An international doctoral researcher is offered a limited time contract...

to pursue a PhD project with an initial duration of two years and the promise to extend the contract after two years. According to German law, contract durations need to adequately reflect the time needed to complete a qualification. As completing a PhD degree in Germany regularly takes longer than 3 years, a minimum duration of three years should have been offered to the researcher. They ask for a longer contract but are made aware that there are many other applicants that would not hesitate to take the position in their stead. The researcher takes the offered position since they are not familiar with German labour law and prioritize the opportunity to pursue their research at a prestigious research institution over job security. As the time is near the two-year mark and the contract renewal is due, the PI of the project hesitates to renew the contract. They tie the contract renewal to the completion of a publication on a side project and pressure the researcher to prioritize progress on the publication over progress on the PhD project. This is not appropriate, since the researcher's working contract explicitly states that the reason for their employment is the completion of their PhD and tasks that jeopardize the completion of their PhD are secondary in priority. The researcher knows that both their livelihood in terms of their monthly income as well as their future future prospects in terms of a good evaluation of their PhD project depend on the goodwill of the PI. They comply with the PI’s wish and prioritize the publication under great stress and existential fear, and a six-month extension of the contract is granted. The researcher does not report the incident, since they fear that this will be brought to the attention of the PI and that the PI will retaliate when the next contract extension is due.

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