Institutional goals for postdocs vary widely by field and sector. For example, preparing a postdoc for “independence” does not fit the industrial culture, where more research is done in teams.
Postdocs [at universities] may be “shadow people.” They don't have a place. Sometimes we have to use certain titles to get what we want for them.
At Mayo, we classify them as research fellow (1-3 years), then senior research fellow (4-7 years), then research associate, which can last indefinitely.
At Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a postdoctoral office was created four years ago to handle postdoc appointments, benefits, housing, etc. The office sends a letter to advisers after 18-24 months informing them how long a postdoc has been in their lab and whether it's time for a salary increase as required by guidelines. In the fourth year an extensive letter is sent asking for a CV and publication record; the PI and department chair evaluate the next step: will the postdoc be renewed for a fifth (and final) year? After that they either leave or become a research associate, with faculty benefits. This keeps them from falling through the cracks.
Each institution needs to rewrite policy to suit its particular mission and pass it around to postdocs and faculty.
The University of Pennsylvania started a postdoc policy in 1996 for the medical school.
A postdoctoral office must not infringe on the postdoc-adviser relationship.
At Caltech, they're between faculty and staff and students. When we started the postdoctoral scholar position, they wanted oversight because they wanted a relationship with the administration, not just the faculty.
At NIST we have central funding, like portable fellowships, so the postdoc doesn't have to be stuck with one adviser. In several cases we've switched them to new advisers.
UPenn keeps a database on all postdocs, including place and date of terminal degree, visa status, research field, what they've published.
At Alabama/Birmingham all phases of postdoctoral appointments had been left to the discretion of each department. One of the first priorities of the postdoctoral office was to identify all postdocs on campus and create a database. The disparity between what postdocs were being paid became disturbingly evident, and steps are now being taken to bring salaries more in line with national standards.
When a Howard Hughes grant is initiated, we have a contract with terms and conditions. It's still hard for us to track how fellows are treated. We