When discussing the postdoctoral period in a researcher’s life, a lack of career progression often boils down to “is it you, or is it me?” Is it a reduction in the quality of candidates, or the fact that there are now too many candidates for a rapidly shrinking pool of jobs? Australia provides an ideal case study, as a large and decentralized country with a government mandate to build the STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) workforce. The goal of the present study was 1) to provide a baseline for postdoctoral experiences and career aspirations in Australia, and 2) to identify gaps in postdoctoral training. When undertaking a capacity building programme it is important to know where efforts should be focused. To better understand the demographic and career progression of Australia’s current cohort of postdoctoral researchers, a national survey was undertaken from 2014–2015. More than 280 postdoctoral researchers from government, industry and academic institutions responded. Our results indicate that although postdoctoral researchers work more than the legal maximum of a 38-hour a week (on average) and have a long-term plan to stay in research, there is significant concern over the long-term viability of research careers due to job insecurity and a shortage of funding.
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- science, technology and society