How can I get paid to think

WU Rector: "You get paid to think"

For committed researchers, switching to management is also associated with losses. The diversity expert Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger, as rector of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, has found a "replacement" for this: the joy of the contribution of WU research to social development.

DEFAULT: What has Corona changed for researchers in your house in the past eight months?

Hanappi-Egger: Due to the numerous travel warnings and partially closed borders, the university-related travel activity has of course also declined, international conference visits have been canceled or replaced by online conferences. Here and there there was also a loss of opportunities for empirical research. And our researchers are also teachers at the same time. The switch to distance teaching is associated with a lot of additional work and certainly causes additional work, especially if, as at the WU, correspondingly high quality standards are set. On the other hand, the elimination of these travel activities and meetings gave researchers more undisturbed blocks of time to devote to their research.

DEFAULT: Are women affected differently than men?

Hanappi-Egger: In principle, the feedback from our researchers has shown that people with caring responsibilities are much more affected than those without. Precisely because research needs leisure, freedom, concentration and undisturbed engagement with questions, this is very difficult when there are children to be looked after in the same household and additional people are in the home office. Creative work cannot simply be switched on when the children are in bed. But of course, studies by WU also show that such constellations tend to lead to an above-average burden for women because they do more housework and childcare and there was a strong imbalance here during Corona.

DEFAULT: What kind of support is useful now, is it possible?

Hanappi-Egger: At WU, we have also made use of the option to extend fixed-term service contracts for scientists who are delayed in their research due to the corona. Accordingly, we will also take special situations into account in research evaluations.

DEFAULT: If the pandemic works like a burning glass - what do you see?

Hanappi-Egger: The Corona period has certainly increased the question of what can be handled digitally, where digital is a sensible replacement, where is a supplement and where personal communication and encounters are simply needed. Direct exchange in particular is essential for young scientists, at their own university and internationally. Onboarding is very difficult for new employees, regardless of their career level, if it is done purely digitally. At least as a temporary replacement, digital formats work better, where there is already a high level of trust and sufficient knowledge of customs and organizational culture.

DEFAULT: What makes a career in research attractive?

Hanappi-Egger: This has many advantages: As a researcher you enjoy a very high level of self-determination, you get paid "to think", and meet many interesting people in the course of your career and work in different teams. In addition, with your own work you make an important contribution to the further development of democratic societies, provide answers to important questions and get involved in the development of efficient and sustainable problem solutions.

DEFAULT: Are you missing that now?

Hanappi-Egger: Yes, but on the other hand I made a conscious decision to take on my role as rector, so it was clear to me that I would switch from research to management. Seeing how we make an important contribution to society through our research is a nice substitute. (Karin Bauer, December 11th, 2020)