Juggling work and life in Academia : Focus on early stages of Belgian and Italian scientific careers


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Unpublished: a document having an author and title, but not formally published.
Juggling work and life in Academia : Focus on early stages of Belgian and Italian scientific careers
del Rio Carral M., Fusulier B., Murgia A.
Issued date
25th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics
Our proposal is interested in understanding how researchers, at the start of their scientific careers, deal with time pressures stemming from Academia, where the pace of scientific production is accelerating within a context of strong competition for scant fixed-term positions.
Academia meets the characteristics of a "greedy institution" (Coser, 1974; Grant, Kennelly & Ward, 2000) by seeking to obtain from the researchers their exclusive and undivided loyalty by indirectly reducing their possibility to fulfil any other competing roles from family, social and personal lives. Interestingly enough, participation in a greedy institution is voluntary and its control is symbolic rather than measurable or concrete. Moreover, the prevailing image of the ideal researcher is that of someone who is entirely devoted to his/her work. This pressure to an entire commitment to the scientific work is furthermore enhanced by social transformations within a context where the applicability of Science, the valorisation of transdisciplinarity, and the boost to socioeconomic performance orient altogether a post-mertonien model of scientific production (Gibbons et al., 1994). Therefore, work in Academia tends to accelerate its pace with the emergence of new demands based on the needs to attract external funds, to establish larger and more international networks, etc.
Given this institutional setting, the number of researchers employed on a temporary basis has increased (Ylijoki, 2010), including mostly PhD's and postdoctoral fellows. Evaluation of the quality of work is also growingly based on efficiency criteria. Researchers are confronted to produce more, better and faster. They are subject to be productive without any clear spatial and temporal boundaries that can limit their time for work. In addition, in the early stages of the career, Academia as a "greedy institution" may be particularly burdensome, enhanced by employment uncertainty and instability in such period. Furthermore, the traits defining the academic environment in postindustrial societies seem altogether antagonistic with the possibility for male and female researchers to assume other responsibilities and duties within their family, social and personal life contexts. Such work/life interference during early stages of the career can be stressed by decisive choices, such as parenthood, regarding the undergoing period in life (Fusulier, del Rio Carral, 2012).
In our proposal, we aim to present a study of postdoctoral research fellows. A qualitative analysis of discourses collected from two academic contexts (in Belgium and in Italy)reveals both similarities and differences in dealing with often contradictory expectations, demands and obligations from professional and private lives. More precisely, the discussion is drawn on an analysis of sixty indepth interviews carried out in the two countries with male and female research fellows coming from different academic disciplines. By using a gender perspective, the paper highlights the different ways in which women and men experience to work with an unstable position in Academia. In this way, an attempt is made to understand gender differences in the lives of post-doctoral researchers on short term contracts, as well as the different strategies in order to juggle with professional and private lives, and the leaky pipeline phenomenon.
Create date
12/09/2013 10:25
Last modification date
20/08/2019 14:22
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