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CHAPTER of Postdoctoral Education The costs and benefits of postdoctoral education are shared by all of the participants: postdoctoral, host institution, and support- ing agency or foundation. However, it is difficult to determine exactly how much accrues to each. Consider, first, the matter of costs. The postdoctoral, especially at the immediate and intermediate levels, receives a stipend that in most cases is substantially below what he might be earning in regular employ- ment; the cost to him is in income foregone. The host institution pays directly in the sharing of research costs and sometimes by use of institutional funds for postdoctoral stipends. It also supports postdoctoral activity indirectly by pro- viding additional space, faculty time, and the many ancillary services that the postdoctoral shares with other members of the university. The sponsoring agency is generally the most obvious supporter through grants to the postdoc- toral or to the host institution. As far as benefits are concerned, from the point of view of the postdoctoral himself the difference between his potential deferred income and his postdoc- toral stipend is defrayed in whole or in part by his opportunity to obtain fur- ther research training under a certain mentor as well as his expectation of being able to secure a subsequent position in an institution which he respects and of being able to make significant contributions in his field. (As we saw in Chap- ter 5, he cannot expect a relatively higher income in his subsequent career. In this sense the income lost during his postdoctoral years is permanently lost.) The federal government, or more generally the supporters of postdoctoral activity, also recover their costs. Many of the postdoctoral s are supported on 224
225 STIPENDS research grants and make positive contributions to scientific and scholarly knowledge. It is, in fact, this creation of knowledge that the sponsors of these postdoctoral s are purchasing; under research grants postdoctoral training is a by-product. Conversely, those postdoctorals supported by fellowships or train- eeships, presumably established to create or to promote new talent, are also performing research. The roles of prime purpose and by-product are reversed but the consequence is similar. To abstract the costs attributable to the post- doctoral and to identify these costs as the costs of postdoctoral education is to ignore the side benefits. The sponsors are simultaneously purchasing re- search and training postdoctorals. Thus, when it comes to specifying the exact costs incurred by each of the participants the situation becomes awkward. Simply to add up the direct ex- penses is misleading. It is necessary to know what alternative uses of the re- sources would have produced. The returns on the investment must be projected and subtracted. Even if it were possible to do all this, we should also have to consider the nonquantifiable benefits of increased quality of research, of the altered environment in which graduate education takes place, of the contribu- tion to better international relations, of the heightened sense of individual growth and achievement, etc. Since such a comprehensive approach has not been possible, we have set a more limited objective. In what follows we shall generally ignore the question of benefits and confine our attention to an analysis of costs. However, the average figures that will be presented must not be taken out of context or ex- trapolated to situations not comparable to those discussed here. For example, we shall discuss the cost per postdoctoral at some selected universities. This will be the marginal cost of adding one more postdoctoral to an institution already deeply involved in research and postdoctoral education. It would be an error to presume that an institution not so involved could add postdoctor- als at the same cost. The creation of the setting for postdoctoral activity, in- cluding the acquisition of equipment, the construction of research facilities, and the amassing of top level faculty, would cost quite a bit more. Stipends The least ambiguous aspect of the cost of postdoctoral education concerns the stipend received by the postdoctoral. Whatever the intangible benefits of his appointment, the postdoctoral must eat and have shelter. If he had been a pre- doctoral fellowship holder previously, the immediate postdoctoral lived as a graduate student on an income that ranged from $2,400 to $3,600 a year. If he has no children, his wife has probably been working to augment the family
226 THE FINANCES OF POSTDOCTORAL EDUCATION income. If he has children, he is eager to see his income increased substantially. Whether it will or not depends strongly on the field, on the nature of his sup- port, and on the employer. The nationality of the postdoctoral will have some effect, and the sex of the postdoctoral is a significant factor. If he defers his postdoctoral appointment to the intermediate or senior stage, his income will be commensurate with his seniority. Because these variables have an effect and because the mix of support pat- terns, of nationality, of sex and level differs among the fields, we must not simply take field averages. On the other hand, the spread of stipends holding all the variables fixed is sufficiently great that only in a statistical sense can we speak of the dependence of the stipend on these variables. With this warn- ing, it is of interest to note that a woman can expect about $ 1,400 less per year than a man and an immediate postdoctoral about $1,030 less than an intermediate postdoctoral. The difference in stipend between a fellow and a project associate is less clear from our census data since, as we have seen in Chapter 4, the postdoctoral is less sure of whether he is a fellow than he is of the size of his stipend. If we assume that his description of his type of ap- pointment is correct, fellows on the average make $950 per year less than proj- ect associates. It is likely that the difference is really greater, but there are partial compensations that we will discuss later. Once one eliminates the dependence on sex and level one can examine in- trinsic differences in stipend among the fields. In Figure 22 we show the sti- pends of U. S. male immediate postdoctorals at universities and also the total annualized compensation (salary plus fringe benefits) offered to new assistant professors. Although we have not separated fellows from project associates, there remain some significant differences among the fields. Chemistry does not have proportionately more fellowships than physics, and yet there is almost a $2,000 difference in postdoctoral stipends in favor of physics. There are many more fellowships and traineeships in the biological sciences and this accounts for the relatively low stipends there. Apparently it is the pattern in chemistry to pay lower stipends even for project associateships. Similar, but smaller, differences exist in faculty salaries. The wide differences between postdoctoral stipends and faculty salaries were not expected. Earlier commentators on the postdoctoral situation1 sug- gested that the postdoctoral was paid more than the faculty. Even the depart- mental chairmen estimated the differences to be much smaller than shown. In physics they suggested that the postdoctoral stipend is 85 percent of the assist- ant professor's salary. In chemistry the ratio was given as 76 percent and in biochemistry as 74 percent. From Figure 22 the ratios of the medians are 64 Harold Orlans, The Effect of Federal Programs on Higher Education, The Brookings Institution, 1962, p. 82.
