Networking as Career Strategy?
On November 14, 2013, Junges Wissenschaftsforum Dahlem addressed the topic of “Networking as a Career Strategy? Dealing with Scientific and Scholarly Networks.” The evening began with a talk by Prof. Dr. Monika Jungbauer-Gans (Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), who presented findings from a study on the importance of networks in academic careers. Jungbauer-Gans, a professor of empirical economic sociology, showed which social factors most influenced the granting of tenure in the disciplines of law, mathematics, and sociology. She presented the forty junior researchers present at the event with insights into the importance of “weak ties” and “tacit knowledge” and stressed the pitfalls inherent joint publications and other forms of cooperation. But she also talked about the differences between the various disciplines, emphasizing how any career strategy has to be aware of the peculiarities of each specific field.
Different disciplinary cultures were also present in the discussion following the talk. Dr. Daniel Morat, a historian at Freie Univeristät’s Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, explained the close relationship between professional expertise and personal interaction in the networks he is part of, as for instance in the research group “Geschichte+Theorie.” Together with his colleague Dr. Silke Kipper from the Institute of Biology, he presented interesting examples of research networks funded by the DFG or by particular universities. One such network was then presented by Dr. Ruth Bendels, director of Die Junge Akademie. She emphasized the especially productive nature of interdisciplinary groups. At Junge Akademie, such groups are encouraged to cooperate across the boundaries of various fields, as in the case of their research groups on “Sustainability” or “Ethics in Practice.”
Although academic networking demands time and energy, investing in it usually pays off—this is something that all participants agreed upon. Aside from offering assistance and advice in the search for jobs and funding, academic networks also provide professional impulses as well as the human support necessary for success in teaching and research.
As usual, following the discussion all participants had the opportunity to engage in some first-hand networking over food and drinks.