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Careers in public sector science: orientations and implications

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There is consensus that the world of science is changing (Ziman, 1994; see for example Nowotny et al., 2002). The environment in which scientists work is typified now as increasingly dynamic, managerialist and commercialised. This paper focuses on how scientists within different organisational and national contexts understand and enact their careers in the face of such changes. Based on empirical work in the UK and New Zealand, this paper introduces four career orientations evident in the career accounts of these participants. The categories are further analysed in terms of the key drivers to career: science, the organisation and the individual. Implications for career management are discussed in each section. In conclusion, the paper makes two related contributions. First, the evidence presented poses a challenge to highly individualised notions of the career actor central to current career thinking, instead revealing scientists' continued attachment to old institutional arrangements alongside new and emerging ways of understanding career. Second, with reference to the issue of career management of research scientists, the study highlights the need for those involved in management to look beyond employing organisations to other life interests, and science itself. It argues the need for those involved in career management to recognise the variety of legitimate ways to run a scientific career.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Human Resource Management, Private Bag, 11 222, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. , Email: 2: Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK. , Email: 3: The Business School, Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK. , Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2005


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