This report analyses academic research careers, with a focus on the 'research precariat', defined as postdoctoral researchers holding fixed-term positions without permanent or continuous employment prospects. It identifies policies and practices that aim to improve researchers’ well-being, develop more diverse, equitable and inclusive research systems, attract and retain the best talent in academia, and ultimately improve the quality of science. The report presents a conceptual framework and synthesis of available data and policy information. It draws on a survey of OECD countries that included country notes and interviews with policy officials, funders, representatives of research performing organisations and researchers. It offers recommendations and a set of policy options to improve working conditions and professional development, better link funding to human resource policies, make governance more inclusive, promote equal opportunities and diversity, improve human resource management, promote inter-sectoral and international mobility, and develop the evidence base on research careers.