Is There a Postdoctoral Association or the Equivalent at Your Institution?

Most organizations (58 percent) reported that no postdoctoral associations are available. Just over one-fourth reported the presence of postdoctoral associations run by the postdocs themselves. In some cases, postdoc associations or councils are run by the institution.

The “other” responses included one other postdoctoral association run by postdocs and called a “postdoctoral council.” One institution reported an association run jointly by postdocs and the institution. Most indicated that postdoctoral activities were either informal, located within a laboratory or department, or focused on a particular group (such as a group of Chinese students and scholars).

If Your Organization Has a Postdoctoral Association or Equivalent, What Are Its Main Functions?

Almost all these organizations (93 percent) reported that postdoctoral associations provided professional and social activities for postdocs. Most (79 percent) said that the associations acted as liaison between postdocs and administration. Half noted that associations provided information for postdocs on issues of general interest, and some (36 percent) said that the associations appointed representatives to the organizations' administrative councils.

COSEUP Survey Results

positions, how to make the transition from postdoc to senior scientist), and proposed improvements to the postdoc program (e.g., a seminar/round table series, an orientation package for incoming postdocs, additional training in communication, leadership, and mentoring).

COSEPUP's survey indicated that only a small minority of institutions have formed postdoctoral associations. The primary goals of existing associations are to provide a liaison with the administration and to provide professional and social activities for postdocs (see Box).

Stabilizing the postdoctoral population.

Institutions, notably universities, have a role to play in monitoring the number of postdocs (and graduate students) admitted to their programs, especially in the high-growth areas of the life sciences. As the NRC Trends report stated, investigators and training-program directors accept large numbers of students in part to meet their faculties' need for instructors and laboratory workers.8 That committee urged life-science faculties


Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel, National Research Council, Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.

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