227 STIPENDS Median Annual (12-month) Stipends of Postdoctorals Compared with Salaries of Assistant Professors, by Field, 1967. Salaries of _____.. ? Stipends of Postdoctorals Asst. Professors Q1 (U.S. Males, Immediate) $16,000 ll.l.l 14,000 y, 12,000 ,mm 10,000 I. 8,000 -II 6,000 4,000 I 1 ?, <â¢> o.. - 5 E a. o uj.Eoaobo" a. coco x Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Census Questionnaire American Council on Education (ACE) Report of a Sample Survey of Salaries of New Faculty. 1967-1968. by John Caff rey
228 THE FINANCES OF POSTDOCTORAL EDUCATION percent, 53 percent, and 47 percent respectively. Perhaps this difference can be explained by assuming that the chairmen were comparing academic year salaries of professors with annual stipends of postdoctoral s and that they ig- nored the fringe benefits. We can see the impact on the postdoctoral's stipend of the host institution, the citizenship, and the level of appointment in Figure 23. Rather consistently nonacademic host institutions offer higher stipends at each level than do the universities. The physical sciences generally pay better than the biosciences and at the universities there is some tendency for foreign postdoctorals to be paid less than Americans. In particular, foreign postdoctorals more than two years beyond the doctorate receive a stipend comparable to immediate U. S. post- doctorals. This may partially explain the large numbers of foreign postdoctor- als in fields like chemistry, since for the same stipend that one pays to a rela- tively inexperienced American postdoctoral, one can attract a more experi- enced foreign scientist. We have mentioned the difference between fellowship and project associate- ship stipends. At universities the largest fellowship programs at the immediate level are the National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in health and health-related fields and the National Science Foundation Post- doctoral Fellowships in the broad spectrum of sciences and social sciences. In the former program the basic annual stipend is $6,000 for an individual with no relevant experience beyond the doctorate. If he has one year of such ex- perience the annual stipend is $6,500, and for two or more years, $7,000. In the NSF program the basic stipend is $6,500 with an increment to $7,000 if the fellowship is held beyond one year. In both programs an allowance of $500 per year is added for each dependent and a travel allowance of eight cents per mile is provided for transportation to the fellow's host institution. These stipends must be compared with the higher salaries usually paid to project associates. The latter's salary is fixed by the market and the availability of funds in a research contract rather than by formula. The difference in in- come can be a source of irritation in a research group having both fellows and project associates. Comparisons with average industrial salary offers to inexperi- enced degree holders, even at the baccalaureate level, are more startling.2 Industrial Salary Offers 1967-68 Bachelor.s Master.s Doctor.s Chemistry $8,748 $10,368 $14,160 Physics $9,012 $10,572 $14,724 It is usually argued that there are compensating features in a fellowship. The first is the tax benefits that accrue to the fellowship. An individual is ^College Placement Council Salary Survey, January 1969.
