The Great Resignation seems to have finally hit academia — R Voice

The Great Resignation seems to have finally hit academia

Kakoli Majumder
Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 296 admin
edited June 1 in Academic Careers

The first thing that grabbed my attention this morning was a Nature article on how the Great Resignation is hitting academia. There's currently a major wave of researchers leaving academia and moving to industry, and apparently, the pandemic gave them the time to reflect on their careers and make bold decisions. Interestingly, the article points out, most of those leaving academia are mid-career researchers, many of them giving up secure long-term positions for more lucrative positions in industry.

One much discussed positive outcome of the Great Resignation wave that hit industry last year was a job market more favorable for employees than it's been in decades - better salaries, enhanced work conditions, greater flexibility and mobility, etc. If the Great Resignation has finally hit academia, can we look forward to a similar outcome? Will this wave of resignation make universities sit up and think about ways to retain researchers? Can we see a glimmer of hope for the future of academia?


  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 172 ✭✭✭

    Like they say @Kakoli Majumder - Every event in the universe follows the sigmoid curve. There is always a log phase, stationary phase followed by a compulsory decline phase. Its nature's balance strategy to help new innings grow and the old rules fades away. Much like any life on earth. Am I sounding philosophical here? YES. Coz these are the thoughts that first hit me when I read the article. Nothing on this earth is permanent.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this insightful read! 🤗I am going to share it on LinkedIn as well for a wider reach that might enable many think tanks to dwell on it coz it IS SOMETHING thats worth introspection for those in academia, both externally and internally.

    I was reminded of our dear @Shruti Turner and the "turn"ing point she had much like her namesake 😁 for which I'm really glad for her. I could appreciate her decision because Ive been through that phase of mulling and mulling over leaving academia, much like what @Yufita Chinta also resonated quite recently in her come-back here.

    The article opens up multidimensional perspectives and thats the beauty of it all. The more the perspectives a write-up generates the more philosophical it turns out to be. Like someone mentioned in the article- Why stay in this world if it’s just going to be a slightly different version?. The world he means here is academia. Honestly, I had asked myself this question before I joined a PhD program the second time. I feel it is relevant for many early career researchers to ask this before they proceed with their post-doc or RA positions in academia.

    I'm actually glad the pandemic forced many to rethink their decisions, gave the time they desperately needed to introspect and genuinely assess whether they were happy or not about what they were contributing to science or any field for that matter. Many a time, lack of time to sit and actually introspect or retrospect over our current career choice is never a part of our routine. Regular one to one meeting with ourselves to assess what and where we are in our lives does help us keep the flavour of life alive and make our lives purposeful to ourselves and to the society. Drudgery is the worst yet unrecognised demon many face be it in academia or elsewhere.

    I hope this article inspires many in our community here to take it in the right spirit and decide to stay or go, conscientiously, giving ourselves no opportunity to regret later in life.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I saw this on my twitter feed to and it got me thinking. I'm not sure if this is a new phenomenon, or if it just goes in waves or if we are just bringing attention to what has always happened.

    I feel it is perhaps a combination of all three, that they are feeding each other. At least here in the UK between Brexit and COVID funding feels ever elusive. But then I also think about a lot of the typical complaints about and the perception of millennials, how we are "work-shy" or "snowflakes" or whatever else for standing up for good conditions and challenging toxic habits. Is it just that we've got to a point where people aren't willing to put up with the same old things any more?

    I don't feel like the grumblings and dissatisfaction are new things, but perhaps what we're doing with those feelings is changing? There are so many opportunities out there for people with the skills from academia, especially (in my opinion, maybe it's just relevant to my experience?) with the rise of technology. No research could happen without data, most of us programme/code in some form, we can project manage and produce outputs with little guidance. All skills, hard and soft, that industry is crying out for. Industry that will give job security, a work life balance, career progression and a comfortable salary.

    Someone I spoke to when I was making my decision to leave academia (also stepped away from academia to do Data Science) asked me: "have you ever known anyone to regret leaving [academia]?" My answer then is the same as it is, I haven't met one person who regretted leaving. I have met many (and been one of them!) hanging on to what could be for the love of their research or the other great perks of academia (cited as working with students, flexibility, ability to do focus on what you want etc.) but all those people have displayed the struggle with the other parts of academia too.

    I think it's about time that a big change comes for academia, the old school of thought of "change it from within" hasn't changed the world of academia as much as we sometimes hope. There are amazing communities and individuals making the changes slowly and steadily, but for a larger widespread impact in a shorter time, maybe this "great resignation" will shake things up?

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 172 ✭✭✭

    Same here@Shruti Turner. I haven't met one person who has regretted leaving academia. In fact it is the other way round in some cases. They feel they have got a second life and new innings to focus on. At the end of the day I feel it(happiness in academia) is entirely up to an individual. None can be forced to stay in it so none can be blamed for our miseries or happiness in academia.

  • Yufita Chinta
    Yufita Chinta Member Posts: 139 ✭✭✭✭

    First of all, I may be correct or incorrect in catching the message that @Shruti Turner has turned her career from academia to industry? Whether the clarification is yes or no, I want to give applause to her to be brave and decide, since both actions are not easy actions.

    As a person who has done a "ping-pong career" (academia-industry-academia), I feel that this is all about business and we are the employees/actors of the business. As mentioned by Shruti, we have the skills and knowledge, which have been gained and developed through formal education. The further question is where and how we will express and use our skills and knowledge? Joining academia or industry or being independent is one of the hundreds of options. I believe each individual of us has a reason for choosing an option.

    Jumping to the conversation between @Shruti Turner and @Gayatri Ramachandran: if I am asked whether I regret doing a "ping-pong career", my answer is no. Some wise people say "follow your passion", but I add it with "follow your logic about your life". To what happened to me, I receive it honestly as this is my life. More than that, my career is one of the sides of my life, while my family is my top priority.

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 172 ✭✭✭

    Such an honest and endearing message @Yufita Chinta. A big applause to you for outrightly prioritising your life choices, logically, rather than passionately👏. Absolutely motivating!

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 241 ✭✭✭

    ”Follow your logic about your life". Thank you for sharing this nugget of wisdom @Yufita Chinta , I needed to hear it again with all the academic choices I currently am facing. Yes! Everyone’s path is so individual and there is no “one recipe”.