I wrote this text in July 2016, the week I learned that I obtained a 4-years research postdoc in Germany, without teaching obligations (and everyone knows that not teaching hurts you, so this means that the university will get free teaching at some point, because yeah that's how it works: I'm already paid, so you won't get money for teaching!).
For someone in the precarious academia system, a 4-years postdoc is the jackpot! My spirit and thoughts have COMPLETELY changed dramatically within a week time. But what exactly is this precarity? How does it affect the life of someone in academia? Precariousness, the state of what is precarious, coming from the Latin precarius which means "obtained by prayer" and is therefore not assured. Obtained through prayer. Is this what we want? To put scientists in a precarious situation? To force them to beg society to support them? Is that the key to innovation?
Why doesn't a postdoc do their job?
- Because they care about their precarious future
- Because they must adapt to a new city
- Because they have to adapt to a new country
- Because they have to adapt to a new language
- Because they have to create a new social circle
- Because they have to worry about social disadvantages (health insurance, related scams)
- Because they do not receive the salary that is due to them
- Because they move often and do the associated paperwork
- Because they take the time to buy or mail their life materials
- Because they have to look for a job as soon as they are hired
- Because they often have to reinvent their lifes (new hobbies, new restrictions)
- Because they often experience long distance relationships and related difficulties
- Because they think about giving up at any moment
- Because they are looking for stability
- Because they have to say goodbye to people all the time
- Because their lifes are pending 3 months before leaving and 3 months after
... and the list could go on. Which one did I forget?
And now? What do I think about precarity? I tell myself: 4 years! Wow! I will be able to settle down! But to which extent?
I'm coming back to Berlin. I remember not being 100% happy there, but that I could get a life finally. So yes, it is possible. It will be necessary to take the time to start at 0 again. But this time, no half measures.