Mobility is good for researchers, we can meet inspiring environments we can learn and know different cultures, create and improve our network and find new collaborations. All the EU funding programs (public and private) push for mobility without any limit but nobody thinks that mobility has also negative consequences for the researchers’ lives and for the science itself. I´m wondering if the policymakers have never experienced what they want from us. How a mobile scientist can build a family? How can we create a pension for our third age? Do they understand that short term contracts means loss of money and experience?
The mobility is absolutely useful for scientists, but the long term mobility (1-2 years) should be limited to the young generations and short term mobility (1-2 months) could be requested to the experienced scientists. This way to fund projects would allow scientists to get all the benefits of mobility and to get at the same time the benefits of a steady life. Any time you move you must re-learn all the rules, you must re-create your environment, you must learn how the new institute works, how the new country works, you must know your new colleagues, you must learn a new language, this takes time and energy. Despite all your efforts, you always remain an outsider, you can´t get the administrative and scientific independence you need even though you are an experienced scientist.
When I was younger I thought that mobility meant being flexible, a fun and not boring job always open to new prospectives and this is partly true. Now that I´m older, mobile, flexible and not bored I´m asking myself what added values I got from that. As a researcher the evaluation of my work is done according to the publications and not according to the number of institutes that I have changed. Being mobile and changing affiliations every second year, I could not regularly publish as a stable scientist, I do not have an institute supporting me, I can´t apply for certain funding because I do not know my next affiliation, I do not have a pension scheme. If the mobility is requested it could also be an evalaution parameter at least at the same level as the publications.
We wanna attract people into research but what the politicians (and managers) are doing is to create risky and unhappy lives. I love my job, I usually do outreach and try to explain how nice it is, however if I think to my life and to my future should I be optimistic? In 15 years I have changed 8 affiliations and 4 countries, always got prestigeous positions/grants but I have a 3-years old son and I would like to live my life close to him. Any grant is in average 2 years and I spend at least 1 year for adapting to the new environment, to look for another job, to write new proposals and to keep in touch with my family, is this an investment? Once I get old I will never get a respectable pension and I will probably be in charge of the community, is this an investment? Any time I start working in a new project I must stop or slow down the previous activity even though it was going to give stimulating results, is this an investment?
Well, this is just my personal experience but I guess it is common to many researchers. I hope once someone will understand where the balance between mobility and stability is, that guy will start investing on research!