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Open Letter About the Goals of the JRA

A goal without a plan is just a wish. This is a frequently cited life lesson and quote by the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A reminder to all of us about being specific when setting goals, and to question our goals and how we get there. This includes questioning the Aarhus University 2025 goals of “strengthening researcher career development” and “more diversity in research groups”. How are we going to improve the talent development of the junior researchers at the university? Furthermore, how are we going to fulfill the goals of gender equality and more diversity in research groups?

What is the strategy for junior researcher development?

A goal without a plan is just a wish. This is a frequently cited life lesson and quote by the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A reminder to all of us about being specific when setting goals, and to question our goals and how we get there. This includes questioning the Aarhus University 2025 goals of “strengthening researcher career development” and “more diversity in research groups”. How are we going to improve the talent development of the junior researchers at the university? Furthermore, how are we going to fulfill the goals of gender equality and more diversity in research groups? 

Are we missing out on talents?

The junior researchers include postdoctoral fellows and assistant professors. A group of researchers in temporary positions aspiring for permanent faculty positions. Across all faculties, we see that a large proportion of the junior researchers will change career path and continue in the private sector, other parts of the public sector, or abroad. At the same time, we see a fundamental change in the gender balance at this level. There are currently more women than men completing a PhD, whereas more than 60% of associate professors are men. This should raise the question of whether we are keeping the best talents or just keeping the men? Moreover, we need to ask what we are doing to nurture the talents and keeping the talents?  
 

The effort for talent development among junior researchers is very limited compared to e.g. the Ph.D. students. The junior researcher development program, which offered shared courses and mentor programmes, has been terminated, and the activities have been relocated as a task for each faculty. While targeted junior researcher development at each faculty may sound like a good idea, the question is what is actually being done at the faculty level? So far, it appears as allocated resources are lacking. At the same time, we see that junior researchers is the only group not having a saying in the Academic councils, unlike students, Ph.D. students, tenured researchers, and technical personnel. So are we really making the most out of our talents, and is AU really strengthening researcher career development?

Moving forward

The junior researcher association is working to improve the conditions and career opportunities for all junior researchers at Aarhus University. We want to ensure that junior researchers have adequate access to course opportunities and career development as well as better working conditions and healthy work environments. Most importantly, we want junior researchers to have a stronger voice at the university. To follow our initiatives, you can join our work and meetings by sending us an email.