Today I talked to one of the important people at my uni and heard the same thing that I have heard before here in the homecountry: they would love to hire me, but there is no money to offer me (or any other early career researcher for that matter) any sort of security. Only if you have an ERC starting grant or equivalent, do you become interesting enough for the university to offer you stable employment. I defended my PhD in 2010 and everybody tells me that it takes at least another 3-5 years before I will be competitive for these grants. So until then, I will have to find personal fellowships or grants to be able to stay in academia. What frustrates me the most about this, is that I feel that I've invested quite a lot in myself, but now nobody seems to want to invest in me. Jim Woodgett put it very nicely today on twitter when he said:
Akin to hitchhiking for a living. Reliance on semi-random “goodwill” of others & odd jobs to keep goal alive.
I like this analogy very much. Because hitchhiking is fun and exciting, and a great way to get to places. You will probably get to your destination and to the people watching from the sideline or waiting for you at your final destination, it might not look that different than when you would have your own car. But if you have ever hitchhiked and found yourself at the end of the day at a deserted gas station in the pouring cold rain, wondering if you will ever get a ride out of there, you will know that it is not the same. Having your own car means that you can decide where and when to go. Whereas when you hitchhike, like Jim Woodgett said, you rely on other people's goodwill. They might offer you a couple months of funding in between personal fellowships, but it is up to them (and all sorts of unconscious bias too). They can also decide to just keep driving their car and leave you in the rain at that gas station, and there is no way of telling which one it will be.