Problematic: Ole Martin Moen, postdoctoral in philosophy at the University of Oslo, says the long wait when applying to academic positions in academia can be problematic. He would have liked to see it speed up a little.
Problematic: Ole Martin Moen, postdoctoral in philosophy at the University of Oslo, says the long wait when applying to academic positions in academia can be problematic. He would have liked to see it speed up a little.

Slow academia can lead to brain drain

Lengthy hiring processes for scholarship and postdoctoral positions can make the brightest heads look away.

–⁠ It took one year from the position I applied for was announced to the appointment was in place, says Magnus Ramberg.

There are major differences in processing time when it comes to scientific employment at universities and university colleges. For some the wait is too long. In September 2013, Ramberg applied to a position as associate professor at the University of South Trøndelag. By spring 2014 the university had still not held the trial lecture. Because the process took so long, Ramberg ended up withdrawing his application

Read more news in English here

He long had plans of a career in academia, but works today as a consultant at SINTEF, Scandinaviaʼs largest independent research institute.

–⁠ I needed a new job, and SINTEF was much faster with the offer.

Reason to worry

Knut Olav Åmås, longtime research editor at Aftenposten, believes academia is in a unique position when it comes to waiting time in application processes.

–⁠ There is a lack of culture that has been allowed to flourish. For several years I’ve been critical to the time it takes, and have heard of cases where applicants for a regular academic position have been waiting up to eighteen months. There is every reason to be concerned that good applicants disappear during the process, says Åmås.

There is a lack of culture that has been allowed to flourish.»

Knut Olav Åmås

He points out that academia is not the only place where you have complex hiring processes. He believes there are plenty of jobs for which they process large amounts of material and many qualified applications within two or three months.

–⁠ Well there are many qualified applicants in academia, and everyone should have a thorough evaluation, but there is still a danger that the best candidates are taking chances outside academia, and end up elsewhere, says Åmås.

Hakon Haugli, CEO of Abelia, NHO’s (Confederation of Norwegian Enterprice) branch of knowledge- and technology companies stress that long hiring processes «gives an obvious advantage for businesses in the fight for the best applicants.»

A whole half year

At the faculty of Social Sciences (SV) at the University of Oslo, both postdoctoral positions and fellowships are pointed out as having particularly protracted employment process. At the department of Political Science (ISV), the time from you deliver doctorate application, to the candidates are chosen can take up to six months.

Dean of research Geir Asheim at the Faculty of Social Sciences believes faster processing of applicants for fellowships is needed. He is painfully aware that the best qualified often find it easiest to find jobs elsewhere.

–⁠ I know cases where the best applicants have been looking for other opportunities because of the long wait, he says.

Proposes incentives

Ole Martin Moen is a postdoctor at the University of Oslo and shares Ramberg’s experience.

–⁠ Iʼve waited six months before I heard anything when I applied for a position as associate professor, says Moen.

While a postdoctoral is a two-year position, an associate professor position is an employment for life, where the process involves trial lectures and stringent publications. Moen says this, but recognizes, however that the long wait could be problematic for many, and would like to see that it sped up.

–⁠ There is slowness in academia, which is strongly linked to thoroughness. One option could be to use incentives, in the form of rewards, to speed up the game. To sit on the hiring committees is a lot of work, and you don’t get paid for it. It also takes recources away from the core business of research and publication.

Quality is at stake

Incentives are not what is needed, according to Vice-Dean Jostein Askim at the Department of Political Science. He believes the long processing time is required and that it is not possible to increase efficiency just like that.

–⁠ While research fellows in science and mathematics are often part of an ongoing project, like a wheel in machinery, we normally ask applicants to the department of Political Science to develop their own individual project.

In UiO’s hiring guidelines it says nothing about time spent on hiring, and Askim is not aware of any such regulations. He believes there are implications for reasonable time spent in the regulations, but stresses that he doe not believe the hiring process is optimized.

–⁠ Far from it. We should cut down to three months on both scholarship and postdoctoral positions from deadline to an offer is made. But much faster than that I do not think we can aim at, that would mean a lack of quality in the process.

Thorough Process

Askim explains that the department, in addition to conducting interviews with candidates and document the process carefully, also attaches great importance to the master thesis in the decision making process.

–⁠ We’re talking about a 100-page document that must be read carefully. Our expert committee writes detailed documents where all applicants are discussed in detail, and the reasons why some rank some over others, he says.

You’re not afraid good applicants will disappear into the business world because of the long wait?

–⁠ I have experienced once in four years that an applicant had found something else in the meantime. The selected candidate chose to go to a foreign university that knew that the University had not given a formal offer yet, and therefore set the deadline a little earlier than us. The institute has around a hundred applicants on their PhD positions. Most important for the hiring process is still the number of applicants, and fewer applicants is not something we want.

Translated by Louise Faldalen Prytz