Scientists at risk; we need to celebrate their work more

A new report has found almost 1 in 5 scientists surveyed this year have thought about leaving the profession permanently, citing lack of recognition and career advancement opportunities.

Web banner (002)

Taken at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey highlights the need for us to celebrate Australia’s scientists more and affirm how much the nation values their work.

The Professional Scientists Employment and Remuneration Report 2020-21 was released today by Science & Technology Australia (STA) in partnership with Professional Scientists Australia.

Science & Technology Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the report identified a disconnect between the clear value of science to our community – and tangible recognition of scientists.

“With the world’s hopes pinned on scientists to find us a way out of the pandemic, the value of science has never been clearer – yet our scientists don’t always feel that recognition,” she said.

“It’s a timely reminder how important it is to celebrate our scientists more often and more visibly, thank them for their inspiring work, and support them to do their hugely important role.”

“Just as our community celebrated frontline health workers in the pandemic, we invite all Australians to show their appreciation for scientists – and remind them that value their work.”

In a timely form of recognition, the 20th annual Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science will be awarded this week.

Science & Technology Australia urged the Australian community to use this year’s prizes as a moment to express their own personal appreciation and support for our inspiring scientists.

Other key findings reported in the survey include:

  • Almost one in five scientists surveyed (18.3 per cent) indicated they intended to leave the profession permanently;
  • Of those who thought about leaving science, women were more likely to cite lack of recognition or opportunities, lack of career advancements and parenthood as reasons for considering permanently leaving the profession than men;
  • Women remain under-represented in the senior levels of the scientific workforce – both in seniority of roles and years of experience;
  • A gender wage gap of 17.1 per cent between women and men scientists in the survey – three per cent higher than the national average gender wage gap for all sectors;
  • One in five women scientists in the survey said they had experienced sexual harassment at least once in their careers compared to around one in 14 men; and
  • Over half of all scientists surveyed (54.6 per cent) said fatigue had grown in the past year.

Ms Schubert said the survey findings were a reminder of the need to nurture and support our science workforce given how much we rely on them to solve our biggest challenges.

“We need the expertise of our scientists in everything from the research that could lead to a vaccine for COVID-19, to the technologists driving our manufacturing industry and job creation, through to the ecologists informing our bushfire recovery and prevention heading into summer,” she said.

“We need science, and science needs its highly skilled workforce, for our communities, economy and environment to thrive.”

“We want Australian scientists to know they are appreciated for the vital work they do every day.”

“We can’t afford to lose the wealth of talent we have in science as the nation responds to urgent challenges, competes globally as a supplier of goods and services, and leads the development of cutting-edge technology.”

“There’s no doubt 2020 has been a tough year for all Australians, and we can all benefit from a moment of recognition and acknowledgment – in that spirit, let’s celebrate our scientists.”

STA asks all Australians to take a moment to #CelebrateAScientist this week, by tweeting a shoutout to an Australian scientist they want to recognise for their work.

/Public Release. View in full here.