Keywords: career path, career stage, rewards in academe, scientists in academe
Career stage, benchmarking and collective research
This paper provides an answer to the puzzle of why, in a system where collaboration is increasingly important and life-cycle models provide a modest explanation of observable outcomes, the career stage of the individual remains an important concept. We argue that three factors are key to the explanation of this paradox. First, the reward structure in science, particularly in academe, places great emphasis on the attainment of benchmarks in the context of a career. Second, the funding mechanism by which university laboratories have traditionally been supported in the US places great emphasis on the individual and often is targeted to the career stage of the individual. Third, the funding regime which has evolved in the US encourages the use of doctoral students and post doctoral students as researchers in the laboratories. This provides for a system in which a fugue of life cycles plays out in the laboratory and a means by which networks are put in place as early career scientists leave the nest and go about establishing their own laboratories or move to the laboratories of others.