Thank you for setting up the open review of this proposed international standard for classifying “academic stage” in a research career. There are a number of areas we would like to highlight for consideration.
• There are significant differences in how research is organized and funded in different regions and this means an academic career path varies significantly across regions and countries. It is therefore difficult to start with one countries schema and try to adapt this to the rest of the world. We would encourage the working group to assess and review established definitions from other countries with robust research programs through engagement with a diverse group. This will allow information around the similarities and differences to be shared and incorporated into an initial taxonomy which may be easier to adapt as an international standard.
o For example, there are several definitions of researchers used by US universities. We would therefore recommend consultation with organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the Association of American Universities, and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine so that any schema developed could be adopted in the US
• An academic career path rarely involves a linear progression through skills development, expertise and leadership activities. In addition, the academic career path also varies across subject areas. While the proposed taxonomy can indeed be applied somewhat effectively to certain subject areas and in the UK, the stages do not translate well across all subject areas where career progress and expectations early in a researchers development, for example, can vary substantially.
• Some examples from different stages include:
o Stage 2: in some subject areas, a PhD student is encouraged to develop and lead their own project, with guidance from their supervisor. This includes mentoring, teaching and managing complex equipment in the laboratory etc. PhD students would be expected to manage their own tasks. In addition, Masters and Doctoral training are quite distinct and indeed students can go from a Masters into Doctoral training in a distinct subject area.
o Stage 3: This would be referred to as early independence in the US and in most cases across regions, expectations on a Post-doc are around greater independence across all areas of research in preparation for the step into their first full academic post.
o Stage 4: There are numerous job categories that can be applied to Post docs in the US. There are also a large number of researchers becoming so called ‘career Post-docs’ or Research Assistants in the UK, US and other regions. In the US there are a number of faculty working on research who are in non-tenure-track positions and while some universities restrict these faculty from being PIs on grants, others do not. Some of these researchers can therefore carry significant leadership roles as they progress and gain experience
o Stages 5 and 6: Similar to previous comments and using the US as an example. There are many different faculty tracks, e.g. tenure, research, clinical, instructor in the US and a tenure-track faculty member would not be classified in stage 5, but a research track faculty member might be. So it’s much less about stage of career but rather about track and then level within the track.
o Stage 7: Many researchers don’t lead teams but are still very much considered leaders, and there’s a push to have earlier career faculty not yet at the full professor level engage in leadership roles within collaborations. Team science/scientific collaboration should not be considered a career stage. It’s a type of research, much like translational research or community-engaged research. In addition, many senior researchers do significant work as advisors etc but do not want the credit. A schema should allow and encourage this type of activity.
We hope this is helpful input to the review.
Peter, on behalf of Elsevier