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The Plight of Academic 'Marginals'

Major universities employ many Ph.D.s in academically marginal positions. Neither postdocs nor full-fledged faculty, these scientists populate an academic never-never land made possible by the availability of research support and made miserable by the difficulty of obtaining such support and by their ambiguous status in the institution. These scientists have such titles as "assistant research anatomist" or search associate," although some carry the usual academic titles along with the unusual re

Edward Hackett
Major universities employ many Ph.D.s in academically marginal positions. Neither postdocs nor full-fledged faculty, these scientists populate an academic never-never land made possible by the availability of research support and made miserable by the difficulty of obtaining such support and by their ambiguous status in the institution. These scientists have such titles as "assistant research anatomist" or search associate," although some carry the usual academic titles along with the unusual responsibility of raising a sizable portion of their salaries from outside sources.

The scientists I have interviewed in this status are quite capable by most measures. They have doctorates from very good departments, research support from NIH or NSF, several publications and good citation records. For example, the first-authored publications of one young marginal scientist in my sample had been cited more than 60 times according to the 1985 Science Citation Index. Thus, although the positions are marginal to...

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