229 STIPENDS Annual (12-month) Stipend of Postdoctoral s by Citizenship, Type of Host Institution, and Level of Postdoctoral Appointment. U.S. | Foreign $ 12,500 PHYSICAL SCIENCES BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 10,000 Academic Nonacademic Academic Nonacademic TYPE OF HOST INSTITUTION AND APPOINTMENT LEVEL Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Census Data
230 THE FINANCES OF POSTDOCTORAL EDUCATION allowed to deduct $300 per month from his fellowship stipend (for a total of 36 months in his lifetime) before computing his federal income tax. This can be equivalent to as much as an additional $900 per year in taxable income. The other compensations cited are the honor of being chosen as a fellow, the freedom of choice in selecting a fellowship institution, and the liberty to work on a research topic of one's own choosing. We have discussed the latter two elsewhere and have discovered that the freedoms are somewhat limited. The prestige derived from national recognition is a separate question and no doubt accounts for the large numbers of candidates for the fellowships. One wonders, however, how many more physicists and mathematicians would apply if the stipends were more comparable with project associate salaries. At a time when federal support of academic science is leveling off, a decision to increase stipends implies a decision to reduce the number of fellowships. It is a matter of some debate which is greater: the pressure for higher stipends or for more fellowships. For example, the number of fellowships in the physical sciences is already very small, and most observers are unwilling to see it dimin- ished. Commentators seem to agree that at the very least a cost-of-living escala- tion should be built into the programs. If there were evidence that the fellow- ship programs were not attracting the very best candidatesâand there is no strong evidence for this yet-reassessment of the programs would be desirable because the prestige argument would be weakened considerably. Postdoctoral appointments in nonacademic institutions such as government laboratories are much more attractive financially. The Postdoctoral Resident Research Associateships and the Postdoctoral Research Associationships oper- ated by the National Research Council for a wide variety of government agen- cies have stipends (subject to income tax) ranging from $11,500 to over $12,000 at the immediate postdoctoral level. These stipends are comparable to the sala- ries paid new PhD's who are hired by these same laboratories. In part the differ- ences between the university-based stipends and the government stipends is accounted for by the market. University positions are seen by most postdoc- torals as being more attractive. University Costs There are two kinds of costs associated with postdoctoral activity in universities. The first might be called the cost "at" the university and the other the cost "to" the university. The former could be defined as the total cost of maintaining a postdoctoral, irrespective of the source of the supporting funds. The latter would be the net unreimbursed costs incurred by the institution in providing the post- doctoral opportunity. However, as with all other attempts to define unit costs
231 UNIVERSITY COSTS at universities, these concepts present an ambiguity that arises when we try to attribute fractions of professors' time and fractions of facilities to particular groups of students. The identifiable activities of classroom teaching, of lecture preparation, of research guidance and performance, and of self-education on the part of a professor are not neatly divisible. Similar arguments can be made with regard to facilities, administration, and equipment. Either a department has an electron microscope or a cyclotron or it does not; it cannot have one half or one third of either. Faculty, graduate students, postdoctorals, and even undergraduates use the equipment, and it would be there whether or not post- doctorals were present. How much of its cost should then be attributed to the postdoctoral? Finally, the university produces baccalaureates, master's degrees, doctorates, postdoctorals, and research. These are not independent, like the various prod- ucts of a diverse industry where the unit cost per refrigerator can be separately calculated from that of a washing machine. To varying degrees students at each level contribute to the research output. Through involvement in teaching, both formally and informally, each level contributes to the production of people at each other level. It would be a major distortion to attempt to pull apart this web. However, if we ignore the contributions of the postdoctoral to the teaching program and do not attempt to evaluate his augmentation of the research ef- fort, it is possible to identify certain cost items associated, however fuzzily, with the postdoctoral. There is his stipend, including whatever fringe benefits (such as insurance) are involved. One can attribute certain consumable supplies and travel expenses to the postdoctoral. In principle the cost of equipment amor- tized over its lifetime can be partially assigned to the postdoctoral, especially if it is purchased for his use (as opposed to institutional equipment that would have been acquired in the absence of the postdoctoral). A fraction of the men- tor's time can somewhat arbitrarily be assigned to the postdoctoral, although there is little evidence that additional faculty are hired on his account. It is more likely that the presence of postdoctorals causes a redistribution of faculty effort. Finally, there is a portion of the supporting services at the university that might be charged to the postdoctoral. This item includes such indirect costs as office and laboratory space, libraries, secretarial assistance, machine or glass-blowing shops, computing facilities, administration of contracts and general university management and, of course, parking facilities.3 If we call the total of these expenditures the cost "at" the university, it is possible to arrive at figures for individual postdoctorals and for departmental averages. Even within departments, however, the spread can be large depending 3 One university official suggested that for those postdoctorals who take or audit courses to make up deficiencies, unpaid tuition represents another cost.
232 THE FINANCES OF POSTDOCTORAL EDUCATION on the particular research projects on which the postdoctorals are working and on the type of appointment. At one university that computed these costs, the totals ranged from $9,175 to $24,573 per year in chemistry. A theoretical sci- entist who is not using computers is obviously not going to require the same funds as an experimentalist using expensive equipment and supplies. If we ignore these differences and consider only departmental averages, the agree- ment on total costs at five different universities that provided information was remarkable. Overall, the annual gross cost per postdoctoral at the universities was about $ 17,500 in physics; in chemistry about $ 15,300; and in biology about $13,000. Except for those postdoctorals supported entirely by the university, these costs do not represent the costs "to" the university. Almost all postdoctorals bring with them some fraction of the total costs, depending on the nature of their appointments. It is probably also true that no postdoctoral entirely pays his own way in terms of the costs listed above. It is often said that a project associate does not cost the university anything, since the research grant or contract that is paying his salary also provides the funds for equipment and supplies and contains an item for indirect costs as well. Since the indirect cost rate is usually negotiated at a lower value than the actual costs and since the university must share in the cost of all grants, there is a net cost to the univer- sity of serving as host for the research. How much of this residue can or should be attributed to the postdoctoral is less clear. Postdoctorals supported on training grants represent a larger cost to the university since the indirect cost rate is much smaller than that for research grants. On the other hand, much of their research expense, all of their stipends and fringe benefits, and incidental costs of travel to meetings are generally cov- ered by the training grant. The fellow is potentially the most costly since he brings little more than his stipend with him. In the NIH and NSF programs allowances of up to $1,000* for research expenses are also available but this seldom covers the real costs. If it were not for the research grant held by his mentor, the fellow would re- quire more assistance from the university. In practice his research expenses are paid from research grants. As with the stipend problem, increasing the research allowance implies a reduction in the number of fellowships at the current level of federal spending. However, the case for augmentation in this area is some- what stronger; the independence of the fellow to pursue research of his own interest is compromised to the extent that he must get support from the on- going program of his mentor. 4It is puzzling in this regard that federal fellowship programs for predoctoral students carry with them a $2,500 "cost of education" allowance per fellow per year, while the federal postdoctoral programs provide much less.
233 SOURCES OF SUPPORT Some of the issues discussed earlier with reference to the costs "at" the university complicate the estimate of costs "to" the university as well. The university is also a beneficiary of the presence of the postdoctoral. He is often involved in formal teaching; he contributes to seminars; he works with gradu- ate students in their research; and he often frees the faculty member for other tasks. There are other costs and benefits which seem nonquantifiable. In an institution whose facilities are used to the full, the postdoctoral could in principle displace a potential graduate student. On the other hand, he no doubt contributes to the "critical size" of research groups. He stimulates research and provides an educational experience for the faculty. If we were adequately to calculate the net costs to the university, we would have to consider whether the same benefits could have been achieved in a different way and, if so, how much would have been saved. In view of all these aspects of the cost "to" the university it is difficult to obtain meaningful numbers. The same five universities that had fair agreement on total costs could not agree at all on net costs. Their estimates ran from zero to over $8,000 for the unit cost of postdoctoral s to the university. It was not possible to get agreement on costing techniques, and even within one school the estimates ranged from $540 to over $6,000. Some schools have attempted to recover their costs by charging tuition to postdoctorals. However, the charge is usually subject to waiver by the gradu- ate dean if the postdoctoral would have to pay tuition from his stipend. Since this generally would be the case, little money has been raised in this fashion. These schools argue, however, that they are maintaining the principle that each of the groups served by the university should at least partially pay for services received. Sources of Support Although we have stated that all the components of the postdoctoral picture make some contribution to the support of the postdoctoral, it is of interest to know who is providing the basic stipend. The postdoctorals who responded to our census were asked to identify the agency that provided their salaries. Since the money is usually funneled through the host institution, we suggested that the postdoctoral discover the ultimate source by asking his research sponsor. Whether this was done in every case is rather doubtful, since 7.9 percent indi- cated that their stipend came from the host institution. This number seems high, although we have no direct evidence that it is incorrect. The distribution of postdoctorals among the supporting agencies is given in Table 53. The federal government is responsible for over two thirds of the post-
