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1 CHAPTER Introduction To an increasing extent, the doctorate is no longer the terminal point for advanced education in the United States. Each year significant numbers of doctoral recipients, especially in the sciences, seek temporary positions where they may augment their education and experience in research before accepting more permanent employment. Others, more senior, take leaves of absence from their employment to obtain a similar ex- perience. Although most of these postdoctoral scholars are at universities, they may be found in government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions, in hospitals, at archeological digs, and at industrial laboratories. At some universities postdoctoral s have been familiar figures for many years, but they have never before existed in such large numbers or at so many institutions. In several university departments they outnumber the faculty; occasionally they outnumber the students. In the division of biology at the California Institute of Technology, which has long been a center of postdoc- toral education, postdoctoral s outnumbered professors four to one in 1967- 68.1 At the Harvard Medical School in 1967-68 there were more postdoctoral research fellows than medical students.2 The postdoctoral scholar is not easy to describe. He can be a doctor of philosophy (PhD) or, quite a different matter, a doctor of medicine (MD). 1A Report forthe Year 1967-68 on the Research and Other Activities of the Division of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, pp. 6-9. 2Harvard Medical School, Dean.s Report for 1967-68, pp. 13, 28.
2 INTRODUCTION Sometimes he has both degrees. Occasionally, his doctorate is in veterinary medicine, law, or education, or he may be a scholar with the intellectual qual- ifications of a doctorate but without the degree. In each case he has come to the status of postdoctoral scholar by a different academic route. He has pur- sued a different training, with different objectives. The postdoctoral scholar with a PhD is most often a young natural scien- tist who has recently completed his doctoral dissertation. He has completed his formal education, but believes that he can benefit from continuing his re- search for awhile under an experienced mentorâoften a colleague of his dis- sertation adviser at another institution. But he may also be a social scientist or, more rarely, a humanist. Often he is an older scholar. A good percentage of the postdoctoral population consists of faculty members who have taken leave from their institutions to study in a colleague's laboratory or in a library that offers resources they need. The postdoctoral scholar with an MD is usually well advanced in a specialty. He has often completed the internship and residency training required for practice in his field but he wants further training in an area that concerns him. His ultimate aim may be practice in his specialty or an academic careerâa career for which his training, primarily oriented toward practice, has not pre- pared him. But there are also postdoctoral scholars with the MD who have not completed residency training and perhaps never will. They have decided early that they want a career in teaching and research rather than in practice. Typi- cally their interest is not in clinical medicine but in the sciences basic to medi- cine, such as biochemistry, microbiology, or physiology. If they had made their decisions still earlier, they might have studied for a PhD instead of an MD. A postdoctoral scholar's status is not always clear from his title. His ap- pointment is characteristically transitional and temporary but it merges with that of the research staff member whose appointment is considered more or less permanent. On many campuses the title of research associate is given both to short-term postdoctoral scholars receiving support from research project funds and to long-term research staff. The title of postdoctoral fellow is equally imprecise. Many postdoctoral scholars are the holders of fellowships for which they have competed successfully on a regional or national basis. The title of fellow has meaning in this case and, because it is a distinction to win a competitive fellowship, it adds a certain luster. But the same title is often given to a postdoctoral scholar supported by other means. To avoid complication, there is advantage in turning the adjective into a noun and calling him simply "a postdoctoral." This is how we refer to him in this report. One important characteristic of the postdoctoral population is its close as- sociation with distinguished institutions. Although postdoctorals can be found at almost 200 universities, over half of them are at only 17 institutions. In in-
