Navigating treacherous waters: Exploring the dual career experiences of European Research Council applicants

Brigitte Schels, Sara Connolly, Stefan Fuchs, Channah Herschberg, Claartje J. Vinkenburg

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Careers of scientists do not operate in a social vacuum. According to the concept of linked lives (Moen, 2003), the career of one partner has implications for the career of the other. We explore the experiences of navigating dual careers for a sample of scientists who applied for an European Research Council (ERC) grant using a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews. While the notion of an ideal scientist is built on an individualistic model of unrestricted international mobility and dedication, our quantitative analysis shows that the majority of ERC applicants have an employed partner, often also a scientist, and children. About the same number of men ERC applicants with a working partner say that their career is more important or that both careers are equally important. The number rating both careers as equally important is higher among women ERC applicants. In both constellations, the scientists experience difficulties in coordinating and combining dual careers. This is evident for established researchers as well as for scientists who are in the “rush hour” of life. From the scientists’ lived experiences it becomes evident that the ERC applicants want to comply with the notion of the “ideal” scientist but face limitations especially when mobility opportunities are constrained by the portability of the partners’ careers. Dual career cycling dilemmas are raised by mobility events, often resulting in priority shifts through a competing rather than synchronic process. These dilemmas arise for men scientists and women scientists, but some of the consequences - where and with whom the children live and who has primary care responsibilities - are quite gendered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-371
Number of pages31
JournalSoziale Welt-Zeitschrift Fur Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung Und Praxis
Issue numberSpecial Edition
Early online date1 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2024


  • Linked lives
  • Dual career couples
  • Scientific career paths
  • International mobility
  • Academic couples
  • Europe

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