National Academies Press: OpenBook

The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited (2014)

Chapter: Front Matter

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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 THE
POSTDOCTORAL
EXPERIENCE REVISITED

Committee to Review the State of
Postdoctoral Experience in Scientists and Engineers

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy

Policy and Global Affairs

                 NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES,
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING, AND
                                       INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE

                                       OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported in part by Award Number 2012-10-22 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number 13: 978-0-309-31446-6
International Standard Book Number 10: 0-309-31446-1
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014957852

Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Room 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu

Copyright 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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COMMITTEE TO REVIEW THE STATE OF POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE IN SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS

GREGORY A. PETSKO (Chair), Arthur J. Mahon Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weill Cornell Medical College; Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry Emeritus, Brandeis University

SIBBY ANDERSON-THOMPKINS, Director of Postdoctoral Affairs, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

H. RUSSELL BERNARD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida

CAROL GREIDER, Daniel Nathans Professor and Director, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

JAMES PLUMMER, Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the School of Engineering, and John M. Fluke Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

E. ALBERT REECE, Vice President for Medical Affairs, Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore

NANCY SCHWARTZ, Professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry, Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs, The University of Chicago

PAULA STEPHAN, Professor of Economics, Georgia State University

LORRAINE TRACEY, Medical Science Liaison, Teva Pharmaceuticals

MICHAEL TURNER, Rauner Distinguished Service Professor and Director, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, The University of Chicago

ALLISON WOODALL, Deputy General Counsel, Labor, Employment and Benefits Group, University of California System

JOAN WOODARD, Retired Executive Vice President and Deputy Director, Sandia National Laboratories

Staff

KEVIN FINNERAN, Study Director

GURUPRASAD MADHAVAN, Senior Program Officer

MARIA LUND DAHLBERG, Associate Program Officer

JAMIE BIGLOW, Senior Program Assistant

MARION RAMSEY, Administrative Associate (until October 2013)

DAVID PROCTOR, Research Associate (until September 2012)

Consultant Writers

DAVID PROCTOR

JOHN CECCATTI

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
×

COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND PUBLIC POLICY

RICHARD N. ZARE [NAS] (chair), Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor, Stanford University

LINDA M. ABRIOLA [NAE], Dean of Engineering, Tufts University

SUSAN ATHEY [NAS], Professor, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

MOSES H. W. CHAN [NAS], Evan Pugh Professor of Physics, Pennsylvania State University

RALPH J. CICERONE [NAS] (ex-officio), President, National Academy of Sciences

PAUL CITRON [NAE], Vice President (retired), Technology Policy and Academic Relations, Medtronic, Inc.

DAVID DANIEL [NAE], President, The University of Texas at Dallas

GORDON R. ENGLAND [NAE], President, E6 Partners LLC

VICTOR J. DZAU [IOM] (ex-officio), President, Institute of Medicine

DIANE E. GRIFFIN [NAS, IOM], Alfred and Jill Sommer Professor, Chair in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

JOHN G. HILDEBRAND [NAS], Regents Professor, Department of Neuroscience, University of Arizona

DAVID KORN [IOM], Professor of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

C. D. MOTE, JR. [NAE] (ex-officio), President, National Academy of Engineering

PERCY A. PIERRE [NAE], Vice President and Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University

E. ALBERT REECE [IOM], Vice President for Medical Affairs, Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore

MICHAEL S. TURNER [NAS], Rauner Distinguished Service Professor, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, The University of Chicago

NANCY S. WEXLER [IOM], Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology, Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University

PETER WOLYNES [NAS], D.R. Bullard-Welch Foundation Professor of Chemistry, Center for Theoretical Biological Physics-BCR, Rice University

Staff

KEVIN FINNERAN, Director

TOM ARRISON, Senior Program Officer

GURU MADHAVAN, Senior Program Officer

MARIA LUND DAHLBERG, Associate Program Officer

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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JAMIE BIGLOW, Senior Program Assistant

NEERAJ GORKHALY, Research Associate (until February 2014)

