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Postdoc Career Optimism Rebounds in Post-Pandemic World

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Just knowing that there's an alternative path in industry could help to boost career optimism in academia, experts say.

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The global coronavirus pandemic put brakes on the careers of many postdoctoral researchers, but the outlook has changed.

Respondents to a 2020 global survey feared that COVID-19 would jeopardize their work. Eighty percent said the pandemic had hindered their ability to carry out experiments or collect data, 59% found it harder to discuss their research with colleagues than before the crisis, and 61% thought that the pandemic was hampering their career prospects.

According to Nature's second global postdoc survey, carried out in June and July 2023, only 8% of the respondents say the economic impacts of COVID‑19 are their biggest concern, down from 40% in 2020. Instead, they are back to worrying about competition for funding, not finding jobs in their fields of interest, or feeling pressure to sacrifice personal time for work. Overall, 55% say they are satisfied in their current postdoc.

There are other positive trends. The average number of overtime hours has fallen. Also, more postdocs are reporting an appropriate level of support for mental health and well-being at their institutions than previously, and 42% say they have a good work-life balance, up from 36% in 2020. But the biggest shift is in the proportion of postdocs who feel optimistic about their future careers — increasing from 28% of respondents in 2020 to 41% in 2023.

From Nature
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