234 THE FINANCES OF POSTDOCTORAL EDUCATION TABLE 53 Number and Percentage of Postdoctorals, by Reported Source of Support Postdoctoral Source of Support Number Percent NSF 906 8.4 PHS 4,311 40.1 NASA 232 2.2 AEC 756 7.0 DOD 641 6.0 Other U.S. government agencies 355 3.3 Fulbright-Hays 71 0.7 NATO, WHO 90 0.8 State funds 91 0.9 Host institution 850 7.9 University other than host university 69 0.7 Private foundation 610 S.7 Other nonprofit organizations 316 2.9 1 ndustry 66 0.6 Home country (not U.S.) 215 2.0 Multiple sources 763 7.1 Source unknown 399 3.7 Total All Sources 10,740 100.0 Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Census Questionnaire. doctorals and the Public Health Service (including the National Institutes of Health) alone supports 40 percent of them. The distribution of support sources among the fields is given in Table 54. Several facts about areas of concentration become obvious. Almost all of the Public Health Service funds are concentrated in the biological and medical sci- ences, although a few awards are made in chemistry. The Atomic Energy Com- mission is predominantly concerned with physics, and both the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration heavily con- centrate their efforts in the physical sciences. Over two thirds of the National Science Foundation postdoctorals are in the physical sciences as well. The other government agencies, the host institutions, and all other sources (mainly the private sector) spread their support more broadly among the fields. The social sciences and the humanities5 receive little help from the federal govern- ment and rely mainly on the private sector, including the host institutions. 5These data do not show the effects of the first grants of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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237 SOURCES OF SUPPORT The distribution of support among the kinds of host institutions is given in Table 55. The pattern is not uniform, but in almost every case the distribution is understandable in view of the differences in mission of the several agencies and the available facilities at different institutions. The A EC, for example, has a larger fraction of postdoctorals at the ten leading institutions than does any other federal agency. This mirrors the concentration of high-energy physics research, which requires large departments in order to be efficient. Few NSF postdoctorals are at government laboratories, but NSF does not operate its own laboratories. Most of the government postdoctorals are at laboratories operated by their sponsoring agencies. Finally, only three government programs-NSF, NIH, and the Fulbright program-offer fellowships abroad. The supporting organizations differ in the support of the various levels of postdoctoral appointment (see Table 56). If we consider only the post-PhD group, the Public Health Service, the Department of Defense, and the AEC tend to support immediate postdoctorals rather than those who take an ap- pointment later. Quite the opposite is true for the other government category, the private sector, and the host institutions. The remaining groups fit the over- all pattern, with the exception that the home-country support of the foreign- ers tends to favor the 2-5 years after PhD group at the expense of the imme- diate. The final distribution in Table 57 gives the relationship between citizenship and source of support. The Public Health Service and the "other government" category support substantially more American than foreign postdoctorals, while DOD, NASA, and the host institutions support more foreign postdoctor- als. With regard to dependence on the wealth of the country of origin, there are two anomalies. The "other government" category includes a substantially larger percentage of postdoctorals from the poorer countries than the percent- age of such postdoctorals in the total population. In the case of home-country support there is an understandable relation between wealth and the ability to support postdoctoral work abroad. It should be stressed that we have included in these -tables everyone who responded to the study census and who fitted our definition of a postdoctoral. This means that we have not made distinctions here among those on fellow- ships, on traineeships, on project associateships, or on sabbatical leaves. As we saw in Chapter 4, there is much confusion among the postdoctorals with regard to their status. For this reason we did not trust their self-designations of the type of appointments they held. On the other hand, these distinctions are very important to the agencies and organizations responsible for providing support. Each form of support is handled by a distinct bureau or office within the sev- eral agencies, and each office has its separate mission and purpose. The Public Health Service, through the National Institutes of Health, operates both fel- lowship and traineeship programs. Some of its postdoctorals are supported on
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240 THE FINANCES OF POSTDOCTORAL EDUCATION research grants that are handled by different offices. In addition there are post- doctorals resident on the Bethesda campus. The other agencies have similar divi- sions of responsibility. It is probably true that no single agency has a compre- hensive knowledge of the numbers and fields of the postdoctorals of various kinds that it supports. It is definitely true that there is no government-wide coordination of the numbers and fields. It is to be hoped that the annual col- lection of statistics by the Committee on Academic Science and Engineering of the Federal Council on Science and Technology will be a first step in this direction. Finally, a word should be said about the nonfederal supporters of postdoc- toral activity. Not counting the host institutions or the home countries, there are many foundations, health organizations, professional societies, and indus- trial firms that are supporting postdoctoral study. In some cases the support is direct and intentional; in others it is through research grants with less con- sciousness of the educational by-product. Although no single nonfederal source supports large numbers of postdoctorals, their collective support accounts for almost one quarter of all postdoctoral activity.