One of my pet peeves with academia is the treatment of PhD students and postdocs which I feel borders(?) on exploitation. I talked with Maria Pinto, who is from Portugal and is currently PhD student in Austria in marine microbiology for my podcast “Science for Societal Progress”. Looking forward to her final year as a PhD student she is beginning to think more and more seriously about what a career in academia would mean to her.
I am running a podcast for Science for Progress, and there I am talking about how to improve academia, and how science/academia interacts with society. I interview people who are, for example, working on better metrics for research(er) evaluation, people who work on topics relevant to society (such as GMO food, and animal welfare), or someone who can tell us a bit about Science Communication, or the PhD experience.
Interested? Well, you should subscribe to the podcast, then!
Currently, every scientist with a salary above ca. $24k/yr is exempt from over time pay in the USA – and over time here means everything over 40hrs in a week. Obama now thinks about changing this threshold to ca $50k/yr. This is big, because postdocs make only about $43k/yr on average. So if this comes, and if postdocs become eligible for over time pay, PIs will need deep pockets, because postdocs often routinely work 60-80 hour weeks. In this scenario they probably would increase the minimum salary for postdocs above that $51k level, which would be an enormous jump for most postdocs. Now, while I am confident funding agencies and leading academics will lobby against it, and not all postdocs are officially employed, and I’m rather on the pessimistic side of things, I still think one should at least have spoken up. Otherwise I wouldn’t be eligible for wining, later, right? 😉
So, today I wrote the following comment and made it official by posting it on http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=WHD-2015-0001 – which I think is something every US grad student and postdoc should do, too.
There was a discussion about postdocs and if and how they would benefit from Obamas plans to increase the salary threshold below which overtime must be payed to a number considerably higher than the NIH average postdoc salary… or… fellowship. I won’t get into details why, but there were different types of postdoctoral positions thrown around for different reasons. I think I made things a bit chaotic because some assumptions about what would be a postdoc position really annoyed me.
This weekend I happily completed a manuscript describing my recent postdoctoral work. We took the opportunity to try a further step into what hopefully will be the future of publishing. So, next to submitting the manuscript to a well-known, peer-reviewed neuroscience journal, I made a version for bioRxiv. This is a preprint server that is supposed to be a biology version of the aRxiv which is a well-known resource for papers and other material on physics, math and related topics. The bioRxiv is run by the institution I work at, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The idea is to put out your work before it is being peer-reviewed by a journal and instead allow anybody to comment on it. The submission process is simple and it doesn’t cost a dime. It just takes a (short) while for someone to double check that the content you uploaded is actual science. My paper was released not even 24h after I submitted it.
Of course you need to be careful when deciding to put your work out there. If, for example, you are in a highly competitive field and only the peer-reviewed publications in certain journals are accepted by your peers as ‘proper publication’, you might not necessarily want to release your work this way. But I don’t consider my work to be that critical. 😉
Further, if you want to submit the same version of your manuscript to a journal, you might want to first check whether the journal allows it. On their website, bioRxiv links to some resources on this topic. Again, the specific journal I submitted the manuscript to is fine with it.
So, please read and comment on it if you so very much please. I am curious what effect this – for biologists new – way of handling scientific output will have on each of us!