A blog about problems in the field of psychology and attempts to fix them.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The academic job market has gotten harder, very recently

There have been many stories recently about the "overproduction" of Ph.D. students in science, and about the increasingly competitive job markets. This isn't going to be a comprehensive post about that, but rather a highlight of a short, but significant paper that might otherwise be under the radar. It is Academia's never-ending selection for productivity by Francois Brischoux and Frederic Angelier, in the journal Scientometrics. It's focus is on evolutionary biologists hired by the National Centre for Scientific Research France, between 2005 and 2014, 55 people in total from what I can tell. The NCSR has a stable and formulaic hiring process, which makes easy to compare hires across years. Despite the small sample, and the narrow focus, I suspect the same trends would be replicated in most scientific fields, at most academic institutions, in the U.S. Here is what I thought was the crucial paragraph (p. 355. Some parentheticals removed):

Although the number of young evolutionary biologists recruited has remained stable between 2005 and 2013, their academic profiles have significantly changed. To get hired, young biologists now need to have published twice as many articles (12.5 ± 2.4 papers in 2005 vs. 22.0 ± 3.4 in 2013) and to have had a much longer previous research career than those hired in 2005 (3.25 ± 0.6 years in 2005 vs. 8.0 ± 1.7 in 2013). Furthermore the number of papers published each year before recruitment has significantly increased independently of the career duration. However, the mean Impact Factor of the journals in which they publish has remained steady (F1,54 = 1.12, p = 0.29, 5.8 ± 0.3).

The idea that any field would require 8 post-doctoral years and 20+ publications to start an entry-level (permanent) research job is not a good thing. I am hopeful that people will try to replicate this type of research, so that we can get a handle on how out of control this selection process has become.


  1. As a postdoc in psychology department in a good public university I can say the demands to get a social-personality tenure track at tier 2-3 schools in the US has become insane. Students/postdocs with 6/10 A publications who can't find a job means a market out of control.