Most scientists are familiar with the dual career couple issue, either personally or via the concerns of colleagues. But no comprehensive survey has recently been conducted on the specific issues that scientific couples routinely face in academia -- until now. Physicists and scientists of all disciplines can now find out specific details of what their colleagues were forced to face while hunting for academic jobs.
In 1998, Marc Sher, a faculty member in the department of physics at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Laurie McNeil, a physics faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, conducted a Web survey of physicists. They asked dual science career couples to share the difficulties they face in finding two jobs in the same place.
The results of the survey and their report were released in February on the Dual Science Career Couples Web site, which, in addition to the survey report, contains a list of useful resources and an abbreviated collection of reader comments on topics such as split/shared positions and spousal hiring programs.
The survey report is, to say the least, enlightening. Sher and McNeil have done an excellent job compiling responses and organizing them into a report that verges on becoming a policy document. Using responses and anecdotes provided by over 600 respondents, they identify key issues and roadblocks faced by dual career couples and provide potential solutions to some of these roadblocks. Sher and McNeil identify the cultural reluctance of academic institutions to hire couples -- either simultaneously or in tandem -- as one of the primary problems. They also categorize some of the more common or unique (if not ideal) solutions that couples have used to keep relationships going while obtaining academic employment.
The report is available in both HTML and PDF format. Of the two, we preferred the PDF version for downloading.
External to the survey report, Sher and McNeil's list of resources seem like a good place to start for more information. Their collection of reader comments was sparsely populated, but they indicate that this is expected given the early stage of their Web site (launched on 7 February).
Overall, we'd tell all our dual career friends in science to head here first before any other site. The original information contained in the survey should be required reading for all postdocs and faculty search chairs.