the research enterprise. This guide describes these opportunities in separate sets of recommendations for postdocs, advisers, institutions, funding organizations, and disciplinary societies. The three principles listed below provide the basis for these recommendations.


  1. The postdoctoral experience is first and foremost a period of apprenticeship for the purpose of gaining scientific, technical, and other professional skills that advance the professional career. Postdocs should not be viewed as just an inexpensive “pair of hands” in the laboratory. They should receive assistance in the development both of their scientific and technical skills and of other skills needed for a professional career. In this spirit, the term of a postdoc should not be greater than that needed to meet these education, training, and career development objectives.

  2. Postdocs should receive appropriate recognition (including lead author credit) and compensation (including health insurance and other fringe benefits) for the contribution they make to the research enterprise. Postdoctoral research is a vital part of both the junior researchers career path and the research enterprise. Postdoctoral salaries should increase in accordance with years of experience so as to properly reflect the postdoc's level of education and skill. When a postdoc 's contribution is thus valued and rewarded, a postdoctoral experience can (and should) be one of the most focused, productive, and exciting times in the career of a scientist or engineer.

  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. This understanding must include the objectives of the adviser and institution as well as the objectives of the postdoc. In addition, funding organizations have responsibilities to set high standards for the postdoctoral experience and the disciplinary societies have responsibilities to gather and disseminate information and promote career advancement. The quality of the postdoctoral experience is the responsibility of all.

The remainder of this chapter is devoted to the committee's recommendations, and is organized by target audience. Many of the recommendations include a rationale or other explanation. For those readers desiring a synopsis of the recommendations, the following summary of “action points” is provided.

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