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Blog: The rising demands on graduate and post-graduate students

The rising demands on graduate and post-graduate students
The jury is in. The publishing demands on contemporary young scholars – that is, on graduate students and on post-doctoral academics – are growing constantly. They are expected to produce more articles than ever before in order to advance on the road that hopefully leads to academic tenure. Moreover, these articles should be fairly visible (i.e. published in well-ranking platforms) in order to be considered. The reasons for this increase in the minimal criteria are well known: academic institutions offer much fewer tenure-track positions than the current supply of young scholars, and thus the competition over each position becomes fierce. We have found this to be true of virtually every academic discipline, but with varying degrees of severity, as some disciplines are apparently in retreat.

The competition over a limited number of positions produces a constant raising of the bar, to levels that some young scholars find unrealistic. Some are finding that the number and visibility of publications that once was needed to get tenure is now only good enough in order to be accepted to a postdoctoral position. The scarce availability of tenure-track positions significantly prolongs the period between finishing one's doctorate and finding a position, and instances of several consecutive postdoc cycles before tenure are not rare nowadays. Contributing to this is the fact that many of the academic positions are now 'outsourced' to post-doctorate fellows, as a means of saving the academic unit money, while the work is getting done cheaply by highly qualified personnel. Still even this situation of doing several consecutive post-doctorate terms (for low pay) is not the worst case scenario as some young scholars find themselves unable to secure post-doctorate positions and resort to accepting lower positions which pay even less (e.g. as a guest lecturer), and sometimes leave little time to produce the publications that are needed in order to advance their career.

What can be seen as somewhat offsetting this complicated situation, is the significant rise in publication opportunities. Peer reviewed journals, which are by far the most important platform for young scholars, are (as a whole) growing in volume and in numbers. New journals, both highly specialized and more general, are popping up all the time, and many established journals are increasing the number of issues they put out, and of articles per issue. Thus, young scholars have a wide variety to choose from, both for the initial submission of their article, and in cases of rejection, for subsequent submissions to alternate titles. In other words, today's PhDs have more abundant publication opportunities than their predecessors, and enjoy a shorter turnaround time between article submission and publication.

However, this variety in its turn brings more challenges, as now choosing the 'right' journal for your paper becomes a difficult task that involves information, creativity and know-how. Fortunately, there are nowadays several technological platforms aimed at aiding young scholars make an informed decision regarding publication. This, and other time-saving tools may help these scholars traverse this transitory stage, yet it seems part of the problem should be addressed at the institutional level.
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Tagged: graduate, postdoc

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