Postdoctoral researchers in the UK: a snapshot at factors affecting their research output

Felisberti, Fatima M. and Sear, Rebecca (2014) Postdoctoral researchers in the UK: a snapshot at factors affecting their research output. PloS one, 9(4), e93890. ISSN (online) 1932-6203


Postdoctoral training is a typical step in the course of an academic career, but very little is known about postdoctoral researchers (PDRs) working in the UK. This study used an online survey to explore, for the first time, relevant environmental factors which may be linked to the research output of PDRs in terms of the number of peer-reviewed articles per year of PDR employment. The findings showed reliable links between the research output and research institutions, time spent as PDR, and parental education, whereas no clear links were observed between PDRs' output and research area, nationality, gender, number of siblings, or work environment. PDRs based in universities tended to publish, on average, more than the ones based in research centres. PDRs with children tended to stay longer in postdoctoral employment than PDRs without children. Moreover, research output tended to be higher in PDRs with fathers educated at secondary or higher level. The work environment did not affect output directly, but about 1/5 of PDRs were not satisfied with their job or institutional support and about 2/3 of them perceived their job prospects as “difficult”. The results from this exploratory study raise important questions, which need to be addressed in large-scale studies in order to understand (and monitor) how PDRs' family and work environment interact with their research output—an essential step given the crucial role of PDRs in research and development in the country.

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