[Reblog]: A time limit on postdoctoral contracts: The French experience

“The closer we get to 6 years, the more complicated it becomes for them, and many of them lose the desire to really invest themselves into their work, because they see that it will lead to nothing.” —Guillaume Bossis

Driven by the excitement of his project, and supported by a constant stream of funding, Cyril Catelain was fully absorbed by his postdoctoral work. Starting in 2007, in the same French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) lab where he did his Ph.D., Catelain worked to harness the potential of embryonic stem cells for treating cardiac diseases. It took 5 years of testing to identify cells that, given the right conditions, would develop into healthy cardiac cells when injected into a mouse heart. He spent another couple of years developing and validating the technique and then working on filing a patent. “I was head-on into my project. … I didn’t notice time going by,” Catelain says.

Then suddenly, in 2012, for Catelain as for many other postdocs in France, time became a career-breaking issue. A new law ordered French public employers to offer stable employment to workers after 6 years of short-term contracts, through the opening of a new route of recruitment. It backfired, spreading havoc in the careers of young scientists, who not only gained little access to the new stable positions promised by the law but also soon found it nearly impossible to renew their short-term contracts…

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