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Rehab for (recovering) academics.
Why did I bother with this PhD journey? 
22nd-Jul-2014 12:30 pm
pic#111812164 bunsen burner
Originally posted by energyresearch at Why did I bother with this PhD journey?

Whilst there were no illusions of a research career equating to limitless wealth, it is profoundly depressing to read further confirmation that the market value of research skills is less than £ 30k, with the added luxury of a fixed term duration of barely a year:

BioenNW Interreg IVB Research Associate for Pyrolysis Systems – Pyrofabs
Project Manager (2 Posts) Engineering & Applied ScienceSalary: £27,057
to £28,972 Contract Type: Fixed Term (until 30 September 2015) Basis:
Full Time Closing Date: Sunday 17 August 2014 Interview Date: To be
confirmed Reference: R140233

The European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) is seeking to appoint
two Research Associates with a strong experimental background and track
of independent research to work on the thermal processes for biomass
conversion. You will join a world-renowned European Bioenergy Research
Institute and will be working at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary
research problems and industrial applications. The EBRI has developed an
innovative new bioenergy technology that increases the efficiency of
anaerobic digestion by up to 25%. You will be involved in performing the
start-up and preliminary tests of the pyrolysis mobile testing units –
Pyrofabs, in EBRI, and then move to reside in the countries where the
Pyrofabs are to be allocated; liaising with the different project
partners to provide them with the specifications of resources needed for
the demonstration tests; producing a procedure on how to obtain results
from the mass balance calculations and sample analysis; providing
technical advice and facilitate training of BioenNW partner staff on how
to operate the Pyrofabs; producing a Risk Assessment and Safe Operating
Procedure of the Pyrofabs; facilitating the procurement of feedstocks;
organising samples analysis, liaising with external laboratories. The
role will require travelling extensively across Europe between January
and June 2015

You will be a highly a motivated researcher with a proven track record
in delivering solutions for the continued research into pyrolysis
systems. In addition you should have proven expertise in independent
development and designing of specialised equipment and new laboratory
techniques and methodologies whilst having the ability to conduct
independent research and to supervise research staff. Experience of
managing research projects is essential.

You should have a PhD or a similar degree with a strong focus on thermal
processes for biomass conversion.

(source: Jobs at Aston).

22nd-Jul-2014 12:03 pm (UTC)
Mmmmm. And just how loudly did you protest when it was humanities and arts positions offering this type of job and salary?
22nd-Jul-2014 12:11 pm (UTC)
Academic salary scales in the UK are nationally negotiated, so most postdoc positions will have been offered on the same scale regardless of what subject they are in. The difference tends to be that part-time or less-than-twelve month teaching contracts are used more in the humanities and social sciences, whereas science postdocs are more likely to be 1-4 year fixed-term full-time. On the other hand, humanities academics who do get teaching and research jobs seem to move through the payscales a lot faster than science researchers, who can spend 5-10 years on the postdoc pay scale where humanities academics will have moved up to Lecturer or even Senior Lecturer.
22nd-Jul-2014 12:12 pm (UTC)
That's good. Are all recent PhD grads expecting salaries of about $50,000 USD too?
22nd-Jul-2014 12:39 pm (UTC)
Differs widely. The majority of those who manage to get academic jobs (whether research, teaching or both) will be on a salary of around £30k pa, but it might be reduced pro rata. The kind of admin job that I got after my PhD was on the grade below the typical starting academic salary, which was around £24k in 2008 and is around £26k now (which is a significant drop in real terms, because the salary scales haven't kept up with inflation.) However, the last time I knew the figures well only around 30-50% of PhD graduates were staying in the higher education system, and obviously it'll vary much more for people leaving HE.
25th-Jul-2014 10:31 am (UTC)
Disagree that those on academic contracts move up the pay scale faster. One of the main differences between research associates (postdocs) and lecturers/ senior lecturers at my RG university is that research associates move up two spinal points every year whereas permanent academic staff move up one point. Thus, three years in a postdoc/research position at my institution can mean that your pay is the same as SL on the national scale.

22nd-Jul-2014 12:07 pm (UTC)
We are the victims of our own success. We can solve all problems in a year.
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22nd-Jul-2014 08:29 pm (UTC)
Most of us are, otherwise we'd be pouring drinks. Perhaps one way to look at it is that this is not about the money. This is about the way society looks at science, technology, education, and creativity.
23rd-Jul-2014 08:29 pm (UTC)
even your professors and advisers think it's not about the money.

Because they get theirs and expect 100% dedication, motivation, results and profit while you may actually be starving and then they are totally _shocked_, SHOCKED, they'll say, that you consider doing a part-time job (at university, even! In something related to your subject!) because of such nonsense as paying rent and having to eat.
23rd-Jul-2014 07:21 am (UTC)
That looks like one of those job descriptions where they titled it as a research associate to attract people with PhDs but in actuality this is an entry level project management position/technician/product promoter post. I see posts like this a lot. If it was a position with a grant attached to it, the salary would probably be better. I suspect the post in actuality would be pretty research light, hence the lower salary. Why pay for specialist skills you don't plan to make use of?
23rd-Jul-2014 09:47 pm (UTC)
What salary scale would you expect to see a postdoc on? I'd not be surprised to see a salary range that goes up higher than that for people who are on their second postdoc, but £28k - £32k would be pretty normal for a starting salary, I'd have thought?
24th-Jul-2014 06:16 am (UTC)
I've seen 22-26k for humanities/arts, and 28-35 for sciences. Depends so much on the grant behind it. My first post doc I'm starting in October is 33k because of the grant it's attached to. But I work in health research so I can only comment on that area. I've seen "research" posts offered by private hospitals that are lower in salary and have a strong teaching or clinical component - they're not really wanting a researcher, they actually just want someone with a PhD qualification. But I could earn just as much by going back to my Band 6 NHS work (for which a PhD is completely irrelevant) so to me it doesn't seem an appropriate level of pay for the skill level they're asking for, further emphasising the point I made above about not paying for skills they don't plan to use. So in the job description OP posted, I can only identify one small, initial aspect that requires some research (development work) and the rest seems to be a generic project management, advisory and sales technician job that anyone could do with the requisite training - seems like they just want to skip the training stage by appealing to those trained in it for their doctorate.
29th-Jul-2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
If you want to make money you should become a builder in the UK.

There's been this problem where the generation before us found that by getting a degree (any degree) they could move up from working class to middle class, so that's what they told us to do. But the situation changed in the meantime and no one paid attention.

This salary seems on par for the UK when it comes to academic post-doc salaries in the sciences. You might expect more from industry, but it really does vary depending on the company.

You'll have to go to Germany if you want a massive starting salary in industry with a science degree. They will pay you a huge amount and then later you can return to the UK once you're in a managerial position. Although by then the UK may have absolutely no industrial left where research is done and just be running on banking jobs and fracked oil and shale gas.
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