• Many postdocs are confused about expectations. Said one: “I came here expecting to learn, but I find I am judged only by my output.”

  • Postdocs are learning to be independent, but many see the need for more guidance than they receive to avoid “chasing down dead ends. ”

The social sciences have been slower to accept the need for postdoctoral training than the physical and life sciences, and some prejudice exists against postdoctoral positions. Postdocs in the field feel a postdoc can launch their career more quickly and learn to write proposals.

Administrative Structures for Postdocs
  • Most postdocs are hired directly by researchers without going through institutional personnel procedures; thus they may be “institutionally invisible.” The may either lack institutional benefits or be uninformed about their rights.

  • Few institutions have centralized offices or officers designated to address issues of concern to postdocs, clarify policies, or answer questions.

  • Many foreign postdocs receive little or no orientation before or after arrival, and waste considerable time and energy searching for answers to relatively straightforward questions about visa requirements and American culture.

  • Most postdocs do not receive a contractual letter of appointment that addresses such important issues as length of appointment, benefits offered, salary, intellectual property policy, and terms of completion.

  • Postdocs at national and industrial facilities were generally better paid than academic postdocs, fit more easily into an employment/benefits category (such as temporary or contractual employee), receive better infrastructure support and more travel funding, and had fewer complaints about their supervision or recognition. Many, however, worried about their job prospects.

Compensation and Benefits
  • Postdocs in certain fields, notably the life sciences, feel that their pay level is insufficient given their advanced level of skill and experience. They often pointed to higher pay scales for postdocs with MD degrees and for technical staff with less experience and/or lower degrees.

  • Wide variations in pay (examples of stipend levels reported to the committee range from $14,000 in the case of a postdoc on a foreign grant to $60,000+ for some postdocs at national labs) are usually unrelated to the skill or experience of the recipient.

  • Postdocs performing similar work at the same institutions may also



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