Who and what defines an early- or mid-career researcher? — R Voice

Who and what defines an early- or mid-career researcher?

Gayatri Ramachandran
Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 233 ✭✭✭

Few years ago, I had noticed the terms early-, mid- and late-career researcher being adopted by only those who had completed their post-doc position. Lately, I have been observing PhD students pursuing their doctorate, address themselves as early career researchers. To me, both the above perspectives makes sense and yet, I sought to know if there was a proper definition or an international body that defines or assigns criteria/qualifications to necessarily be tagged as an early-, mid- or late-career researcher. I found none and decided to ask you all to get a deeper understanding of these terms. It can definitely be quite confusing while making portfolios! Again, when you are introduced to peers or seniors in an academic setting at a conference or during a webinar, you are forced to enquire about their educational qualification which makes these terms- too broad to make sense.

I invite the @R Voice Team to contribute here since you are always in contact with researchers. Would love to learn from you- @Isurika Sevwandi @Omololu FAGBADEBO @Suman Mundkur @Erin Owens @Asli Telli @Shruti Turner @Yufita Chinta @S Lee @Juan Carlos Torres-Galván @Ruchika Yogesh @Soumi Paul @Karen Hall @Praveena Ramanujam to throw some light on this.


  • Omololu FAGBADEBO
    Omololu FAGBADEBO Member Posts: 190 ✭✭✭

    @Gayatri Ramachandran, I think it's determined by the number of years in research activities, post-PhD. Other universities might have specific criteria for such categorization.

    One thing at a time😍

  • Karen Hall
    Karen Hall Member Posts: 21 ✭✭

    I once was looking at a commonwealth placement for early researchers and it said less than 6 years in the academic field .

  • Erin Owens
    Erin Owens Member Posts: 28 ✭✭✭

    @Gayatri Ramachandran what a great question! I wonder whether the definition may also differ between disciplines? In my field, "early" seems to mean "5 years or less," which is pretty comparable to the "less than 6 years" that @Karen Hall mentioned. However, I don't have as clear a sense of where "mid-career" transitions to "late career." I'm a full Prof with 15 years, so I don't know if others would consider that "late," but I probably still have another 15 years to go, so I certainly feel "mid"! 😂

  • Erin Owens
    Erin Owens Member Posts: 28 ✭✭✭

    Adding this as an interesting reference point. From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program (https://interdisciplinaryresearch-leaders.org/faq_post_type/can-you-define-mid-career-researcher/)

    "We are looking for applicants who are mid-career, rather than early-career or late-career. While we don’t have a set definition for “mid-career,” generally speaking, a researcher would be considered “mid-career” if they are more than three years out from their PhD (or another terminal degree) or have extensive (e.g., 10+ years) rigorous research or evaluation experience."

  • Erin Owens
    Erin Owens Member Posts: 28 ✭✭✭

    But then there's this from the American Geophysical Union (AGU, https://www.agu.org/Honor-and-Recognize/Honors/Nomination-resources/Career-Stages)

    "Early career: within 10 years of receiving their PhD or highest equivalent terminal degree..."

    ...So I definitely think the use of these terms varies quite a bit across the academic landscape!

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 233 ✭✭✭

    Precisely @Erin Owens. Thank you for citing references and taking the time to get back on the query! What I understand from @Omololu FAGBADEBO's and @Karen Hall's responses is also pretty much indicative of the fact that these are quite broad terms which can be extrapolated on a case to case basis across academic set-ups in different countries. Probably, the economic, social and educational background of each country contributes to how the criterias are framed for early and mid-career researchers. Anyways, that was very insightful and thanks to you three for your prompt responses 😊