3 INTRODUCTION dividual fields the concentration is even greater. One fourth of the postdoc- torals in the engineering, mathematics, and physical sciences are at only six universities, all of which rank among the top seven in quality, as measured by Cartter.3 Similarly, only five schools account for a third of the postdoctorals in the clinical specialties. Characteristic also is an association between post- doctorals and distinguished mentors. It is not difficult to find internationally known investigators serving as mentors to as many as a dozen postdoctorals. Postdoctorals are found, in varying numbers, in virtually all fields of study- preponderantly in the natural and medical sciences, but also in the social sci- ences and the humanities. As will be seen from the chapters that follow, a very large proportion of the total population is foreign. Many postdoctorals have gone on to distinguished careers. A notable exam- ple is the French Nobel prizewinner, Jacques Monod, who as a young investi- gator held a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. It was as a postdoctoral that an American Nobel Laureate, James D. Watson, did the work that made his reputation. In 1967 the total number of individuals holding temporary appointments for the purpose of continued education and experience in research (our defi- nition of a postdoctoral) was approximately 16,000. That this large a number of holders of the doctorate should be welcome at several hundred different host institutions implies that something is very right about postdoctoral study. The eagerness with which former postdoctorals are sought by university de- partments for faculty positions suggests that the experience and/or the selec- tivity of the postdoctoral appointment makes this group particularly attrac- tive. Both the participants and the subsequent employers seem to consider postdoctoral education a success. This does not mean that no problems exist. As we shall see in the first chap- ter, the problem in the past was to establish the idea of postdoctoral educa- tion in the minds of the participants and potential participants. The problems of today are more diffuse and result as much from the successes of the past as the failures of the present. For all concerned, whether host institution, sponsoring agency, or the general public, the numbers involved raise important questions. For almost a decade, university presidents have been concerned about the ever increasing number of postdoctoral appointments on campus. Neither student nor faculty, the postdoctoral appointees have been virtually invisible to anyone outside their departments. Their major impact on the campus at large is the space they require. Departments have asked the administration for additional space when a head count of faculty and graduate students 3H. W. Magoun, The Cartter Report on Quality in Graduate Education, Journal of Higher Education, Vol. XXXVII, No. 9, December 1966.
4 INTRODUCTION would indicate that the present laboratories were not yet filled. The problem is aggravated at state universities by the lack of recognition by state budget offices of the legal existence of postdoctorals. Few universities are able to acquire building funds based on the number of postdoctorals in a department. The situation is made more awkward in that few universities have initiated postdoctoral activity by design. When asked why his university encourages postdoctoral education, one graduate dean replied: "I am not sure we could be said to have a rationale; we permit rather than promote postdoctoral study." For the most part, postdoctorals come to a university provided with their own support, seeking the use of certain facilities, or they come as employees under a faculty research grant. The administration is aware that the faculty member wants the postdoctoral in his laboratory to assist with his research, but it sel- dom asks why the postdoctoral seeks such a position. Unlike undergraduate and graduate education, postdoctoral education is, with few exceptions, not consciously or intentionally undertaken by the university. Most universities suspect, but are not sure, that having postdoctorals on campus is costing them money. This is especially true of the postdoctoral who comes with little more than his stipend from some federal agency or private foundation. Few postdoctorals pay tuition, but they all consume faculty time and academic space. There is no general agreement on whether they are the most senior students or the most junior faculty members. Not knowing the role of the postdoctoral, the universities cannot agree how the activity should be classified in their budgets. There are also questions raised by those outside the academic community. Since the Congress appropriates the funds that support most of the activity, its opinion is especially important. The Reuss Report4 suggested that the shortage of teachers, especially in the sciences, is a consequence of young PhD's being deflected from teaching into research by the availability of post- doctoral appointments. The problem is made more intense by the circum- stance, as the Subcommittee sees it, that "the abler graduate students and young postdoctorals go into research-the less able teach." The federal agencies react somewhat differently from the Congress. Charged primarily with promoting research, the various groups-ranging from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the independent agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-have evolved a number of programs affecting the postdoctoral population. Some, through fellowship programs like those of NSF and NIH, support postdoctorals 4Conflicts Between the Federal Research Programs and the Nation.s Goals for Higher Education, Report of the Research and Technical Programs Subcommittee of the Com- mittee on Government Operations, House Report No. 1158, 1965.
