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5 CHAPTER ImpflccatEcns for t5r13 Postdoctoral A great amount of time, effort, and financial resources has been expended on postdoctoral study, and the question "How productive has this expenditure been?" remains to be answered. As we shall see, many participants testify to the critical importance of the experience to their professional growth and performance. On the other hand, some success- ful nonparticipants tend to deprecate the need for the experience. It is possible that both are right, and it is impossible to know what either would have accom- plished had the circumstances been different. The evolution of a scholar or scientist is a singular process. Were it only a matter of inculcating techniques and procedures, the necessary curriculum and training exercises would have evolved by now to turn out the researchers needed for each generation. Indeed, the rather standard PhD program is an attempt to formalize the process. But even here, the dissertation research is an individual matter. A Nobel Laureate in biochemistry, Sir Hans Krebs,1 points out that the acquisition of skills is not sufficient in the making of a scientist. "What is critical is the use of skills, how to assess their potentialities and their limita- tions; how to improve, to rejuvenate, to supplement them." He argues that in addition to skills, excellence in science depends on a certain attitude that fos- ters "... a self-critical mind and the continuous effort to learn and to improve." The creation of the environment in which both skills and attitude are trans- *H. A. Krebs, The Making of a Scientist, Nature, Vol. 215, September 30, 1967, pp. 1441-1445. 126
127 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POSTDOCTORAL mitted from teacher to novice is the basic problem in the making of a scientist. There is general consensus that whatever else is relevant, the excellence of the incipient scientist can be enhanced by the degree of excellence of his mentor. Since excellence is relatively rare and the demand by industry, government, and higher education for trained scientists and scholars is great, many who attain the PhD are limited in their scientific capability by the fact that their mentors were competent without achieving great distinction or excellence. This is not a reflection on the standards of graduate schools or an assertion that the graduate programs have failed, but rather a consequence of the scar- city of excellence. Much of postdoctoral activity can be explained in terms of the search for a more excellent mentor. In the article previously referred to, Krebs analyzes the scientific "geneal- ogy" of himself as a Nobel Laureate. Each scientific ancestor is quoted as attributing his success to having worked in the laboratory of his scientific "father." In each case, the association between teacher and pupil was close and prolonged, extend- ing to the mature stage of the pupil, to what we would now call postgraduate and post- doctoral levels. It was not merely a matter of attending a course of lectures but of re- searching together over a period of years. Jacques Monod,2 who received the Nobel Prize in 1965, has testified to the impact on him of a Rockefeller Fellowship that permitted him to work in the laboratory of Thomas Hunt Morgan at the California Institute of Technology. This was revelation to me-a revelation of what a group of scientists could be like when engaged in creative activity, and sharing in constant exchange of ideas, bold speculation, and strong criticism: it was a revelation of personalities of great stature such as George Beadle, Sterling Emerson, Bridges, Sturtevant, Jack Schultz, and Ephrussi, all of whom were working in Morgan's department. Morgan was already a Nobel Laureate and Beadle was later to receive the Nobel Prize. A by-product of working in the laboratory of an outstanding teacher and researcher is, as suggested by Monod, the association with extraordinary con- temporaries. Krebs had a similar experience and points out that "... great teachers tend to attract good people. Students at all levels learn as much from their fellow students as from their seniors and this was certainly true in my case." The same phenomenon has occurred in physics where the students who were at Chicago with Enrico Fermi currently play central roles in elementary particle physics. These include Owen Chamberlain, C. N. Yang, T. D. Lee (all Nobel Laureates), Geoffrey Chew, Jack Steinberger, and Marvin Goldberger, all of whom were fellow students at the same time at Chicago. Whether these men and others like them would have achieved what they 2Jacques Monod, Science, Vol. 101, 1966, p. 475.
128 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POSTDOCTORAL did without their particular predoctoral and postdoctoral experiences is im- possible to know. Krebs argues that scientists are not so much born as made by those who teach them research. One wonders, however, whether less in- nately gifted students would have fared so well. The flaw in such a speculation is that our present measures of aptitudes do not identify within the very high ranges those who are likely to be creative. Creativity is still not understood and it is only after a creative act is performed that we identify the creative person. When we move away from the relatively small group of excellent teachers and gifted students, the situation is less clear. We generally ask for testimoni- als only from the successful; the much larger "merely competent" group is also much quieter. The number of postdoctoral s far exceeds the number of those who will win national and international prizes and only a handful of mentors have received or will receive such honors. Is postdoctoral activity important for the less-than-exceptional student? Can a less-than-outstanding scientist serve as an adequate mentor of postdoctorals? Comments of Former Postdoctorals By examining the comments of some former postdoctorals we can develop an insight into the situation from the point of view of the participants. Most reaf- firm the reasons given in Chapter 5 by current postdoctorals for taking the appointment. The respondents considered their postdoctoral years valuable for permitting a transition period from student to professor, for meeting and working with eminent scholars, for starting independent research, for making field changes or acquiring breadth and perspective, and for learning specialized techniques. Many describe the postdoctoral period as the most "stimulating," "crucial," "formative," or "invaluable" experience in their careers. It is often felt to have been more important than their predoctoral training. Not all, however, had satisfactory experiences. A number mention the ex- ploitation of the postdoctoral by the mentor. As a chemist put it, "I was a source of cheap laborâa glorified grad student." Another called for a code of ethics to be imposed upon preceptors "regarding aspects of the training, prob- lem selection, publication rights, etc." He felt himself to be more an employee of his mentor than a junior colleague and wished that his "preceptor had felt he also had an obligation to advance the training and experience of the post- doctoral student." A psychologist's dissatisfaction with his adviser "was in his unwillingness to guide my training, except when I entirely took the initiative in demanding guidance." In his view, "the value of postdoctoral training, dis-
129 COMMENTS OF FORMER POSTDOCTORALS tinguished from the opportunity to carry on research, seems to be an interac- tion between the disposition of the adviser to teach and the willingness of the fellow to be aggressive in seeking training." The balance between freedom and constraint is a delicate one and one which must be determined in the individ- ual case. It is unfortunate that a professor may be insufficiently sensitive to the particular needs of his postdoctorals in their professional development. A few former postdoctorals were disappointed in their choice of institution, either because of the inadequacy of facilities and equipment or because the faculty there had no interest in discussing problems not immediately related to their own current research. The most common theme with regard to insti- tutional choice, however, was the mistake of some of taking their postdoc- toral appointment at the same institution from which they received their PhD. A biochemist who followed this course, to his later regret, gives the following reasons for a fellow's taking his appointment in a new institution: 1. He will be exposed to new techniques and ideas. 2. He will meet other established scientists. 3. Opportunities for advancement are usually greater in a different environment. 4. He can bring new techniques and ideas to the new institution. 5. Perhaps the most important, unless the worker makes a really significant advance as a student or early in his postdoctoral work (a rare occurrence), he is not often appreci- ated at the institution at which he took his degree. A physiologist echoes these remarks from his own experience and deplores the tendency to "parochial research before [the postdoctoral] has fully explored his research interests and capabilities." He also points out that the change of institution would "lead more rapidly to a more independent orientation and professional maturity." On the positive side, the former postdoctorals urge on their successors the prime importance of the senior mentor's being a scientist of exceptional abil- ity. A biochemist who took his postdoctoral at a national laboratory declares that his appointment was "decisive in my own personal development and the development of my subsequent career. I cannot overemphasize [its] value to meâa value more related to knowing the man than being at a particular place." An embryologist testified that his work with a particular scholar was crucial. "Although my experience did not result in a great number of papers, it provided something more valuable and intangible-a set of standards for excellence and contact with people who have continued to stimulate my sci- entific interests." A few, speaking from their own background, attribute the value of their postdoctoral appointments to overcoming weaknesses in their graduate pro- grams. An anatomist asserts that "I am of the opinion that the majority of young PhD's receiving their degrees from the 'average' department of biologi- cal sciences lack the research training and insight to successfully carry out a
130 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POSTDOCTORAL significant research program without postdoctoral training." A pharmacologist adds that "with the decrease in time for obtaining the PhD degree it is imper- ative that more postdoctoral positions be made available in order that recent PhD's have a chance to mature and become established in a field of research." On the other hand, most former postdoctorals saw the postdoctoral appoint- ment as not supplementing an inferior graduate program but rather as the next stage in their development. An established zoologist writes: I have no hesitation in asserting that my two postdoctoral years (especially the first) were absolutely crucial for me personally in fostering the development of scientific skills and abilities, critical judgment, and intellectual perspective to a satisfactory level before I undertook a fully independent academic appointment. I do not believe my predoctoral education was deficient (indeed, I regard it as superior in nearly all respects), but the time involved in research was inadequate to permit satisfactory scholarly development as far as I personally am concerned. Possibly I would have attained the same maturation eventually in an academic appointment commenced directly after receipt of the doc- torate but it was facilitated by postdoctoral experience first, and would have been inhibited by heavy teaching responsibilities assumed immediately after the doctorate. I also regard the postdoctoral experiences... as having been especially important for a variety of sustained intellectual contact with different individuals in a research context. I do not believe that I could have learned to 'do' research so easily if fully on my own at that juncture in my career. All of the comments above were made by people between 7 and 17 years after their PhD degrees who had held an immediate postdoctoral appointment. It is interesting to compare their attitudes with those of their contemporaries who have never held a postdoctoral appointment. The scientists in the latter category divide into two factions: a small group who have no regrets (and no good words for postdoctoral education in general) and a large majority who regret not having had the experience. Many of the latter feel that their post- PhD research careers have suffered as a result. The former faction was almost exclusively composed of those presently in industry or those in fields such as geology and oceanography, where the number of available academic positions is large compared to the PhD production. The manager of the mathematics department of an industrial firm asserts, "I feel rather strongly that a postdoctoral fellowship immediately after the PhD is detrimental to the career of an industrial scientist and not of much advantage to the future academic scientist.... This is not true for the excep- tionally able student, but the number of postdoctorals available exceeds the number of outstanding recipients." A chemist from industry states, in partial agreement: I see little value in postdoctoral training for industrial careers. It would seem to me that the chief value of postdoctoral appointments lies not in the education, but in the assod-
131 COMMENTS OF FORMER POSTDOCTORALS ations. In having carried through a second research program (in addition to the doctoral research), one is undoubtedly better equipped to do further research. In industry this opportunity is always present, whereas in the academic field . .. possibly theâ¢experience comes a little more slowly. Another industrial chemist agreed that the experience was not necessary in industry, but added, "I sincerely feel postdoctoral experience is desirable for people entering the academic profession." He saw an advantage in exposure to new and different institutions for the incipient professor who will subse- quently train the next generation of students. A physiologist at a pharmaceu- tical corporation felt that there were only two justifications for postdoctoral work: to make up for a deficient predoctoral program and to allow a change of fields. He rather suspected that postdoctoral activity has become "a status symbol beyond its real contribution," and that many enter it to be able to refer to it in their curriculum vitae or to avoid facing a "real" assignment. On the other hand, a physicist at a government laboratory reports, "I am sold on the postdoctoral concept.... A postdoctoral would have enabled me to learn the nuclear physics that I did not have time for in graduate school." The academic people tend to support postdoctoral education even when they did not have the experience themselves. An associate professor of anatomy said, "I feel that the personal connections with outstanding people in the field which inevitably develop as a result of postdoctoral work would have been helpful in avoiding certain pitfalls in experimental design and helpful in keep- ing close to the center of things. If one waits for published work to know what is going on, one tends to get left behind." A professor of pharmacology was unsuccessful in winning a fellowship immediately after his PhD and now is convinced that "one or two years of sound postdoctoral training early would have been helpful. I so advise students." Again the feeling is not unanimous. A professor of chemical engineering felt that even those new PhD's who antici- pate an academic career would be better off with industrial experience than with a postdoctoral appointment in a university. Several people whose first postdoctoral experience occurred some years after their doctorate wished that they had taken such an appointment earlier. A botanist said, "Additional research experience the first year after receiving my degree would have accelerated my 'professional development'. ... I feel I would have advanced more rapidly with regard to academic promotion and research contribution to my field." An astronomer regrets having accepted an academic position before having had postdoctoral experience. He believes that "additional research guidance and delay of the rather extensive demands of initial teaching would have started my research efforts at a stronger and more productive level." A zoologist found his delayed postdoctoral appointment to be highly successful, but found the delay itself to have had an effect on his
132 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POSTDOCTORAL career. "My production of papers did not really begin until during the post- doctoral period." Other respondents favored the delayed postdoctoral appoint- ment over the immediate. A physiologist was full of praise for his delayed appointment and had serious reservations about the value of postdoctoral work as a routine postlude to graduate training. In his opinion, "graduate school is the time in which training should be completed; I would favor a lengthening of the predoctoral span, rather than a uniform reliance on post- doctoral study." A mathematician feels that "a delayed postdoctoral fellow- ship usually would be better, since it takes a year or two for a person to uti- lize and use up his 'thesis knowledge' and mature a bit." With regard to a delayed postdoctoral appointment taken several years after the PhD or to a senior postdoctoral appointment there is almost unani- mous praise. If there is any complaint, it is that there are not sufficient oppor- tunities for support for sabbatical-year research and study leaves. The enthusi- asm was shared (and the complaint made) by academic and industrial scien- tists in all fields. The benefits mentioned most often concerned field changes, providing new perspectives, opportunities for contacts with other senior schol- ars, rekindling enthusiasm for research, keeping nonresearch professors abreast of their fields (and consequently keeping courses up-to-date), and simply pro- viding unfettered time to do research. One professor of mathematics wrote: The Institute for Advanced Study has repaid the United States 1,000 times the money invested in it. Since clearly not everyone can go there, it seems obvious to me that simi- lar centers of research without teaching should be started [in several locations around the country] where a faculty member could spend a year in favorable conditions, in pure, uninterrupted scholarship, away from his natural habitat. Others made similar remarks about the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. The chairman of a political science department testified that the major advantage of such centers was contact with scholars in other disciplines. "Although one can read in disciplines other than one's own, the insights gained through conversation with others tend to be more easily assimi- lated into one's own thinking." We have presented this rather lengthy recitation of reactions to show the variety of opinions and experiences. Except when the respondent was making proposals in areas where he had no experience (e.g., the industrial scientist judging the relevance of postdoctoral work for the academic scientist), one must accept the analyses at face value. Postdoctoral education may simultane- ously be crucial for some and unnecessary for others. It may be appropriate in some fields and not in others. It may be more important immediately after the PhD for one scientist and not until several years have passed for another. It may be abused by some postdoctorals and some mentors, but it has clearly been productive for many.
133 QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE Quantitative Aspects of the Postdoctoral Experience The lack of a distinct picture persists when we examine the more quantitative aspects of the impact of postdoctoral education. As indicated in the introduc- tion and as pointed out by a respondent from industry, "Possibly the selection process, including the inclination to seek and the qualities sought in the grant- ing of a postdoctoral position, provides the major screening as to any greater probability of future productivity. If ... postdoctoral experience seems to yield a more productive result, this may be due to the original selection proc- ess and not to the experience." We tried in our sampling procedure to select two groups of former postdoctorals and non-former postdoctoral s of equal quality as measured by the reputation of their doctoral institution and their baccalaureate-to-PhD time lapse. These two measures, of course, do not pre- clude potential differences; for example, motivation and encouragement to seek a postdoctoral position undoubtedly are important distinctions. Another influence in making comparisons between those who have had a postdoctoral experience and those who have not is the "halo" effect, or as Robert K. Mer- ton3 has put it, "the Matthew effect." Merton takes his text from the Gospel according to St. Matthew: "For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." Merton goes on to apply the principle to the system of rewards in science. The application here is in the incremental awareness one has of an award winner and in the subsequent abundance of opportunities. Given two candidates of comparable quality for a position, there is probably a tendency to favor the one who has been previously recognized by a national fellowship committee or who has worked with a particularly prestigious men- tor. In this circumstance it is not the postdoctoral selection process, or even necessarily the postdoctoral experience, but the mere fact of having been a postdoctoral that turns the balance. With these reservations in mind let us examine the comparative data among three groups of natural scientists: those who took an immediate postdoctoral appointment, those who took a delayed postdoctoral (the intermediate and senior appointee), and those who have never had a postdoctoral. The sample was selected from those who received their PhD's in 1950, 1955, or 1960 (see Appendix A-4). The first difference among the three groups is in their current employment. Table 32 gives the type of employer in 1967, and the data indicate that those who have never had a postdoctoral are less likely to be in the academic world and are significantly more likely to be in industry. The fact that the former delayed postdoctoral is more likely to be in the university than is the former 3R. K. Merton, Scrence, Vol. 159, January 5, 1968, pp. 56-63.
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135 QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE immediate postdoctoral is explained by the circumstance that sabbaticals and leaves of absence are more easily obtained and more the custom in the univer- sity setting than in other employing institutions. The immediate postdoctoral may have left the university soon after his appointment. The delayed post- doctoral remained at the university long enough to have his appointment. In what follows we shall compare only those in the sample who are U. S. males at academic institutions. There are significant differences in the treat- ment of women and foreigners by all employers, and the salary scales and pub- lication practices of the academic world differ from those of other employers. We will also often refrain from comparisons within the sciences, since our sample size is not sufficient to lend credence to the apparent differences. Table 33 gives-the academic rank or position of the sample and shows no significant differences except, of course, that the older men (PhD's of 1950) have a higher rank and are more likely to have administrative positions than are the younger men. We begin to see some differences when we look at how the respondents' time is spent (Table 34). The former immediate postdoctoral is more involved in research and less involved in teaching and administration than the other two groups. Both research and teaching give way to administration in the case of the older respondent. It may be that the early commitment to research that the immediate postdoctoral represents is reflected in these results. Another possible distinction is the degree of involvement with graduate education. The following table shows the percentage of academic scientists in the sample who have been graduate thesis advisers and the number of students supervised at the master's and doctoral level: Postdoctoral Background Immediate Delayed None Percent who have been graduate thesis advisers 76 86 83 Average number of MS students per year who received degrees under these advisers .25 .43 .49 Average number of PhD students per year who received degrees under these advisers .38 .23 .29 At the master's level the former immediate postdoctoral is much less produc- tive than the other two groups, but at the doctoral level he is more important. Not shown in the table but explicit in the data is a significant exception which will show up again. The man who never had a postdoctoral but who received his PhD from one of the ten leading institutions has produced on the average 0.47 masters per year and 0.40 PhD's per year. The latter number is larger than those from any other type of institution or with any other type of postdoc- toral background. When we look at the research indices (Table 35), we observe that the non-
136 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POSTDOCTORAL TABLE 33 Rank or Position in 1967 of Academic Scientists (U.S. Males Only), by Year of PhD and Postdoctoral Background Percentage of Academic Scientists Academic Rank or Position PhD Year Postdoctoral Background Immediate Delayed None 1950 1955 1960 Full professor 70 45 13 41 47 40 Associate professor 10 36 52 31 34 33 Assistant professor - 5 23 14 8 5 Instructor, lecturer 1 1 1 1 1 2 Administrator 13 6 3 5 5 11 Research staff member 6 7 6 6 3 9 Postdoctoral â 1 3 1 2 â Total Percent 100 101 101 99 100 100 Total Number 82 162 173 179 102 136 Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Experience Questionnaire. postdoctoral is less likely to be doing any research than are the others. He is also less likely to have outside support for his research. However, if one sub- tracts those with outside support from those in research, there is no signifi- cant difference among the groups, i.e., approximately 10 percent of those do- ing research do not have any outside support regardless of their postdoctoral background. The nonpostdoctoral gets his first grant slightly earlier than does the imme- diate. The reason may be that he can apply at an earlier date (not being on a postdoctoral appointment at the time). He is a year ahead of the delayed post- doctoral in this respect. The increase in the availability of extramural support TABLE 34 Type of Work Activity in 1967 of Academic Scientists (U.S. Males Only) by PhD Year and Postdoctoral Background Percentage of Academic Scientists Type of Work Activity PhD Year Postdoctoral Background 1950 1955 1960 Immediate Delayed None Research 40 44 48 61 41 41 Teaching 31 36 37 31 41 33 Administration 23 16 12 15 16 20 Other 6 4 3 3 2 6 Total Percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 Total Number 82 162 173 179 102 136 Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Experience Questionnaire.
