A survey-based analysis of the academic job market

Elife. 2020 Jun 12:9:e54097. doi: 10.7554/eLife.54097.


Many postdoctoral researchers apply for faculty positions knowing relatively little about the hiring process or what is needed to secure a job offer. To address this lack of knowledge about the hiring process we conducted a survey of applicants for faculty positions: the survey ran between May 2018 and May 2019, and received 317 responses. We analyzed the responses to explore the interplay between various scholarly metrics and hiring outcomes. We concluded that, above a certain threshold, the benchmarks traditionally used to measure research success - including funding, number of publications or journals published in - were unable to completely differentiate applicants with and without job offers. Respondents also reported that the hiring process was unnecessarily stressful, time-consuming, and lacking in feedback, irrespective of outcome. Our findings suggest that there is considerable scope to improve the transparency of the hiring process.

Keywords: careers in science; early-career researchers; human; meta-research; research culture; scientific publishing; tenure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Career Mobility*
  • Faculty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Application
  • Knowledge
  • Male
  • Publishing
  • Research
  • Research Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities