in their careers toward rewarding professional positions. While some of this frustration results from a job market that, in some fields, has fewer positions than it does good candidates, it also reflects inadequate administrative attention to mechanisms of the experience that can and should be rectified. In considering needed improvements, it is essential to recognize that the situations of postdocs vary markedly from discipline to discipline and between academic and non-academic settings. Postdocs vary in proficiency; some are quite experienced with little need for guidance, while others are apprentices who require substantial coaching. They also vary in their rate of growth; some learn quickly while others require more time to develop sufficient knowledge and skills to move to the next stage of their career. Moreover, slightly more than half of US postdocs are non-US citizens, many of whom face additional challenges of acculturation and language.


After extensive interviews, workshops, and deliberations, COSEPUP drew up a series of recommendations for all participants in the postdoctoral experience—postdocs, their advisers, host institutions, funding organizations, and disciplinary societies. These recommendations are based on the following guiding principles:

  1. The postdoctoral experience is first and foremost a period of apprenticeship for the purpose of gaining scientific, technical, and professional skills that advance the professional career.

  2. Postdocs should receive appropriate recognition (including lead author credit) and compensation (including health insurance and other fringe benefits) for the contributions they make to the research enterprise.

  3. To ensure that postdoctoral appointments are beneficial to all concerned, all parties to the appointments—the postdoc, the postdoc adviser, the host institution, and funding organizations—should have a clear and mutually-agreed-upon understanding with regard to the nature and purpose of the appointment.

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