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Research career, Phd, post doc, Brexit worries.
14

Saracha · 22/02/2019 16:48

Is anyone else who have kids wanting to go into research and academia, who are worried for their futures with Brexit looming and a not so clear future of universities research funding. Thus having impact on Phd funding and post doc research jobs. Would love to hear from uni professors or lecturers on what their opinions are and outlook post brexit. Is there any glimmer of hope?

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BackforGood · 22/02/2019 23:51

I know a Scientist who tells me they are ALL extremely worried Overwhelmingly money for scientific research is from Europe, or tied up with interlinked European research. They have no idea how much of what is current, will be decimated - even before worries from colleagues living in Britain whose future is uncertain, as they weren't born here.

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impostersyndrome · 23/02/2019 08:30

Speaking as an academic, I can say that there is a lot of uncertainty, though it depends on the field. Some are ore dependent on EU funding than others. Some are more high priority for UK government investment than others. Either way, I’d only go for a funded PhD, and following that I would avoid seeing it as a linear route to a research career. The number of permanent posts is vanishingly small compared with the number of PhDs who graduate every year. Instead, see the PhD as high level training for research that could be in a variety of settings. Again, depends on discipline, but it could be research labs, policy or whatever’s appropriate.

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Saracha · 23/02/2019 13:05

Thank you for the responses and advice. It's a awful situation universities are having to go through with what I have read. Brain drain, potential talent leaving and EU Phd, post docs students put off from research and academia in the UK.

Honestly, I feel rather disheartened with what dd will be facing over the next few years. I would be more optimistic if the area she is in had plan B, with scope for a normal post grad type job in a more vocational setting. But her skills and subject area is in research and academia. She's rather pigeon holed. I had a look at the small lab team she is in at the moment most of the bigger funding has been awarded from the UK and small amount from Europe. Her supervisor (She's doing a Msc at the moment) He has been immensely supportive, offered to supervise her PhD either as a collab or her own idea . They will try and get funding for it. So far she has also been looking at funded positions available. But nothing is really lighting up her eyes. It's already very hard to get into a long term position at university, without having to add more complication into the mix.
How are the uni in UK going stay cutting edge if they don't nature the talent.

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Saracha · 23/02/2019 13:30

Sorry was meaning to say how are the universities stay cutting edge if they can't nuture the talent. Governments aren't doing enough to reassure or put in plan the future for university funding.

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impostersyndrome · 23/02/2019 15:59

I agree. The government needs to do more to nurture talent, and equally importantly, ensure movement of talent in and out of the country. But, regarding your child’s own situation, it’s not been a guaranteed career for many years now. A tiny percentage of PhDs get a permanent job. Most go from short term contract to another , on absurdly low salaries, given the years of training. Many have to move around the country, making it hard for family life. You’d be well advised to plan alternative routes out even before taking brexit into account. Have a look here for ideas: www.findaphd.com/advice/doing/phd-careers.aspx.

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NotAnotherJaffaCake · 23/02/2019 16:07

Academic scientist here.

Money is not the problem if you are in science, there is a lot of it sloshing around at the moment from UKRI, Wellcome Trust and the various medical charities. EU funding is in the minority and has traditionally been. That’s not to say that EU money isn’t important, just that it certainly isn’t a catastrophic funding scenario. My home institutes still have excellent core funding for about 4 years (5 year review cycle). It would be problematic if you are relying on a slice of a much larger EU grant to fund things, but those generally only pay for a post doc or something - the main losers would be the ERC grants to PIs which fund their whole lab. That said, those aren’t impossible to replace at a UK level.

Our problem is staff. We are struggling to recruit PIs as we would traditionally get a fair proportion from EU countries, ditto students. A few posts are going empty, and generally there is upwards pressure on salary or conditions.

If you are applying for a fully funded post, go for it. UK science is still world class, and certainly all my EU collaborators have no intention of changing who they work with because of Brexit. Interestingly, we have had staff leave since Brexit, who cited Brexit as one of their reasons for at least looking around to see what is out there. None of them are going to the EU, despite being EU citizens - the beneficiaries are Canada and Switzerland.

I’m no fan of Brexit, but the sky is not falling. Yet.

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Alaimo · 23/02/2019 18:36

I am a postdoc on an EU-funded project. Worst case scenario is that my contract gets terminated early. I also work in an area where a lot (if not the majority) of postdocs are EU-funded, so it's definitely worrying. I have actively started looking at jobs in other countries and have received an offer for a postdoc abroad. While Brexit might impact academia in the UK (and as the other posts show, its impact might be negligible in some fields), academia is a highly international sector, and opportunities abroad are unlikely to be affected.

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impostersyndrome · 23/02/2019 19:29

Opportunities abroad might be affected to the extent that academics may not be able to compete on a level footing within the EU if they don’t have an EU passport. Ie preference will be given to EU passport holders.

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Phphion · 23/02/2019 19:58

The problem at the moment is that we just don't know and people can't wait forever for us to know.

