Several studies have documented the importance of optimal work situation and the general well-being of early-career researchers (ECRs) for enhancing the academic performance of universities. Yet, most studies focused on specific categories of ECRs, or on specific academic disciplines as well as on specific outcomes. With this study, we recognize the need for a broader sample encompassing different categories of ECRs across academic disciplines. In a national survey of Swedish universities, the National Junior Faculty of Sweden (NJF) collected data from ECRs in order to study the influence of work situation and well-being on perceived scientific environment. We observed that work situation and well-being are interdependent and jointly influence each other in shaping the conditions for ideal scientific environment. Importantly, we employ structural equation model (SEM) analysis to account for the endogenous relationship between work situation and personal well-being in predicting perceived scientific environment. Results from SEM indicate that support from the university, work time management, job clarity, contract length and quality of life satisfaction were related to the perceived possibility of conducting the best science. Our research also highlighted individual differences across demographic factors and contract length in the perceived work situation and the possibility of conducting the best science.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ahola, K. and Hakanen, J. (2007) ‘Job strain, burnout, and depressive symptoms: A prospective study among dentists’, Journal of Affective Disorders, 104(1–3): 103–110.
Åkerlind, G.S. (2005) ‘Postdoctoral researchers: roles, functions and career prospects’, Higher Education Research and Development, 24(1): 21–40.
Åkerlind, G.S. (2009) ‘Postdoctoral research positions as preparation for an academic career’, International Journal for Researcher Development, 1(1): 84–96.
Andersson, H., Carlsson, J., Dryler, H., Gillström, P., Inkinen, M., Kahlroth, M. and Viberg, A. (2016) Annual statistics on higher education in Sweden 2016—UKÄ (text No. 2016:11). Stockholm: Swedish Higher Education Authority. Retrieved from http://english.uka.se/statistics/annual-statistics-on-higher-education-in-sweden-2016.html#h-HighereducationinSweden2016statusreport.
Ates, G. and Brechelmacher, A. (2013) ‘Academic career paths’, in U. Teichler and E. Höhle (eds.) The Work Situation of the Academic Profession in Europe: Findings of a Survey in Twelve Countries, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 13–35.
Bakker, A. and Demerouti, E. (2007) ‘The Job Demands-Resources Model: State of the Art’, Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(3):309–328.
Baruch, Y. and Hall, D.T. (2004) ‘The academic career: A model for future careers in other sectors?’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 64(2): 241–262.
Beehr, T.A., Walsh, J.T., and Taber, T.D. (1976) ‘Relationship of stress to individually and organizationally valued states: higher order needs as a moderator’, The Journal of Applied Psychology, 61(7): 41–47.
Bessudnov, A., Guardiancich, I. and Marimon, R. (2015) ‘A statistical evaluation of the effects of a structured postdoctoral programme’, Studies in Higher Education, 40(9): 1588–1604.
Björck, J. (2015) Forskningens framtid! Karriärstruktur och karriärvägar i högskolan. Vetenskapsrådet. Retrieved from https://publikationer.vr.se/produkt/forskningens-framtid-karriarstruktur-och-karriarvagar-i-hogskolan/.
Cantwell, B. and Taylor, B. J. (2013) ‘Internationalization of the postdoctorate in the United States: analyzing the demand for international postdoc labor’, Higher Education, 66(5): 551–567.
Capewell, S. (2016) ‘Academic careers: what do early career researchers think?’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, jech-2016-207438, first published online 6 June 2016. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech-2016-207438.
Cyranoski, D., Gilbert, N., Ledford, H., Nayar, A. and Yahia, M. (2011) ‘Education: The PhD factory’, Nature News, 472(7343): 276–279.
Daniels, K. and Harris, C. (2000) ‘Work, psychological well-being and performance’, Occupational Medicine, 50(5): 304–309.
Dany, F., Louvel, S. and Valette, A. (2011) ‘Academic careers: The limits of the “boundaryless approach” and the power of promotion scripts’, Human Relations, 64(7): 971–996.
Dany, F. and Mangematin, V. (2004) ‘Beyond the dualism between lifelong employment and job insecurity: some new career promises for young scientists’, Higher Education Policy, 17(2): 201–219.
De Machado-Taylor, M. L., White, K. and Gouveia, O. (2014) ‘Job Satisfaction of Academics: Does Gender Matter?’, Higher Education Policy, 27(3): 363–384.
Hellgren, J., Sverke, M. and Isaksson, K. (1999) ‘A two-dimensional approach to job insecurity: consequences for employee attitudes and well-being’, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8(2): 179–195.