137 QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE TABLE 35 Research Activity of Academic Scientists (U.S. Males Only), by Year of PhD and Postdoctoral Background PhD Year Postdoctoral Background Research Indices 1950 1955 1960 Immediate Delayed None Percent in research 90 93 98 96 96 90 Percent with outside support 86 83 79 86 86 79 Average number of years past PhD to first extramural research grants 5.8 4.6 2.8 4.3 5.9 3.9 Percent of those with outside support who received subsequent research grants 94 88 85 89 91 87 Average number of papers published per year 2.2 1.8 2.1 2.1 1.9 2.2 Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Experience Questionnaire. is evident in the time lag as a function of PhD class. The 1960 graduate received his first grant in half the time it took the 1950 PhD. There is no significant ad- vantage with regard to getting a second outside grant. Approximately 90 per- cent of all groups who received a first grant received a second grant. Finally, there is no apparent difference in the rate of production of papers among the three groups, although the nonpostdoctoral whose degree is from one of the ten leading schools publishes an average of 2.9 papers per yearâmore than any other subgroup. Such a counting of papers does not, of course, take into account the qual- ity or importance of the paper. The Commission on Human Resources and Advanced Education of the National Research Council has used the facilities of the Science Citation Index to determine the number of times an author's work has been cited by others. Although there are many irrelevant reasons for citing a work, it is likely that on the average more important papers are cited more often than less important papers. In their latest study4 the Commission reports the following: The impact of research executed by postdoctoral fellowship awardees is also indicated to be greater than that by their peers who had not received a postdoctoral fellowship. In each field, the aggregate of 1957-59 male doctorates who had received a fellowship were From a draft being prepared for publication, Human Resources and Higher Education, Russel Sage Foundation, New York, in press.
138 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POSTDOCTORAL found to have about twice as many recent citations to their work as those who were non- recipients. While those who receive a postdoctoral fellowship were subsequently more likely than others to engage primarily in research and are more likely to be employed in college or university settings. Even when these factors are held "constant" the former postdoctoral fellowship holders tend to have higher citation counts than do their colleagues. Although this result is suggestive, the Commission did not hold constant the "quality" of the two groups as we attempted to do in our sample. Citation counts for our sample show that the former immediate postdoctoral tends to be cited almost twice as often as either the former delayed postdoctoral or the non-former-postdoctoral.5 A final comparison among the academic scientists with different postdoc- toral backgrounds is the salary that each receives. The rather surprising result is that the scientist with no postdoctoral experience receives a higher average salary than the man with previous postdoctoral experience.6 The figures for annual income for all scientists are: $17,500 for those with no postdoctoral experience, $16,000 for those who were immediate postdoctorals, and $15,900 for those with delayed postdoctoral appointments. In part, this difference is a reflection of the somewhat heavier involvement in administration of the non- postdoctoral, but it is probably accounted for also by the fact that the imme- diate postdoctoral does not begin to receive a salary as a faculty member for one or two years after the man who does not take the postdoctoral appoint- ment. Again the nonpostdoctoral who received his PhD from one of the ten leading schools stands out. His average annual salary is $18,500, which exceeds the salary of scientists from every other academic or postdoctoral background. In general, whatever motivations a young scientist might have for seeking a postdoctoral appointment, financial advantage is not one of them. Of those members of the PhD class of 1950 who have never had a post- doctoral appointment, 10 percent applied for such an appointment but did not receive it or did not accept the appointment when it was offered. In com- parison, 21 percent of the nonpostdoctorals of the 1960 PhD class made ap- plication for an appointment. The increase in the number of postdoctoral appointments is reflected in the fact that 17 percent of the 1950 nonpostdoc- torals asserted that no such appointment was available, while only 4 percent of the 1960 nonpostdoctorals were unaware of postdoctoral opportunities. 5The frequency distribution of citations in each of the groups is highly skewed. The mean number of citations does not therefore adequately describe the behavior. Nevertheless, it is clear from our data that the former immediate is cited more often than the other two groups, especially if one discounts self-citations. 6The figures in the humanities indicate the reverse. Here the man who has had a delayed postdoctoral appointment averages a higher salary than one who has never taken an ap- pointment, and the former immediate postdoctoral receives a higher salary than both.
139 QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE Virtually all of those who did not take a postdoctoral appointment found other opportunities more attractive at the time. In retrospect, however, approx- imately 40 percent of those who have not had postdoctoral experience now wish they had taken or had been offered the opportunity. Their reasons were given previously in this chapter. The academic scientists who had had an immediate postdoctoral appoint- ment were asked to give three reasons for choosing the institution at which they did their postdoctoral work. Regardless of where they went, the prime reason given was to work with a particular scholar (mentioned by over 60 per- cent of the respondents). The other reasons varied according to the type or reputation of the postdoctoral institution. Thus, those who went to one of the ten leading universities or to a nonacademic institution frequently listed the reputation of the institution as a second reason for their choice. Those who went to other academic institutions mentioned the freedom to work in the field of their choice as being the second most important consideration. The third motivating factor in their choice of institution was highly variable. Those who took their appointments at one of the ten leading schools men- tioned the superior facilities, equipment, and/or libraries. Those at the 20 other major schools indicated that their choice was influenced by the recommenda- tion of their PhD mentor. Those who went to schools of lesser reputation ad- mitted that a favorable geographic location had influenced their decision, while those who left the academic world to take their postdoctoral appointments divided their third most important consideration between the recommendation of their PhD mentor and the freedom to work in the field of their choice. Given low priority were personal considerations or the comparative attractiveness of stipends. The former immediate postdoctoral s tended to be satisfied with their appoint- ments. When asked to respond to various aspects of their experience on a three- point scale, ranging from unsatisfactory through satisfactory to Ttighly satisfac- tory, their replies were distributed as shown in Figure 10. Except for the oppor- tunity to teach, the replies in every category varied from somewhat unsatisfactory to highly satisfactory. This quantitative display correlates with the previous discussion in this chapter. The reactions of those who had delayed appointments are shown in Figure 11. Again mention was made of the scarcity of teaching opportunities, but there was a significantly greater satisfaction with the postdoctoral experience for those who were more mature when they took the appointment. Overall, 82 percent of the delayed postdoctoral s described their experience as one of enhanced productivity, as compared with 73 percent of the immediate post- doctorals. Finally, the former immediates were asked what, if anything, they would have changed if they could have altered their first postdoctoral experience.
140 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE POSTDOCTORAL Almost two thirds would have changed nothing. Those who were less than satisfied stressed dissatisfaction mainly with the institution that they chose (23 percent) and/or the faculty mentor with whom they worked (22 percent). Almost a quarter would have stayed longer, but 6 percent would not have stayed as long. One out of five wished that they had had more guidance, while one out of fourteen would have liked more independence. Four percent would have put off the experience for a period of time, and 6 percent would have avoided it altogether. Any attempt to summarize these comments and statistics into a few sen- tences would be simplistic. There is no singular impact of immediate postdoc- toral education on the participants or on the nonparticipants. Evea when one takes into account field differences, future employment possibilities, and the quality of academic background, there are more subtle and individual consid- erations such as temperament, sense of independence, and degree of impa- Evaluation of Immediate Postdoctoral Experience by Academic Scientists (U.S. Males Only). Rated Aspects of IMMEDIATE Postdoctoral Experience Development of Research Skills Scientific Adviser Contact with Other Senior Advisers Career Advancement Acquisition of Knowledge Work Accomplished Opportunity to Teach Availability of Facilities, Equipment MEAN Unsatisfactory 0 SD Satisfactory 1 Highly Satisfactory 2 1 1 Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Experience Questionnaire.
141 QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE F1GURE 11 Evaluation of Delayed Postdoctoral Experience by Academic Scientists (U.S. Males Only). MEAN Rated Aspects of DELAYED Postdoctoral Unsatis Experience ' . L J Highly ctory Satisfactory 2 factory Satisfa I Development of Research Skills 1 : Contact with Other Senior Scholars : 1 : Career Advancement Acquisition of Knowledge Work Accomplished Opportunity to Teach 1 L I 1 : I 1 1 Source: NRC, Office of Scientific Personnel, Postdoctoral Experience Questionnaire. tience with the apprentice role. It is not necessary that the experience be a sine qua non in the creation of a scientist. It is sufficient that for a great many the lack of a postdoctoral opportunity would have been or is a detriment to the development of their scientific talents. Both the exceptional investigator and the more pedestrian one often benefit from the additional year or two of research under the guidance of a superior scientist and in the company of a group of similarly motivated apprentices. Not all mentor-postdoctoral relationships are productive ones. To approve and even to encourage postdoctoral appointments for those who can benefit from them is not to condone every practice that is current. To say that 63 percent of the postdoctorals would have changed nothing in their experience is also to say that 37 percent found something amiss. Part of the reason for this absence of unanimity is the informality of postdoctoral education as it is practiced in the United States. There is no agreed-upon rationale for post- doctoral education by persons either in the individual disciplines or at the host institutions, and there are consequently no accepted criteria by which the nature of the individual experience can be judged. With this introduction we now turn to the impact of postdoctoral education on the universities.
ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS ARE Hosts to 81% of Postdoctorals Employers of 72% of Former Postdoctorals 20 40 60 80