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.

CAREER PLANNING AND TRANSITIONS
  • 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.



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