5 INTRODUCTION directly in order to produce a core of highly creative researchers. Others, by means of research contracts and grants awarded to universities to support fac- ulty research, contribute funds to pay for postdoctoral s who are hired to assist the faculty members. There is no coordination of postdoctoral support between these two disparate mechanisms, even when both instruments issue from the same agency. Consequently, in these days of curtailed growth (or even reduction) of federal research funds to universities, the agencies are hard pressed to establish priorities and to strike a balance between research and training. Most people involved with postdoctoral s are aware of the fairly large numbers of foreign citizens within the group. Those who are concerned about research output tend to be indifferent to the nationality of the researcher; those who are concerned with training are troubled by the use of federal funds to support scientists who will not remain in this country. From a different point of view, both the Congress and the Department of State have been dis- cussing the so-called "brain drain." To the extent that it exists, the foreign postdoctoral is clearly an important component. Implicit in all of these atti- tudes and concerns are questions concerning the numbers of foreign postdoctorals. After academic institutions, the major employer of physical science doc- torates is industry. A deficit of college and university faculty, resulting from the growth of undergraduate education and the insufficient output of the graduate schools, is reflected in a shortage of top scientific talent in the indus- trial research laboratories. There is some suspicion among industrialists that the expansion of postdoctoral education in the universities is responsible for aggravating the manpower squeeze. The recruiting officer of a major indus- trial firm has expressed concern over the large number of science graduates who are hired by universities to do research with funds supplied by the federal agencies. Others have suggested that the availability of postdoctorals has en- abled universities, with their lower overheads, to compete successfully for federal research contracts that might otherwise have gone to industry. Still others have expressed concern that postdoctoral education in the university setting only further insulates the young doctorate from applied problems, making him more unlikely to choose industrial research as a vocation. The question is, of course, how valid are these criticisms? Finally there are the questions raised by society at large. In the face of rising costs, both state legislatures and boards of trustees are beginning to question university administrators more closely on various aspects of their programs. Although undergraduate education is recognized as essential and desirable, some state university presidents find that they must constantly de- fend the concept of graduate education by illustrating the contribution it makes to the state and nation. In this setting postdoctoral education appears
6 INTRODUCTION esoteric and even gratuitous. Is the postdoctoral indulging a luxury or is he receiving a critically important experience and thereby fulfilling a national need? Although the dimensions of postdoctoral education have increased steadily, particularly since World War II, this is the first time that it has been the subject of a comprehensive study. Bernard Berelson, in his well-known Graduate Education in the United States, published in 1960, devoted ten pages to postdoctoral education. "There is so much postdoctoral training," he noted, "that many people are becoming perplexed or even alarmed at where it is all going to end."5 At the request of the Association of American Universities he went on to take a closer look at postdoctoral education, ex- amining it particularly on the campuses of the 41-member institutions of the Association. A summary of his report was published in the spring of 1962.6 In the medical sciences, at the same time, there was concern over the impact of large numbers of research fellows on the structure of medical education and the medical profession. The Division of Medical Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences obtained funds in 1957 for a study of the role of post- doctoral fellowships in academic medicine. This study, conducted until his death by Arthur S. Cain, Jr., and completed by Lois G. Bowen, bore fruit in a long report published in 1961 in the Journal of Medical Education.7 A num- ber of studies have been made of the postdoctoral population at particular in- stitutions and postdoctoral education increasingly finds a place in surveys of individual research fields. But there has not hitherto been a study of the whole scope of postdoctoral education, embracing all institutions and all fields. In this report we have attempted to answer the questions raised above. We begin with a review of the history of postdoctoral education since it first began in this country more than fifty years ago. The succeeding chapters consider in detail the composition of this population; the significance of postdoctoral edu- cation for the individual, for the department, and for the institution of which he is temporarily a member; the character of postdoctoral education in dif- ferent fields of study; the manner in which it is supported and provided for; and its cost. We conclude the report with recommendations based on our findings. 5 Bernard Berelson, Graduate Education in the United States, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1960, p. 190. Bernard Berelson, Postdoctoral Work in American Universities: A Recent Survey, Jour- nal of Higher Education, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, March 1962, pp. 119-130. 7Arthur S. Cain, Jr. and Lois G. Bowen, The Role of Postdoctoral Fellowships in Aca- demic Medicine, The Journal of Medical Education, Vol. 36, No. 10, Part 2, October 1961, pp. 1351-1556.