The most disgruntled postdoc

Today, I came across a blog post entitled "A career in science will cost you your firstborn". It talks about a post-doc called Margaret, who doesn't only hate being a post-doc, but also calculates that it has "cost" her half a billion dollars to become trained enough to qualify for a TT position (because if she hadn't done a post-doc she would be making more money) .

The pathway in modern academic science involves up to twenty years spent as a “trainee,” with little respect from your peers and even littler compensation.

Wait, there's more to be disgruntled about:

Worse yet, a postdoc isn’t a real job.  You’re considered a “trainee” for the purposes of everything from social security to benefits.  You’re often locked out of retirement accounts, not that you’ll have enough money to save any to begin with.   And you often can’t collect unemployment if you’re fired.

Quitting sometimes means owing a grant organization years of “payback,” which can take the form of unpaid work or huge debts.  And since your boss gets most of the credit for what you do, even the successful can have their careers soured simply because their boss forgets to mention their name when she presents the data at international conferences.

As a postdoc, you’re still not really a “scientist,” but you’re almost all the way.

On top of getting no respect, it is impossible to find a partner, according to this post:

Turns out that when you’re working the 10-16 hour days expected from a postdoc, it’s pretty hard to get out on the social scene to meet the breadwinner you’re going to need on that paltry salary.  If you want to be a scientist, you’d better meet your sugar daddy/momma in college.

And if you are lucky enough to meet this person, you should obviously wait to have a baby in order to work hard enough:

This whole problem is a LOT harder on scientists who can carry children.  Earning almost nothing is okay enough for me—even if I start a family at 40, my anatomy is going to work just fine at the job.  But if you’re the one getting pregnant, your fertility peaks during the 20 years of your adult life that a scientist typically spends proving they deserve a career.


Uhm yeah. I think it is true that there are many aspects of academia that are not perfect to say the least. But as black and white as things are portrayed here for "Margaret", who already hated being a post-doc after 4 months into it, is not the way I experienced it. And the fact that there are so many kick-ass scientist with and without children out there show that it does not have to be this way. Yes, things need to change in terms of funding, job stability, the length of a post-doc, but I would never go as far as to say that a career in science will cost you your firstborn. Unless you look at it differently and imagine how many children you could have had if you hadn't even attended college. In that case, going to college and getting a career in science could have cost me my 10th, 11th and 12th born*.

* assuming I would have started having babies at 18 - my peak fertile years - and had a baby every 2 years. Which of course I had if it wasn't for science.

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