In a recent editorial in The Scientist, Dr. Brad Fenwick explores an issue that has come to the forefront with today's economic pressures:
... Many academics continue to contribute to their fields well into their so-called retirement years, their productivity keeping them safe from forced retirement through post-tenure review processes. What happens, then, to the 20-somethings looking for those elusive research positions and coming up short-changed because of reluctance by senior faculty and administrators to hang up their lab coats?
Dr. Fenwick was a long-time academic himself until joining Elsevier a year ago as Senior VP for Global Strategic Alliances. He served as Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Professor of Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and was also VP for Research at Virginia Tech and chief scientist for the US Department of Agriculture.
In his editorial, he explains that some older academics need to keep working because the recession has 'wreaked havoc" on their retirement plans. But at the same time, many just want to keep working.
Faculty tend to be relatively healthy and enjoy the continual intellectual stimulus of campus life. Forcing senior faculty out is a poor option as it sends a negative message to their junior colleagues about what they have to look forward to.
He points out the contradictory forces that are coming to a head in the United States: the push for students to earn STEM degrees while government funding cuts and corporate mergers are eroding the availability of research jobs. "The promise of a pay-off from the investment in science education is slipping away," he writes.
He goes on to suggest a creative solution – one that would take advantage of the talents of senior academics while preparing a new generation of scientists.
Read his editorial in The Scientist.[divider]
"Brad Fenwick: Why I joined Elsevier," Elsevier Connect, October 2012