In terms of research funding, the government is committed to underwriting the current Horizon 2020 funding, but not the ERC or Marie Curie funding which we will become ineligible for at the end of March if we leave with no deal. This could lead to immediate job losses. We know nothing about what will happen for the Horizon Europe funding that will follow the 2020 funding and that we should be gearing ourselves up to bid for now. The longer we wait, the more likely it is that our partners will have to move on without us, whether we ultimately reach a deal to pay in as an associate country or not. If we decide not to pay in, people will be reliant on whether the government regards their research as a strategic priority and funds them or not. Given what we have seen of the government priorities so far, we can guess who the winners and losers will be in that scenario.

The impact of the potential loss of funding will vary a lot by discipline and department. My own department gets about a sixth of our non-core research funding from Horizon 2020. We probably could replace that amount with alternative funding if we missed out on Horizon Europe and we have a strong enough reputation that we have been able to enter into provisional 'dual national' agreements with two European universities that would allow us to go into European funding bids as employees of those universities if necessary. This would not be ideal for our university or our staff, but would ensure the continuation of our research in the short to medium term. However, we currently have European funding for six PhD places, and we would be unlikely to get that from elsewhere.

The situation is a lot more worrying for other departments and research groups and the expectation is that some will fold through a combination of loss of research income and loss of key staff. So far, we have lost two EU staff. They aren't irreplaceable, but they are a loss. We are still waiting for formal clarification on exceptions for recruitment of new post doc and early career lecturers from outside the UK. Nearly half of our academic staff would not meet the pay threshold to be considered highly skilled.

There is also a concern that universities will use uncertainties over Brexit to sweep away some of their less favoured staff and departments, particularly in the lead up to the REF, and we will see redundancies in areas that are not directly affected by the loss of European funding as part of a broader strategic exercise.

Overall, the most likely scenario is that we will eventually come to an association agreement that will secure much of our research funding, but not all of it. The biggest risk will be the loss of the UK's ability to lead research and determin European research priorities, and the reputational damage that will gradually come with that and our inability to attract and retain the best staff.

In terms of your own DD's prospects, as others have said, the route into a permanent job has always been an uncertain one and that will be the case regardless of if and how we leave the EU. She needs to be realistic. Focus on getting funding for her PhD if that is what she wants to do (is she not leaving this a bit late?). Beyond that, unless she is in a very vulnerable research area, Brexit is low down the list of her concerns.

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Saracha · 24/02/2019 17:08

Once again, Thank you to everyone for taking their time to share their own experiences, perspective and outlook on how brexit is effecting them. I also very much appreciate the good advice given to dd.

We already have friends that have lost good jobs from this but in other sector. It worries me that university are so connected to europe in many levels losing ties is going to inevitably change again the fickleness of a career in academia and research and she is just starting out. Is the government going to prop up funding holes from losing ties. Somehow i dont think so. They going to be selective. As is already demontrated. I just feel as like many government entities they are too slow to act when things are going pear shaped.

In 5 years when the dust settles and dd is maybe qualified. University in UK may have changed for the worst. That's what I fear. But I'm not going to persuade not to go for it. It wise advice that dd should look at a Phd as more of a way to gain high level skills that will help for alternative jobs should she fail.

Dd went straight from undergraduate to masters. She wanted a more cross disciplinary area to develop in. So hasn't thought of a Phd proposal early on in the masters course. At the time she was really wanting to gain more critical/analysis skills and be exposed to areas in her field she didnt have chance to at undergrad. Be sure she could handle pressure and deadlines, working in a different team etc. Plus be able to use better up to date equipment and labs. She is sure now this is what she wants to do.

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MedSchoolRat · 24/02/2019 18:08

I find the academics on MN a very Doom & Gloom Lot. Breathtakingly so, about everything work-related. They say things wildly outside my own experiences (& what I say makes no sense to them, too, tbf) so I can't credit what they say. I recommend your DD listen most to the people she has opportunity to work with, about the future prospects.

If you don't expect easily-acquired permanent secure sinecures, academia can still be a great gig.

Brexit is a flipping hassle. But many good post-doctoral scientists go international and into industry, anyway. So fate of academia is not the only one on offer for PhD completers

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impostersyndrome · 26/02/2019 21:48

I’m not sure if I follow your argument, medschool. The previous poster has provided a well-argued option that is equally valid as yours. Just because that’s not your personal experience, doesn’t prove it’s not happening elsewhere, in other fields, right?

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VelvetPineapple · 26/02/2019 21:50

There are no jobs pre-Brexit never mind post-Brexit.

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Saracha · 28/02/2019 14:25

@medschoolrat Its great to hear that it's not all gloom and doom for everyone at the moment. It does look like some students are feeling the effects of brexit or the no deal brexit now. Not at my dd dept but different uni. Her mates who are post grads on science courses are feeling the disruptions from lecturers and staff leaving unexpectedly during exam season essay deadlines. The uni hasnt told them its because of brexit, but the rumours and tell tale signs the students have picked up points towards this being the reason. So by all accounts this might not be the case but it seems that way since its not just in that particular dept that ended being a bit chaotic. So who knows. But Obviously alot of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. I really hope things get sorted out before it impacts the reputations of these unis.

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