Microbiologists call for employers, funders and governments to put early career researchers at the heart of their post-COVID-19 recovery plans

16 November 2021

The Microbiology Society has published a position statement entitled ‘Safeguarding the Future of the Microbiology Research and Innovation Workforce’, calling for employers, funders and governments to prioritise and better support early career microbiologists (ECMs).

These recommendations are based on views gathered from ECMs and other early career researchers (ECRs) through a survey and a series of focus groups carried out from April to June 2021.

Being at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response has led to unprecedented challenges for the microbiology research and innovation workforce, with many ECMs disproportionately affected. At the time of the survey, 96% of ECMs reported that the pandemic had affected their research activities and 70% reported that they have not had their funding extended. In addition, 60.5% reported that their mental health and wellbeing had not been supported throughout the pandemic.

Our engagement activities have revealed that the pandemic has acted as a magnifying glass on issues that have been present in academia for years, such as gender inequality, ableism for people with disabilities and a sense of isolation and loneliness at work. In that way, the pandemic has dramatically highlighted the need for a systemic and fundamental change in the way ECMs are being valued and supported in pursuing successful research careers.

Key recommendations

The Microbiology Society urges employers, funders and governments to:

  • Mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on ECMs’ careers
  • Support ECMs’ wellbeing and mental health
  • Develop and embed a new research culture that values ECMs and other researchers

The statement recognises that many universities and funders have continued to support researchers during these times, while facing their own set of challenges and uncertainties. However, it also calls attention to the fact that, without further action, we risk losing an entire generation of researchers that are able to rise to global challenges.

You can download the full statement here

Image: iStock/cgtoolbox.