MARION RAMSEY, Administrative Associate (until October 2013)

DAVID PROCTOR, Research Associate (until September 2012)

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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Preface

In 2000, the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) released a report, Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers, that examined the experience of postdoctoral researchers in the United States. The report stressed that a rapid expansion of postdoctoral training during the previous decade had taken place without adequate oversight, resulting in fundamental changes in the nature of the experience for many postdoctoral researchers. It offered guidelines for improving the postdoctoral system, with specific directions for a range of stakeholders: federal agencies, universities, foundations, professional organizations, and postdoctoral researchers themselves. In the almost 15 years since the release of this report, the number of postdoctoral researchers in all research disciplines continued to grow sharply, whereas the number of independent and especially academic research positions into which they might transition did not. The National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering felt that, in the light of these developments, another examination of the postdoctoral experience was necessary and timely. In particular, it seemed desirable to examine the available data on the number of postdoctoral researchers in various disciplines and types of institution, their national origins and means of support, their salaries, degree of satisfaction, and their career outcomes, and to determine the extent to which the recommendations of the 2000 COSEPUP report had been implemented and their effects on the overall experience.

The present report is an attempt at such an examination. It compiles and analyzes the best publicly available data and considers how the recommendations of the earlier report have affected the behavior of institutions and individual postdoctoral researchers. It uses these considerations to recommend further steps that all the participants in the research enterprise can take to improve the quality of postdoctoral experiences, and lays out a set of best practices toward achieving these recommendations. In formulating these guidelines, the present committee was guided by one general principle: that the postdoctoral period should be a defined period of advanced training and mentoring in research, and that it should also be, as the majority of the committee members remembered from their own experience, among the most enjoyable times of the postdoctoral researcher’s professional life.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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Acknowledgments

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.

We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: David Allison, University of Alabama, Birmingham; Roger Cone, Vanderbilt University; Geoff Davis, Google, Inc.; John Dowling, Harvard University; Leroy Fletcher, Texas A&M University; Keith Micoli, New York University Langone Medical Center; Georgine Pion, Vanderbilt University; Samuel Preston, University of Pennsylvania; Mary Thomas, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Shirley Tilghman, Princeton University; Gerlind Wallon, European Molecular Biology Organization; and Ward Winer, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by George Langford, Syracuse University and Julia Philips, Sandia National Laboratories. Appointed by the National Academies, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Gregory A. Petsko
Chair

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18982.
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Page xiii Cite
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The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited builds on the 2000 report Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers. That ground-breaking report assessed the postdoctoral experience and provided principles, action points, and recommendations to enhance that experience. Since the publication of the 2000 report, the postdoctoral landscape has changed considerably. The percentage of PhDs who pursue postdoctoral training is growing steadily and spreading from the biomedical and physical sciences to engineering and the social sciences. The average length of time spent in postdoctoral positions seems to be increasing. The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited reexamines postdoctoral programs in the United States, focusing on how postdocs are being guided and managed, how institutional practices have changed, and what happens to postdocs after they complete their programs. This book explores important changes that have occurred in postdoctoral practices and the research ecosystem and assesses how well current practices meet the needs of these fledgling scientists and engineers and of the research enterprise.

The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited takes a fresh look at current postdoctoral fellows - how many there are, where they are working, in what fields, and for how many years. This book makes recommendations to improve aspects of programs - postdoctoral period of service, title and role, career development, compensation and benefits, and mentoring. Current data on demographics, career aspirations, and career outcomes for postdocs are limited. This report makes the case for better data collection by research institution and data sharing.

A larger goal of this study is not only to propose ways to make the postdoctoral system better for the postdoctoral researchers themselves but also to better understand the role that postdoctoral training plays in the research enterprise. It is also to ask whether there are alternative ways to satisfy some of the research and career development needs of postdoctoral researchers that are now being met with several years of advanced training. Postdoctoral researchers are the future of the research enterprise. The discussion and recommendations of The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited will stimulate action toward clarifying the role of postdoctoral researchers and improving their status and experience.

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