PhD candidates and postdocs are the tenured staff of the future. Therefore, it is essential that their contribution to science is recognized and rewarded. Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) and Young Science in Transition (YoungSiT) have been happy to witness the developing recognition and rewards (R&R) movement in science, but the current program is not satisfactory for early career researchers yet. Policy makers at universities and funding organisations must take an active role in supporting and implementing R&R policies, not only for tenured staff, but for PhD candidates and postdocs as well. Therefore, we propose five policy recommendations regarding R&R for early career researchers. 

  1. Professional development support: Provide PhD candidates and postdocs with opportunities to develop their professional skills through training in areas such as open science principles, leadership, writing, scientific communication, public outreach, citizen science, career planning, project management and policy making. 
  2. Publication support: Support PhD candidates and post docs in publishing their scientific papers and data in Open Access journals and according to the FAIR principles by providing not only training, but funding and infrastructure as well. 
  3. True recognition of all work: Allow PhD candidates to highlight their work on e.g. policy making, public outreach, teaching, open research outputs (protocols, datasets, software packages), or science communication in the form of a chapter of their dissertation. 
  4. Voluntary basis: Let PhD candidates postdocs be in charge of their own professional development. Considering the already hefty workload and pressure, it remains crucial to emphasise that not everyone has to do everything. Science is teamwork, and allowing PhD candidates and postdocs to find their own strong suits and talents will not be achieved if everyone has to become a jack of all trades. New policies regarding R&R should therefore allow for flexibility, choices, accommodate preferences and accommodate diverse strengths. 
  5. Funding for activities Reward PhD candidates and postdocs who take on tasks such as teaching, science communication, patient outreach, and policy making, on top of their existing workload with an extension of their contract. This will not only help reduce the workload, but also shows true appreciation of the effort.

Policy makers and group leaders must also take an active role in supporting and implementing these changes for PhD candidates and postdocs. By incentivizing institutions and funders to adopt more nuanced metrics, increasing funding for undervalued activities, and recognizing diverse contributions to science, we can create a more just and equitable recognition and rewards system in science.   

Read the full article on ScienceGuide (Dutch only).

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