The Equal Opportunity Committee (EOC) of the SFB 1342 shares the concerns and criticism regarding the BMBF's draft reform of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG - German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts) which have been expressed in various ways by academic mid-level staff and employee representatives. As a body within a large third-party-funded association, the EOC has a statutory responsibility to address issues of equality and anti-discrimination. With this statement, we aim to highlight the problems and challenges associated with both the current and the proposed new version of the WissZeitVG, particularly in relation to equality and anti-discrimination within third-party funded research networks.
- Lack of equal treatment of early careers in the case of care obligations
In principle, it is commendable that the planned reform aims to address the lost qualification periods of third-party funded employees due to parental leave or care activities. However, the reform proposal falls short by only providing an extension for the first three years of the postdoc period. Overall, these proposals are far from sufficient to remedy the existing shortcomings. It is necessary to apply the care-compensating rules to all third-party funded employees. Furthermore, it is particularly problematic that the reduction of working hours due to childcare responsibilities (i.e., Elterngeld Plus Program) is not taken into account when calculating the qualification period. For example, a person who reduces their working hours to 50% for one year due to care obligations is still credited with a full year towards their maximum qualification period, rather than half a year, which would be fair in comparison to individuals without care obligations. Opting for the Elterngeld Plus Program thus becomes a significant disadvantage.
- Intersectional Disadvantages of International Scholars and Scientists
The WissZeitVG is highly complex. The lack of transparency, varying interpretations at different university locations, and the absence of information in English are among the challenges that international early career scientists face. For instance, navigating through bureaucratic systems consumes a substantial amount of time and energy, hindering substantial research activities. Alongside everyday discrimination, intersectional disadvantages of various kinds arise in both private and work spheres. Given that Germany has a strong interest in attracting scientists worldwide, the WissZeitVG should acknowledge and address the intersectional challenges faced by international scientists in Germany. The described challenges are also a serious disadvantage in the global competition for the best minds.
- Obstructed future perspectives within the research network
Post-docs who are appointed as Principal Investigators (PIs) in a subsequent phase of an SFB project, based on their excellent competency in the prior phase, usually require funding from federal states. However, according to the planned revision of the WissZeitVG, such positions are not possible anymore, despite the significant benefits their expertise brings to the research association. The example of the SFB 1342 highlights that it is predominantly women who, as post-docs, assume the responsibility for a sub-project as (co-)PIs.
- Discrimination against individuals who have worked in scientific positions in Germany
The non-transparent and often inconsistent interpretation of which periods are recognized as qualification periods leads to unequal treatment of qualification periods completed in Germany compared to those completed abroad, as the latter are generally not credited. This places individuals who have solely pursued their academic career in Germany at a disadvantage compared to those with professional experience abroad. This discrepancy particularly affects individuals with care obligations, who may have limited mobility compared to those without care responsibilities.
Equal Opportunities Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org