Unique role unites research and clinical practice
Umeå University is first in Sweden to set up an associate lectureship combined with specialist training among other things, all within academic caring professions. It provides physicians with the opportunity to conduct research parallel with their positions as resident or specialist physicians at the county council. Åsa Gylfe, researcher and resident physician, is in her second year as an associate lecturer.
Åsa Gylfe is a researcher and resident physician within Clinical Microbiology. Photo: Ulrika Bergfors.
“This is a fantastic position enabling me to carry on with my research at the same time as I’m training as a specialist physician. My specialist training will take longer than usual, but with this solution, I won’t need to choose between a working career and research,” says Åsa Gylfe.
Many physicians take on research studies during their specialist training, but then often stop at the end of their dissertation work. The idea of an associate lectureship is to increase the opportunities for these researchers to stay in the academic world.
According to Umeå University’s Talent Management and Staff Development Strategy (Kompetensförsörjningsplanen), an associate lectureship is an entry level job, a so-called tenure track that guarantees consideration for future tenure as senior lecturer and thereafter professor. At Umeå University, it means a permanent post with the rights to consideration for promotion to senior lecturer. The recruitment to an associate lectureship takes place in international competition and puts high demands on qualifications.
You can apply for an associate lectureship after completion of a PhD or equivalent doctoral degree. The funding put aside to this covers a four-year long period of full-time work. If working full-time on an associate lectureship, you have the right to be considered for promotion after 3.5 years. For those on permanent posts but who only conduct research part-time, the consideration takes place later, however at a date that is specified at the start of the tenure.
To Åsa Gylfe, who had already defended her dissertation when she took her degree in medicine, the associate lectureship gave her a whole new opportunity to carry on conducting research parallel to the specialist training. For her, the post means that she can carry on with her specialist training at 50 per cent, while she continues to run her research project at MIMS and the Department of Clinical Microbiology on the other half. In her role as associate lecturer, she receives funding for her research and the opportunity to hire a post doc for her research project.
“The best part of this tenure is that it doesn’t just enable research parallel to my professional education, but it also includes funding, which enables me to conduct and develop research projects,” says Åsa Gylfe.
This type of combined associate lectureship is, so far, only available at Umeå University and has proven very attractive. The first broad-scale notification of vacancy in any optional research or educational field was submitted in spring 2013 and resulted in hiring Åsa Gylfe and one other resident physician. At present, Umeå University has 38 associate lecturers, of whom ten have an employment that is combined with clinical practice. All ten are employed within the Faculty of Medicine.
The specialist training in Clinical Microbiology that Åsa Gylfe is taking under the management of the county council normally takes five years to complete. For Åsa Gylfe, it will take nine years to complete. But in order for her not to fall behind in salary increase in comparison to colleagues who start the specialist training at the same time, she will after five years be compensated with the equivalent salary as they receive.
Even if the advantages dominate, Åsa Gylfe has also found disadvantages, especially in finding working life split between research and clinical work.
“Another stress factor is that I’m competing with researchers who conduct their research full-time. That’s something you have to take into consideration. An associate lectureship is the optimal solution for physicians to also conduct research,” says Åsa Gylfe.
Marianne Sommarin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for research at Umeå University, observes that the investment in associate lectureships with the opportunity to combine research and clinical training has been successful so far.
“I see this form of career investment as an important part of a larger career system enabling a combination with research and work outside of the academic world. Not least is it important that we create this type of opportunity within areas where we need to strengthen research and access to qualified teachers,” says Marianne Sommarin.
“The Faculty of Medicine has begun with focus on caring professions but our hope is now that academics within other professions will be offered the same opportunity.”