Stability through Constant Turnover: The Replacement Rate of the Scientific Workforce

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Training newscientists is essential to ensure that thes cientific work force is sustained and able to produce new findings in the future,but academic careers are shortening for each successive cohort. We aim to connect the shortening of academic careers to larger trends in the growth and turnover rates of the academic workforce. Using publishing data to estimate the distribution of career ages in the academic workforce of the United States, we find that the number of researchers entering the workforce is consistently scaled over time to replace leaving researchers at a ratio of 1.27, indicating a continued exponential growth of the workforce. However, as a large proportion of researchersdepartacademicscienceintheearlycareerstages,wearguethatthepopulationoftheearlycareer workforce turns over every few years to fulfill essential positions within academic research rather than to replace retiring researchers. The implications of this may be that new researchers are trained to fulfil necessary research roles vacated by departing early career scientists rather than to ultimately achieve long-term tenure track positions.

This content has been updated on November 17th, 2021 at 11 h 14 min.