stipulate that $5,000 of the institution's allowance is for health benefits, but we see that some postdocs are getting it and some not.
At Chicago we'd like more open and fair hiring, through a central source. It's difficult, because now it's done when you meet someone at a congress and talk them into writing you into their next grant.
At Vanderbilt we require annual reappointment and ask department chairs to approve it. This allows institutional controls. I refuse to reappoint without suitable salary level, justification, and an evaluation.
At Cincinnati, we approved a postdoc policy two weeks ago. We've been working on it for two years: health, vacation, maternity leave, drugs, salary at NRSA levels, and benefits from general university funds.
The University of California did a broad “vision statement” for postdocs in 1998, and each of the nine campuses is trying to conform.
At UCLA, with 900 postdocs, the graduate division (not the university) took the initiative to put them in the same division, with the same facilities and benefits.
Postdocs need skills that are applicable in any career. A postdoc must gain experience for the next career step. They're not just a person in your lab.
Most advisers are academics; they don't know what industry expects. They need to hear more from the “final” employers.
We shouldn't use the term “alternative careers.” This implies that anything outside the university is inferior: public policy, writing, teaching. These are just “careers.”
Industry employers are looking for “soft” skills—those not developed at the bench.
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund provides “bridging awards” of 40-45K for the transitional time after a postdoc.
A transitional grant isn't needed. It may take a year or so for a postdoc to get up to speed, especially if changing fields; after that you can begin to see how they'll do. They should start looking for a job after three years, and five years is a reasonable time to figure out if this work is for you.
Five years is plenty to see if a person is going to be an individual investigator; you may know even when they get their PhD. The difficulty is, if they don't seem ready there aren't a lot of other options.
At UPenn, the time limit is five years; after that they go either to 1) staff scientist or 2) academic track, where they start getting independent funding. The most rapidly growing sector in science is the soft-money positions, like post-postdoc.