'Making It' as a Contract Researcher : A Pragmatic Look at Precarious Work book cover
1st Edition

'Making It' as a Contract Researcher
A Pragmatic Look at Precarious Work

ISBN 9781138362598
Published April 29, 2020 by Routledge
216 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The ‘Insider Guides to Success in Academia’ offers support and practical advice to doctoral students and early-career researchers. Covering the topics that really matter, but which often get overlooked, this indispensable series provides practical and realistic guidance to address many of the needs and challenges of trying to operate, and remain, in academia.

These neat pocket guides fill specific and significant gaps in current literature. Each book offers insider perspectives on the often implicit rules of the game – the things you need to know but usually aren’t told by institutional postgraduate support, researcher development units, or supervisors – and will address a practical topic that is key to career progression. They are essential reading for doctoral students, early-career researchers, supervisors, mentors, or anyone looking to launch or maintain their career in academia.

‘Making It’ as a Contract Researcher examines the contemporary experience of research employment in universities from the perspective of a significant yet often invisible group: temporary or contract researchers, who make up a substantial, and ever-growing, proportion of the academic research workforce. A critical, pragmatic and international account of the contemporary research career, this book explores the question of what it means to ‘make it’ as a contract researcher in academia, and how individuals and organisations in higher education might seek to do things differently.

Providing the reader with practical and realistic strategies for improving the experience of being a contract researcher and achieving and sustaining an academic research career, this book guides the reader on a range of topics, including:

  • Charging fairly for your work
  • Building a publication track record
  • Finding the next contract
  • Sustaining your network
  • Feeling like you belong
  • Moving beyond contract research.

Using a combination of current research, interviews and reflective writing, the book is written specifically for and by contract researchers in academia, offering unique and extremely valuable advice for all new and current contract researchers, including PhD students, early career researchers, and any party interested in pursuing a research career in academia.

Table of Contents



Chapter One Situating the Contract Research Career

The partial academic

What is making it?

Introduction to the Research

Some key terms

Who is this book for?

How this book is organised

Chapter 1: Situating the contract research career

Chapter 2: Becoming and being a contract researcher

Chapter 3: The collective work of contract research

Chapter 4: The possible future of research careers

What is work?

The growth of contract research

Who are contract researchers?

Policy context

Feeling the effects of managerialism

Consequences for researchers

A final word

Chapter Two Becoming and being a Contract Researcher

The multiplicity of making it

Entry into contract research

Progressing as a contract researcher

Developing the academic identity

Being strategic and developing your research story

Building a publication track record

Acquiring in-demand skills

Managing quality research

The hidden work of a contract researcher

Charging fairly for your work

Finding the next contract

Managing periods of under or unemployment

Health, ageing and contract research

Moving beyond contract research

Tenured academic job applications

Moving to non-research positions

A final word

Chapter Three The Collective Work of Contract Research

Collegiality, not competition

Employment on other people’s projects

Quality research: Balancing independence and collegiality

Ethical dilemmas

Feeling like you belong

Writing on other people’s projects

Working for free

Questions of authorship

Initiating publications in a team

The collective work of career building

Creating and maintaining your networks

Sustaining your network

Conferences and professional organisations

Networks of contract researchers

Collectivisation among researchers

A final word

Chapter Four The Possible Future of Research Careers

Nurturing engagement

Supporting contract researchers to make it

Individual efforts

Group work: Collectivisation among researchers

Supervisory action and ethical leadership

Industrial action: The role of unions and activism

Research Associations

The impact of institutional initiatives

Impacts on universities

Government-led reform

A final word



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Nerida Spina is a senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Jess Harris is an associate professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Simon Bailey is a research associate at the University of Kent, UK.

Mhorag Goff is a research associate at the University of Manchester, UK.