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Knocking on Academia's Doors: An Inquiry into the Early Careers of Doctors in Life Sciences


  • S. Robin
  • E. Cahuzac


The early careers of French doctors in life sciences are characterized by the importance of temporary jobs. While most young Ph.D. researchers wish to obtain a job in the French academic sector (which grants them, among other things, lifetime employment), few of them manage to achieve this objective immediately after completing their Ph.D. A majority of young doctors have to wait for a period of time before they find stable employment in the academic sector. In the meantime, they usually find temporary research jobs. Two main types of short–term jobs can be distinguished: fixed–term research contracts (in most cases in a French public laboratory) and post–doctoral positions (temporary research jobs in a foreign country). The aim of this paper is to determine whether these different types of temporary jobs have different consequences on the careers of Ph.D. researchers. We first discuss from a theoretical perspective the impact of choosing ‘post–doc’ research rather than a job on a fixed–term contract. Then, after dealing with selection biases that affect the access to these temporary jobs, we will use survival data analysis to estimate the impact of both types of temporary positions on the probability of entering the academic sector. The analysis is based on a database on the early careers of 800 young French doctors in life sciences. The main results include the following findings: the probability of a Ph.D. researcher finding stable employment is higher if he has held a post–doc position than if he has held a fixed–term contract. This result holds for both the private and public sectors. However, careers in the private sector are also affected by long–term choices, such as the decision to undertake Ph.D. research in partnership with a firm.

Suggested Citation

  • S. Robin & E. Cahuzac, 2003. "Knocking on Academia's Doors: An Inquiry into the Early Careers of Doctors in Life Sciences," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 17(1), pages 1-23, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:labour:v:17:y:2003:i:1:p:1-23
    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9914.00219

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    Cited by:

    1. Eric S. Lin & Shih-Yung Chiu, 2016. "Does Holding a Postdoctoral Position Bring Benefits for Advancing to Academia?," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 57(3), pages 335-362, May.
    2. Liliane Bonnal & Jean-Francois Giret, 2010. "Determinants of access to academic careers in France," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(5), pages 437-458.
    3. Claire Bonnard & Julien Calmand & Jean-François Giret, 2016. "Devenir chercheur ou enseignant chercheur : le goût pour la recherche des doctorants à l'épreuve du marché du travail," Post-Print halshs-01282661, HAL.
    4. Gaughan, Monica & Robin, Stephane, 2004. "National science training policy and early scientific careers in France and the United States," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 569-581, May.
    5. Antonio Caparrós-Ruiz, 2019. "Time to the Doctorate and Research Career: Some Evidence from Spain," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 60(1), pages 111-133, February.
    6. Lee, Hsing-fen & Miozzo, Marcela & Laredo, Philippe, 2010. "Career patterns and competences of PhDs in science and engineering in the knowledge economy: The case of graduates from a UK research-based university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 869-881, September.
    7. Natalia Mishagina, 2007. "Empirical Analysis Of Career Transitions Of Sciences And Engineering Doctorates In The Us," Working Paper 1137, Economics Department, Queen's University.
    8. Isabelle Recotillet, 2004. "Earnings of young doctorates in private jobs after participation to post-doctoral programs," Working Papers halshs-00086000, HAL.
    9. Hsing-fen Lee & Marcela Miozzo, 2015. "How does working on university–industry collaborative projects affect science and engineering doctorates’ careers? Evidence from a UK research-based university," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 40(2), pages 293-317, April.
    10. Juan Francisco Canal Domínguez & César Rodríguez Gutiérrez, 2016. "Doctoral training and labour market needs. Evidence in Spain," Research Evaluation, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 79-93.

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