National Research Career patterns

National career patterns are one of the major channels through which societies affect the production of scientific knowledge. Through their career-shaping institutions, societies have a major impact on the choice of research problems by academics. They determine who is able to chose a problem (i.e. who has a contract), the kinds of problems that are chosen (i.e. which problems can be addressed at a certain career stage), and how the problem is addressed (i.e. under what conditions research is conducted at a certain career stage). The aim of this project is to explain how specific career relevant institutions (the institutions defining types of positions available to researchers, possible sequences of positions, and access to resources) impact on the production of scientific knowledge through shaping a researcher’s career.


  • Laudel, Grit, and Jochen Gläser, 2008: From apprentice to colleague: the metamorphosis of Early Career Researchers. Higher Education 56 (3), 387-406.

Abstract: While the studies of early career researchers have contributed politically important insights into factors hindering early career researchers, they have not yet achieved a theoretical understanding of the causal mechanisms that are at work in the transition from dependent to independent research. This paper positions the early career phase in a theoretical framework that combines approaches from the sociology of science and organisational sociology and emphasizes the transitional process. In this framework, the early career phase is considered as containing a status passage from the apprentice to the colleague state of their career in their scientific communities. In order to capture the mechanisms underlying this transition, it is important to analyse the interactions of these careers as they unfold over time. The usefulness of this approach is demonstrated with a pilot study of Australian early career researchers. We show (a) that misalignments of the three careers stretch the transition phase; (b) that the two major factors affecting the transition are a successful PhD and a research intensive phase prior to normal academic employment; and (c) that the most important condition hindering the transition is the lack of time for research. It can be concluded that as a result of a ‘market failure’ of the university system, the transition from dependent to independent research is currently being relocated to a phase between the PhD and the first academic position.

  • Laudel, Grit, 2005: Migration currents among the Scientific Elite. Minerva 43, 377-395.

Abstract: Many countries today encourage outstanding scientists to remain, or return, ‘home’. To date, the cumulative effect of these policies remains unclear. This essay argues that we need a new approach to studying elites in science. It draws upon three studies to suggest that migration is field-specific; that migration occurs more among potential, rather than established elites; and that policies aimed simply at attracting eminent scientists may prove inadequate to the task of sustaining national scientific communities.

  • Laudel, Grit, 2003: Studying the Brain Drain: Can Bibliometric Methods Help? Scientometrics 57 (2), 215-237.

Abstract: Today science policy makers in many countries worry about a brain drain, i.e. about permanently losing their best scientists to other countries. However, such a brain drain has proven to be difficult to measure. This article reports a test of bibliometric methods that could possibly be used to study the brain drain on the micro-level. An investigation of elite mobility must solve the three methodological problems of delineating a specialty, identifying a specialty’s elite and identifying international mobility and migration. The first two problems were preliminarily solved by combining participant lists from elite conferences (Gordon conferences) and citation data. Mobility was measured by using the address information of publication databases. The delineation of specialties has been identified as the crucial problem in studying elite mobility on the micro level. Policy concerns of a brain drain were confirmed by measuring the mobility of the biomedical Angiotensin specialty.