Louis Chen was technically due to retire in 2005. Mathematicians at the National University of Singapore were turning 65, the university’s official retirement age. But his tenure as director of the university’s new Institute of Mathematical Sciences was only five years, and the university wanted him to remain. So he stayed for seven more years, stepping down in 2012. Over the next 18 months, he traveled and had knee surgery, before returning to teach graduate courses for a year in the summer of 2014.
Then, in 2015, the chain’s provost took her to lunch. “He told me it was probably time for me to leave,” says Chen, who was happy to retire. But he still hasn’t really quit: He’s at his university office three or four times a week. “I can’t give up on my research,” Chen says. “It’s a passion.”
In July 2015, he was appointed emeritus professor, a title that comes with perks: he is eligible to apply for grants, and continues his research on probability and statistics. He maintains his e-mail address and library access, and is happy to say, “Free parking for life.”
Go your way
There are as many ways to retire as there are scientists; There is no right or wrong way. Many researchers wish to continue their academic career in some form or the other. Emeritus title may allow scientists to hold laboratory or office space or apply for grants; Associated privileges vary widely.
However, research funding probably won’t flow as generously as they used to, and Emerity usually overestimates its research space and teams. Some retired scientists turn to other projects, such as writing books or doing charitable work. The keys to a full retirement, those happy to step down from full-time work, are to line up positions and projects, and prepare for the emotional toll the transition can take.
Worldwide, the ranks of people 60 or older are expected to rise. For example, the United Nations predicts that by 2050, 21% of the world’s population will be at least 60 years old, up from 10% in 2000.
Among scientists, in particular, the average age is increasing. In the United States, the average age of scientists increased from 45 to 48.6 between 1993 and 2010, and is expected to climb further. The trend is similar in Europe.
National rules on retirement vary widely. In Sweden, for example, it is mandatory at the age of 67; In South Africa, at the age of 65. There is no mandatory age requirement in the United States and Canada.
Although statistics on active retirees and retirees are scarce, a 2014 survey of retired medical professors from 20 countries found that many continued to teach, and more than 40% published at least one paper or book in the past year. of (Ng de Santo et al.). QJM 107, 405-407; 2014).
Researchers who are nearing retirement should start preparing for it as soon as possible, advises Amy Straise, assistant vice president of faculty development at San Jose State University in California. There can be many options to research and one will have to weigh in to make a decision.
For example, in some universities where retirement is an option, faculty members may take advantage of phased retirement plans.
This means they can close their research while working part-time, as long as they commit to a full retirement date within a few years. People who are required to step down from their positions at a certain age may be able to find unpaid positions, or jobs arranged in countries with high retirement ages.
Some retired faculty members achieve emeritus status, although the meaning of that title varies widely between institutions and nations. In some universities, it is given pro forma to retiring full professors.
In others, it is an honor given only to pre-eminent researchers. “It’s retirement with distinction,” says Kimberly Reid, assistant director of the Florida Center for Inclusive Communities at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa. Read the researched retirement and emeritus issues for a 2016 PhD thesis at USF, focusing on the oral history of an emeritus professor.
Emeritus is the last rung on the academic trajectory from assistant professor to associate to full. Receiving this final promotion is often akin to receiving those first, in that a committee evaluates an individual’s research or service contribution to the university, and administrators approve the decision to honor.
For some, the title emeritus is a final feather in their academic hat as they walk through the door. Others take it as a commitment to further engagement with the university. “You want to continue helping the department,” explains Dean Martin, an emeritus professor of chemistry at USF and Reed’s research topic. Every morning, he comes to his office, where he conducts research and publishes papers, gives advice to students, departmental newspapers.