Exit strategy from academia: Any social researchers about?

(13 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

sushidave Tue 15-Nov-16 23:33:01

I’m feeling increasingly detached from my University lectureship as the thing I was trained to do (i.e. research) is being squeezed out in favour of more teaching, more student support, more admin of multiple flavours. Am also sick of working every evening. I’ve always got a grant app on the go, but even with funding, my research time is just too much like part-time for me.

So, I’m looking at other options and came across some recruitment resources for social researchers (government as well as for corporate commissions). The immersive research nature of the job appeals, as would the relatively fast pace, the chance to focus on one project, and the chance to work with others who are purely researching.

So now I’m looking for the inside track. What’s the work like? Is academia to social research a common migration path? How does the workload compare (currently averaging 50 hr weeks)? Does anyone regret the loss of flexibility and autonomy? And how the bloody hell does one present oneself outside of academia if that’s all one’s ever done?

OP’s posts: |
Leatherboundanddown Tue 15-Nov-16 23:39:15

How long have you been lecturing for? Depending on where you are based you could be looking at a significant paycut, have you considered this?

The SRA jobs board is really good.

sushidave Tue 15-Nov-16 23:42:51

Lecturer at large RG Uni. In current post for 5 years, should get SL in the next 2 years. I realise I'm looking at a £10-15k drop but from where I am now, I'd be willing to pay that for a better W/L balance and a new challenge. Life's too short for one career.

OP’s posts: |
Leatherboundanddown Wed 16-Nov-16 08:17:44

In that case then it sounds like a good move. I am doing sort of the opposite. I left teaching then into research now playing with academia while I do my PhD. For the same reasons as you I don't think I want to stay in academia so post PhD I think I will go straight for a research active role again, third sector/gov/local research agency and then go guest/associate lecturing on the side.

Eventually I'd like to work up to research manager somewhere which should pay better than academia but it will take a while.

If you are in London have you considered going to one of the big agencies Ipsos etc? That can be very well paid.

I have been keeping an eye on job boards for 2-3 years now and PhDs are desirable it seems. The main problem seems to be the low salaries.

LittleWonderYou Wed 16-Nov-16 09:00:34

I joined the Government Social Research Service about 10 years ago after 6 years as An RA and then RF at an academic research institute. I never wanted to lecture and given that roles like mine were and are golddust when I decided to move I joined the Civil Service (I had a full time contract but not amazingly well paid so I got a small rise on joining.

I applied for a senior research officer open recruitment campaign and have worked across a few depts changing roles every couple of years. I've been promoted a couple of times and now lead a team of analysts inc economists and statisticians.

Pros- much reduced workload compared to academia. There's still a core 9-5 culture though depending on your role you might have to work long hours esp around fiscal events Autumn statement, Budget and Spending Reviews. Lots of scope to work flexibility and part time or jobshare. In the right role you can really own a policy area, develop the evidence base and see it used which is very satisfying esp. if you're working with senior leaders and Ministers with an appetite for analysis and evidence (many are in my experience)

Cons- Some depts are very big on commissioning so you can find yourself becoming a project/ contracts manager rather than an analyst. Very quant biased esp the current obsession with RCTs regardless of the question being asked which can be frustrating. Political decisions about the types of research we do and any budget can be hard to take.

We are v stretched as most depths have shed lots of analytical staff in recent years and we've had a recruitment freeze so v few junior staff. We do now seem to have reached an acceptance esp post Brexit that we cannot continue like this. I know a few depts are planning external recruitment rounds to bring new and mid career researchers in. There are lots of ex academics around so it's a pretty well trodden path. That was a bit of an essay but hopefully useful.

sushidave Thu 17-Nov-16 22:39:43

Really useful, Little, thanks for the response. Good to get the inside track, and sounds like it could be the right time to start looking for such a role. It feels like quite a radical shift for me so I'm hoping to do a bit more data gathering over the next few months. I'll try to talk to a specilaist recruiter and others in the profession. I'm not based in London but am in a big city where there seems to be opportunities - both private agencies and civil service. If you have any other tips about getting an in, aside from the major job sites, I'd love to know.

OP’s posts: |
OrlandaFuriosa Thu 17-Nov-16 22:49:18

Good researchers are like gold dust in the civil service and get poached between depts. I'm surprised about the 9-5 culture, suspect it depends which dept. In mine, they got in late ie around 9 but boy were they there all hours if any good. Work fascinating but: expect never enough time, resource, politics pushes for impossible deadlines. Expect to have to defend your corner and compromise, politics demands it, learn how to tell bad news well, learn to cope with someobe saying but that's not what bloggs in no 10/us says and we don't believe you. Can be heart rending.esp if you have clear personal views on what is right and you don't agree with the policies if the day. Don't expect to find it easy: if you take the queen's shilling there are consequences.

It's fascinating but can be v frustrating.

BiscuitTinClarabel Thu 17-Nov-16 23:20:11

Hi. I work in government social research (but not civil service) and would recommend it - much less faffing about to get projects off the ground than in academia and it's really satisfying to see your work change things in the real world. But you need to be ok with working in a political environment and to be able to work out your own ethical lines. I would say the biggest difference is that your work is more 'behind the scenes' - things are often not published or are published without names on. So you have to work harder to build a reputation outside your organisation.

My experience of recruiting is that academics have often looked great on paper but rather floundered at interview. You should have plenty of transferable skills but it's a very different job. Generally, think about how you present your non-technical skills - project management, communication (especially to policy people, senior managers , politicians), team work etc as these are often given quite a lot of weight.

Finally, just a plea to look beyond the obvious! I work in transport, which sounds deathly dull but is actually fascinating to a geek like me. Hope you find something you love, good luck!

IonaMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 18-Nov-16 21:55:03

Evening all. At the OP's request we're going to move this to Academics' Corner shortly.

DoctorGilbertson Sat 19-Nov-16 06:07:07

Have you read this? blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/02/11/policy-world-versus-academia/

Colby43443 Tue 22-Nov-16 18:28:18

lots of companies are searching for policy research analysts right now if thats your thing.

sushidave Tue 22-Nov-16 22:57:10

It may well be, Colby, thanks. Do you have any links or leads?

OP’s posts: |
Colby43443 Tue 22-Nov-16 23:47:39

I've received info re: the House of Lords & NHS. I think you should be able to see them via civil service jobs.

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