I have written here before about how difficult the process of obtaining academic references can be, from logistically making sure everything is submitted on time to the (often unfounded) sense of guilt that you are "bothering" something for asking for written references.
I firmly believe that the majority of academic applications should included named referees, and follow with a request from references once shortlisted. But hey, everyone wants to live in a utopia, yes?
But, on a related note, I was recently reminded of something my supervisor said to me (slightly tongue-in-cheek but with a smattering of truth) about who to choose as my PhD examiners. "Don't choose someone close to retirement...they may not be around in 10-20 years for references".
Now, on a more practical level, contacting retired referees can be problematic not simply because they died, but (less morbidly) their email may be cancelled, contact details changed, etc.
I was reminded of this when I sent a friend a job description and they decided not to apply because the hassle of tracking down such contact details and obtaining the references was just too much.
I wonder if other people have had similar issues?
And more broadly, the academic system of references privileges those who go straight from PhD to academia and therefore may find it easier to maintain such contacts and links. What about those who took non-academic jobs for financial, family, visa, reasons who are still hoping to return to academia after a few years?
How many talented young academics are actively discouraged from applying for jobs because the mechanism and tradition of academic applications are so onerous?
How can we make the application system more equitable and inclusive?