Strategic Issues

'The Future Ocean' considers the employment of postdoctoral researchers as central to research in the Cluster and to research in German academia in general because, as more experienced scientists, they fulfill a multitude of tasks. In addition to working on their own research projects, presenting and publishing their results, they frequently coordinate the daily routine of the research groups. Moreover, they are involved in teaching and co-supervising younger, less experienced scientists, in acquiring funding and in coordinating research projects. Despite their importance to the system, the professional status of postdoctoral researchers in German academia is undefined and insecure both financially and in the light of career prospects.


Among the postocs in ‘The Future Ocean’ who have joined IMAP, the level of experience ranges from early postdocs (up to 6 years after PhD) to senior scientists (10 or more years after the PhD). Their needs for support differ inherent to the level of experience: While individual career development measures are most important for early postdocs, financial security and scientific independence as well as support such as individual coaching is a primary need for more experienced researchers.

In Germany, a typical postdoc ranges up to 6 years after receiving the PhD (in Germany, these positions belong to the so-called academic “Mittelbau”, are temporary and have no tenure options) after which, at least at the universities, no employment models exist apart from the ‘classical” track’ to a professorship. Although it is somewhat more likely for long-term postdocs to get employed as research scientists in permanent positions at non-university institutions such as Helmholtz Centres, for example GEOMAR, no clear career paths exist there either.  

In close cooperation with the partner institutions of the Cluster we aim at developing models for clear and performance-based career paths for scientists aside from the track to a professorship. This should include mobility between academic and non-academic career tracks and a predefined path of successively reaching a permanent employment situation (see conceptual model). This career option has to be equally suited for men and women and needs to be based on a human resources development plan and accompanied by measures tailored to the individual discipline.