Who is Considered Valuable in Academia? New Dissertation Highlights Challenges for Young Researchers in Navigating Towards Tenure.

By Caroline Cabot - Published 1 March 2024
[Translate to English:] Omslag
[Translate to English:]

How does one progress as a new researcher in today's academia, where evaluations are constant and competition is fierce? This is explored by Jonatan Nästesjö in his new dissertation, "Uncertainty, Worth, Identity: How Early Career Academics Navigate Evaluative Landscapes," at the Department of Educational Sciences at Lund University.

In his dissertation, Jonatan Nästesjö delves into the complex interplay between value, evaluation, and academic socialization for young researchers in political science and history. He conducted in-depth interviews with 35 postdoctoral researchers, all of whom have completed their doctorates but lack permanent positions – where questions about demonstrating one's worth and gaining recognition from others for a continued career in academia are put to the test. The dissertation identifies two conclusions:

Narrower Career Scripts: On one hand, the dissertation demonstrates that the structures and frameworks that characterize the postdoctoral phase create increasingly narrow scripts for how success and worth are defined. This is in line with previous research that has emphasized how an academic culture marked by productivity, competition, and social insecurity reduces young researchers to one-dimensional career subjects.

Pragmatic Problem-solving: On the other hand, the study also shows that young researchers navigate evaluative landscapes not only by attempting to maximize their own position. Rather, such calculating practices are combined with a kind of moral work where both identity and morality serve as important motives for navigating evaluative landscapes. Thus, the dissertation points towards an understanding of career-building as a form of pragmatic problem-solving linked to how one can legitimately assert, dismiss, and balance between different notions of who and what is considered valuable within academia.

Jonatan Nästesjö comments: "The study raises important questions about governance, funding, working conditions, and disciplinary traditions in academia, and how these affect who 'fits in' and what knowledge production is rewarded."

For interviews regarding the dissertation, please contact: jonatan.nastesjouvet.luse
Read the full dissertation here