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Panorama of academic career paths in different countries

  1. Apr 7, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'm trying to get some ideas of how academia should be structured.
    I created this thread to learn how you go about being an academic scientist in different countries, who pays for it, to see what works and what doesn't, what has or hasn't been tried. An overview of academia around the world.

    Just to give you context, our legislature is starting to discuss the structure of the academia in my country, Brazil, so we have a nice opportunity to do this right (as best as we can).

    I'll start by giving you an overview of the Brazilian academy, so you know what I'm talking about.

    In Brazil, most of science is funded by the government and done in universities (the top ones are public).
    The typical career path is to take some tertiary course on some science related field, then follow this with a Masters (optional, but most people do take it). After the Masters you get a PhD, and possibly post-docs (though post-docs are relatively recent in here).
    As the vast majority of jobs in research are within universities, to be a researcher you have no choice but to go through a public contest (which is how Brazil hires most of its public servants - see Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_contest) to become a hired professor.
    After you're hired (and after your probation period - a couple years), you can't be fired (equivalent to the American tenure). Also, it's not mandatory to do research, after all, you were hired to teach. If you do manage to publish enough, you can apply for a lab, get students, the whole deal (and most people do go that way, despite not being mandatory). This has consequences, good and bad, arising from the same place: intellectual freedom (because of security), but also accomodation (because of security).
    During the Masters, PhD and post-doc, you are funded through scholarships given by the federal government agencies for R&D (though the selection process and assigning of scholarships to students is done at the institute level, at each university). Basically, it takes at least 10 years between graduating with a tertiary degree and having your first formal job - which has consequences for when you retire, your taxes, health insurance, etc.
    Grants for research are also given by the same agencies, through selection processes that each scientist applies to individually, on a project basis. This money is for research expenses only - the researchers have their salary (they're public servants, paid by the state), students are paid by the agencies mentioned, technicians are hired by the university (by public contests, see above). In fact they can't use the money to hire a post-doc, for instance. This is all badly implemented (a problem shared by all the administrative services in Brazil) and results in lots of bureaucracy to buy even the simplest things for research.

    I think I've said enough. These are the main points I'd like to address:
    - how grad students, undergrads, postdocs and technicians are hired and who pays them;
    - how do scientists get money to fund research, who funds it;
    - the typical career path after college/tertiary education;
    - any quirks or things worth mentioning.

    Also, besides saying how it is structured in your country, I'd love to hear how you think it could be better, opinions are welcome - I just ask that you try to separate the two. =)

    I know I'm asking a lot, but I hope it ignites some nice discussion of what's right and wrong with the academic career path.

  2. jcsd
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