4.8 NIH should commission an independent evaluation of the different models of postdoctoral support.
As data on postdoctoral programs and support become available, NIH should commission an independent review of different postdoctoral funding mechanisms to evaluate the relative merits and successes of each approach. This study could help answer questions related to the effectiveness of various postdoc programs that could address issues of balance between research, training, and individual support, as discussed in relation to Recommendation 4.2 above.
This review could compare postdoctoral researchers funded through, for example, R01s, individual NRSAs, NRSA institutional postdoctoral training grants, and NIH and other career transitions awards. The common set of definitions and measures described above would also allow comparisons to NSF programs, private research fellowship programs, and other mechanisms of support. The goal should be not only to address research achievements, but also to examine the process of postdoctoral training. As such, it should include consideration of mentoring, degree of independence and responsibility, and receipt of awards by PIs and institutions. The review should consider the subsequent positions of supported postdoctoral researchers to help gauge the effectiveness of different postdoc programs for different career objectives and the appropriate number of awards to give.
The next chapter focuses on ways to improve the transition to first independent position.