants for Arts & Hums scholars post-PhD are key here: protected research time to focus on your publications, inc.
monograph, with mentorship, teaching & other CPD opportunities built in alongside. We also need more postdoctoral funding schemes that are open to researchers in the Arts and Humanities who do not already have a permanent job. And not just from funding bodies: institutions can
choose to invest in postdoctoral career pathways in Arts & Hums in the same way they choose to invest in huge campus redevelopment projects (new £38m “Innovation and Enterprise Centre” here at Leeds, anyone? campusdevelopments.leeds.ac.uk/portfolio-item… - part of a £500m+ spend on campus developments)
Overall, it seems to me that A&H scholars, post-PhD, are particularly screwed in the current academic job market on a number of fronts: insistence on monograph publication as passport to entry; systematic underinvestment in the Humanities, continuing dominance of STEM paradigm.
And that’s before you get to the difficulties of situating interdisciplinary research (often some of the most innovative & exciting work in A&H disciplines), in an institutional context which is still predominantly discipline-oriented. (See BA “Crossing Paths” report from 2016).
The current system is haemorrhaging postdoctoral talent in the Arts & Hums. There’s an urgent need for junior & senior scholars to come together with institutional management & funding bodies to address the issues outlined here, which jeopardise the future of these disciplines.
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