Iacovides, A., Fountoulakis, K.N., Kaprinis, S. and Kaprinis, G. (2003) ‘The relationship between job stress, burnout and clinical depression’, Journal of Affective Disorders, 75(3): 209–221.
Ivancheva, M.P. (2015) ‘The age of precarity and the new challenges to the academic profession’, Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai - Studia Europaea, 60(1): 39–48.
Jacobs, M. and Pienaar, J. (2017) ‘Stress, coping and safety compliance in a multinational gold mining company’, International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 23(2): 152–161.
Kline, R.B. (2015) Principles and practice of structural equation modeling, New York: Guilford Publications.
Kogan, M. and Bauer, P.M. (2006) ‘Higher education policies: historical overview’, in M. Kogan, M. Henkel, P. M. Bauer, and P. I. Bleiklie (eds.) Transforming Higher Education, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 25–38.
Kuhn, C. and Castaño, Z. (2016) ‘Boosting the career development of postdocs with a peer-to-peer mentor circles program’, Nature Biotechnology, 34(7): 781–783.
Levinson, H. (1965) Book Review of Review of Organizational Stress: Studies in Role Conflict and Ambiguity, by R.L. Kahn, D.M. Wolfe, R.P. Quinn, J.D. Snoek, and R.A. Rosenthal, in Administrative Science Quarterly, 10(1): 125–129.
Maher, B. and Sureda Anfres, M. (2016) ‘Young scientists under pressure: what the data show’, Nature News, 538(7626): 444.
McAlpine, L. and Turner, G. (2012) ‘Imagined and emerging career patterns: perceptions of doctoral students and research staff’, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 36(4): 535–548.
McKay, S., Jeffreys, S., Paraksevopoulou, A. and Keles, J. (2012) Study on precarious work and social rights. Report VT/2010/084 carried out for the European Commission. Working Lives Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, London Metropolitan University.
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine (2014) The postdoctoral experience revisited, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Nature News (2016a) Early-career researchers need fewer burdens and more support. 26 June, available on https://www.nature.com/news/early-career-researchers-need-fewer-burdens-and-more-support-1.20863.
Nature News (2016b) The plight of young scientists. 26 October, available on https://doi.org/10.1038/538443a.
Nunnally, J.C. (1978) Psychometric theory, New York: McGraw-Hill.
Öquist, G. and Benner, M. (2012) Fostering breakthrough research: A comparative study, Fredrik All: Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien.
Poirazi, P., Belin, D., Gräff, J., Hanganu-Opatz, I.L. and López-Bendito, G. (2016) ‘Balancing family with a successful career in neuroscience’, European Journal of Neuroscience, 44(2): 1797–1803.
Powell, K. (2015) ‘The future of the postdoc’, Nature, 520(7546): 144–147.
Rhoades, L., and Eisenberger, R. (2002) ‘Perceived organizational support: a review of the literature’, The Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4): 698–714.
Sauermann, H. and Roach, M. (2016) ‘Why pursue the postdoc path?’, Science, 352(6286): 663–664.
Schulte, P. and Vainio, H. (2010) ‘Well-being at work—overview and perspective’, Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health 36(5): 422–429.
Smaldino, P.E. and McElreath, R. (2016) ‘The natural selection of bad science’, Open Science, published online 21 September. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160384.
Statens Offentliga Utredningar (2016) In Trygghet och attraktivitet - en forskarkarriär för framtiden (SOU 2016:29). Stockholm: Wolters Kluwer, available on http://www.wolterskluwer.se/produkt/9789138244319.
Weijden, I. van der, Teelken, C., de Boer, M. and Drost, M. (2015) ‘Career satisfaction of postdoctoral researchers in relation to their expectations for the future’, Higher Education, 72(1): 25–40.
Wöhrer, V. (2014) ‘To stay or to go? Narratives of early-stage sociologists about persisting in academia’, Higher Education Policy 27(4): 469–487.
The authors are thankful for help from the members of NJF (GU, LiU, LU, UmU, UU, KI) for preparing the survey and sending the link to the web survey at each local future/junior faculty, as well as for useful discussions in order to prepare the survey and discuss the interpretation of the results (GU, LiU, LU, UmU, UU, KI and ÖU). We would also like to thank the participation of the respondents to the web survey.
All authors are representative at the National Junior Faculty of Sweden.
Appendix 2: Mapping of Observed Variables into Constructs
Career path evaluation
Perceived quality of employment
About this article
Cite this article
Signoret, C., Ng, E., Da Silva, S. et al. Well-Being of Early-Career Researchers: Insights from a Swedish Survey. High Educ Policy 32, 273–296 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41307-018-0080-1
- early-career researchers
- work situation