A new study out from Texas, published in PLoS One shows that, in general, scientists want more children — taking a look at the impact and perceived impact of the scientific lifestyle on individual’s career choices and career satisfaction. We all know of the problems of the academic lifestyle. Multiple post-docs in multiple locations and countries, job insecurity, the long hours… the list goes on. Academia has always had a high attrition rate, with many scientists leaving at every stage of the career progression ladder.
The life-work balance or work-life balance is thought to disproportionately affect women within academia. But this new study shows that having fewer children than wanted also impacts men’s general satisfaction. Family life is a great impedement for young scientists, and not just the female scientists.
The research goes into more detail, asking the question: what the significant influences on the pursuit of a science career? And goes further than just focussing on women in science. Over 2000 scientists (684 graduate students, 504 postdoctoral fellows, 446 assistant professors, 326 associate professors, and 543 full professors) from 31 universities across the US were polled — a response rate higher than in previous similar studies.
It seems that having fewer children than wanted as a result of the science career affects life satisfaction and career satisfaction. Young scientists who have had fewer children than wished are more likely to plan to exit science entirely. Although, planning an exit is a general trend from the moment you start your PhD.
Given the fact that of the perception of the work-life imbalance in academia perhaps now is the time for research institutions to address such an imbalance.