Producing Knowledge in Precarity: research, universities and labour insecurity

  • Dados, Nour (Primary Chief Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details



Interviews for this project are invited from employees at any Australian university who: 

- have completed a PhD, and

- are employed in temporary work (casual or fixed-term; academic or professional), and

- contribute to academic research through publications and other outputs

To participate in an interview, please contact Dr Nour Dados by email:

The study is being conducted by Dr Nour Nicole Dados, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Workforce Futures, Macquarie Business School, 3 Management Drive, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia. 

Phone: +61 2 98509134. Email:

The ethical aspects of this study (Project HREC ID: 5365) have been approved by the Macquarie University Human Research Ethics Committee, in accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated July 2018).


University research makes a significant contribution to the knowledge-base of society. Research and the production of knowledge continue to be an important component of the work universities do. While research remains central to academic professional identity and career progression, a significant proportion of university employees are in temporary employment (casual and fixed-term) and contribute to research from positions of labour insecurity. 

This project investigates the social and economic dynamics that have created a precarious workforce, the contribution of precarious workers to the professional project of knowledge production, the circulation and valorisation of their contributions in contemporary knowledge economies, and the impacts of labour insecurity on individual and collective identity formation and career progression.

Recent data shows that up to sixty percent of academic staff at Australian universities are employed in casual and fixed-term appointments. There is a growing scholarly literature on the social and professional experience of academics in precarious work. In the Australian context, this literature has led to a better understanding of the experience of academic workers in insecure work (casual and fixed-term), particularly those employed in teaching on casual contracts.

However, far less has been written about the contribution of academics in insecure work to knowledge production at universities. Historically, the creation of research-based knowledge has been central to the work that universities do. The production of research-based knowledge has been a a central feature of academic professional identity, determining jurisdiction, autonomy and legitimacy for fields of expertise. It has also partially determined, along with teaching practice, codes of ethical conduct for the academic professions.

While academics in insecure work contribute to knowledge production and research outputs, they do so from a position of labour insecurity. This project will study how changes in employment practices at universities have impacted professional identity formation, the intellectual labour process and the production of research-based knowledge more broadly.  

The research questions that the project will address are: 

•How do academics in precarious work contribute to research-based knowledge production at universities?

•How does labour insecurity impact the contribution of academics in precarious work, and how does it shape professional identity formation for this cohort of academic workers? 

•What are the personal, social and institutional impacts of insecure work on knowledge production and research outputs at universities? 

•How does labour insecurity affect professional identity formation, within the university context and outside of it?

•How does labour insecurity affect the knowledge production process and the creation of research-based knowledge?

Key findings

Short titleProducing Knowledge in Precarity
Effective start/end date10/09/19 → …