Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Comment
  • Published:

Quality research needs good working conditions


High-quality research requires appropriate employment and working conditions for researchers. However, many academic systems rely on short-term employment contracts, biased selection procedures and misaligned incentives, which hinder research quality and progress. We discuss ways to redesign academic systems, emphasizing the role of permanent employment.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Overview of opportunities for designing academic systems to foster research quality.


  1. Bello, M. & Galindo-Rueda, F. Charting the Digital Transformation of Science: Findings from the 2018 OECD International Survey of Scientific Authors (ISSA2) (OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers No. 2020/03) (OECD Publishing, 2020).

  2. IJzerman, H. et al. APS Obs. 34, (2021).

  3. Platt, M. O. Nat. Rev. Mater. 5, 783–784 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Taris, T. W. & Schaufeli, W. B. in Current Issues in Work and Organizational Psychology (ed. Cooper, C.) 189–204 (Routledge, 2004).

  5. Goodhart, C. (1975). in Monetary Theory and Practice (ed. Goodhart, C.) 91–121 (Macmillan International Higher Education, 1975).

  6. John, L. K., Loewenstein, G. & Prelec, D. Psychol. Sci. 23, 524–532 (2012).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Desai, T. A., Eniola-Adefeso, O., Stevens, K. R., Vazquez, M. & Imoukhuede, P. Nat. Rev. Mater. 6, 556–559 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Mustajoki, H. et al. Making FAIReR Assessments Possible. Final Report of EOSC Co-Creation Projects: ‘European Overview of Career Merit Systems’ and ‘Vision for Research Data in Research Careers’, (2021).

  9. Götz, F. M., Gosling, S. D. & Rentfrow, P. J. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 17, 205–215 (2022).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Tiokhin, L., Lakens, D., Smaldinon, P. E. & Panchanathan, K. Preprint at (2021).

  11. Allen, L., O’Connell, A. & Kiermer, V. Learn. Publ. 32, 71–74 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Vazire, S. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 13, 411–417 (2018).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Pownall, M. et al. Scholarsh. Teach. Learn. Psychol., (2021).

  14. Azevedo, F. et al. BMC Res. Notes 15, 75 (2022).

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Lewis, N. A. Jr & Wai, J. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 16, 1242–1254 (2021).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was conceived in the scope of the German Reproducibility Network ( We thank F. Henninger for his helpful comments, and L. Wagner and B. Heling for their help with formatting the document.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



R.M.R., S.F., U.D. and C.J.F. conceived the work. R.M.R. wrote the original draft, and R.M.R., S.F., F.A., G.B.F., U.D., C.J.F., F.S., T.B.L., M.W., A.J.H., A.A., M.A.A.S., S.A.H. and R.P.A.B. reviewed and edited the Comment.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rima-Maria Rahal.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Discussion, and Supplementary Figure 1

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rahal, RM., Fiedler, S., Adetula, A. et al. Quality research needs good working conditions. Nat Hum Behav 7, 164–167 (2023).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing