to seek alternatives to these workforce needs by increasing the number of permanent laboratory workers, and to consider restricting the numbers of graduate students supported on research grants.
Although this COSEPUP report does not specify mechanisms for stabilizing the postdoctoral population, it does reiterate the concerns of the Trends report with respect both to hiring more permanent laboratory workers and restraining the size of the postdoctoral population. Mechanisms should be adopted by individual institutions. For example, an institution might restrict the employment of postdocs whose stipends/salaries fall below a certain level. If adequate compensation is not provided by the funding organization, the institution would then appoint the postdoc only if supplementary funding is made available.
Some early predictions that postdoctoral associations would become adversarial or union-like organizations have not materialized. Leaders of the Johns Hopkins association, for example, describe their group as a vehicle for sharing information with one another and communicating their concerns to the administration. “There is no need for a union, ” said one member, “when communication is open.”
Many, and perhaps most, postdocs begin their appointment without a clear idea of what to expect from the experience. The success of an appointment may depend heavily on early communication with the adviser about expectations and responsibilities. Therefore, institutions and mentors of graduate students have an important role to play in educating them about the postdoctoral experience before they decide to undertake this advanced training. Important questions to consider are the level of their own research skills, training needs, and career goals. For further discussion of career decision making, see COSEPUP 's “Careers” guide, cited in the bibliography.