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1 Postdoctoral Scholars in US Institutions S ince the 1960s, the performance of research in the United States has relied more and more on graduate scientists and engineers who have recently earned a PhD or equivalent doctorate and are pursuing further education and training in their field or learning a new specialty. These postdoctoral scholars, or postdocs, work on a full-time but temporary basis for one or more years to gain additional research experience in preparation for a professional research career. Figure 1-11 shows that the vast majority of all postdocs who received doctorates at US institutions work in universities (approximately 80 percent), with smaller percentages working in government (13 percent) and industry (7 percent). The number of postdoctoral scholars has increased in all sectors since 1981. Within academia (see Table 1-1) 272 institutions have postdocs, with the largest number concentrated at the research-intensive institutions. Population growth. The roots of the postdoctoral phenomenon reach back just over a century to the 1870s, when high-level apprenticeships became part of the new European-modeled research institution. Johns Hopkins University adopt- ed the apprenticeship model shortly after its founding in 1876, and in the 1920s the Rockefeller Foundation established formal postdoctoral fellowships in phys- ical science, recognizing that physics had become too complex to learn within the time limits of traditional programs. The hiring of postdocs grew only modestly during the first half of the twen- tieth century. The first period of rapid growth began in the late 1950s, when the 1The data for the figures and a detailed description of the data sources for the tables and figures in the guide can be found in Appendix B. 4
POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS IN US INSTITUTIONS 5 Survey Year 1981 1985 1989 1993 1997 25000 Number of S&E Postdoctoral Appointments 20000 15000 10000 5000 0 Academic Industrial Government Sector FIGURE 1-1: Total Number of Postdoctoral Appointments in the Life Sciences, Engi- neering, Physics, Chemistry, and the Social/Behavioral Sciences, by Sector, 1981-1997. Source: 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993, and 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. Cold War stimulated federal spending and a sudden demand for scientists and engineers. PhDs awarded in science and engineering approximately tripled from 1960-1970.2 Increasingly, those completing graduate school (20-30 percent in most sciences, 50 percent in biomedicine) took postdoc positions to broaden or deepen their experience before moving to faculty or other research career oppor- tunities. The nationâs laboratories began to count on this new corps of skilled, low-cost apprentices to increase the productivity and quality of research. By the end of that decade growth had slowed. In the early 1970s the baby boom cohort passed through the system, recession came, and the government reduced support of graduate fellowships quite abruptly.3 The smaller pool of graduate students left laboratories short-handed and, partly as a response, the number of non-US graduate students increased. 2Fechter, A. E., and Gaddy, C. D. âTrends in Doctoral Education and Employment.â Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, Vol. XIII. New York: Agathon Press, 1998. 3Breneman, D. W. Graduate School Adjustments to the âNew Depressionâ in Higher Education. National Board on Graduate Education Technical Report No. 3. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 1975.
6 ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS TABLE 1-1: Top 25 Academic Institutions with the Largest Total Number of Postdoctoral Appointments in 1998 Biological Institution Astronomy Chemistry Physics Sciences All Academic Institutions 357 3,716 1,859 15,480 Top 25 Harvard University 11 115 44 1,003 University of Calif at San Francisco 319 Stanford University 72 7 423 Johns Hopkins University 53 23 292 University of Calif at San Diego 86 54 269 University of Washington 6 28 24 439 University of Calif at Berkeley 35 169 24 475 University of Pennsylvania 52 45 302 University of California, Los Angeles 85 38 213 Duke University 29 293 University of Michigan 8 37 30 183 University of Colorado 36 67 163 Washington University 35 13 281 Univ of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 60 16 218 Cornell University 63 48 156 University of Minnesota 6 47 21 249 University of Southern California 45 5 125 University of Arizona 51 40 36 188 California Institute of Technology 21 96 54 170 University of Wisconsin-Madison 2 42 17 171 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 78 20 127 Indiana University 36 22 156 Baylor College of Medicine 257 Univ of Texas SW Medical Ctr at Dallas 277 Univ of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Ctr 2 233 Source: 1998 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering A changing pattern. By the late 1970s, the pattern of postdoctoral behavior began to change. Numbers of postdocs increased as PhD labor markets weak- ened. The time spent as postdocs began to lengthen, suggesting difficulty in finding jobs. A substantial number of those receiving PhDs reported that they became postdocs because they had few other options.4 Employment conditions improved somewhat in the mid- and late 1980s, but 4Zumeta, W. Extending the Educational Ladder: The Changing Quality and Value of Postdoctoral Study. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath/Lexington Books, 1985.
POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS IN US INSTITUTIONS 7 Earth, Atmospheric Mathematical and Ocean Health & Computer Social Total All Sciences Engineering Sciences Sciences Psychology Sciences Disciplines 897 2,830 12,137 642 612 383 39,619 15 46 2,110 8 25 24 3,407 834 11 1 1,165 20 77 459 10 21 1,089 4 45 551 5 21 12 1,006 80 66 363 21 17 26 982 15 44 368 7 9 1 953 14 87 77 16 16 32 945 3 39 401 42 5 15 904 14 67 375 2 13 6 813 6 28 342 6 11 10 730 22 45 311 1 4 6 647 41 48 246 17 13 631 8 7 272 2 2 3 623 17 1 238 1 1 7 559 6 81 156 5 8 2 554 20 70 101 3 5 3 539 15 31 225 24 3 6 479 43 63 29 9 12 478 33 89 6 2 471 22 45 100 1 10 13 465 30 102 47 7 42 3 456 5 4 127 7 23 28 408 149 406 123 400 162 2 399 the recession of the early 1990s brought longer-lasting sluggishness and caution in university hiring.5 With limited permanent job prospects, the population of postdocs reached unprecedented size 6 and postdoctoral terms lengthened.7 5Zumeta, W. âState Higher Education Finance and Policy Developments: 1997.â The NEA 1998 Almanac of Higher Education. Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1998. 6Association of American Universities. Committee on Postdoctoral Education, Report and Recom- mendations. Washington, DC, 1998. 7Regets, M. âHas the Use of Postdocs Changed?â National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Studies Issue Brief. NSF 99-310, 1999.
8 ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 45,000 40,000 All S&E Fields 35,000 Life Sciences 30,000 Number 25,000 20,000 15,000 Physical Sciences and Mathematics 10,000 5,000 Engineering Social and Behavioral Sciences 0 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 Year FIGURE 1-2: Postdoctoral Appointees in Academic Institutions by Broad Fields, 1980- 1998. Source: Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineer- ing, 1980-1998. Meanwhile the number of non-US graduate students and new PhDs in science and engineering leveled off in the early 1990s having grown for many years. Overall, the most significant growth in the postdoctoral population has taken place in the last 15 years (Figure 1-1). According to data gathered by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the number of postdocs in university departments of science and engineering more than doubled between 1981 and 1998, rising from approximately 18,000 to 39,000 (see Figure 1-2). A figure for the exact popula- tion of science and engineering postdocs across all sectors (including govern- ment and the private sector) is not available, but it is estimated to be approxi- mately 52,000.8 Slightly more than half of these postdocs are non-US citizens. It is difficult to predict whether this upward trend will continue. Figure 1-3 provides a history of the number of doctorates who are planning postdoctoral study compared to the total number of doctorates for the three fields that account for most of the postdocs in science and engineering: biological science, chemis- 8Figure 1-2 only provides information for postdoctoral scholars who received their degrees from US universities. No source of data includes all sectors that employ postdoctoral scholars regardless of where they received their degree. This is important, given the large number of postdoctoral scholars who come to the United States from other countries. However, a rough estimate can be made by comparing data from several NSF sources (see Appendix E for discussion of sources). In 1997, the last year for which sector data exists, the number of postdoctoral appointments in academic institutions was 73 percent of the total appointments across all sectors. From the 39,619 academic appointments one can infer a total population of about 52,000.
POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS IN US INSTITUTIONS 9 7000 Biological Sciences 6000 5000 Number 4000 Number of Doctorates 3000 2000 Planning Postdoctoral Study 1000 0 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 2500 Chemistry 2000 1500 Number Number of Doctorates 1000 500 Planning Postdoctoral Study 0 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 1800 Physics and Astronomy 1600 1400 1200 Number 1000 Number of Doctorates 800 600 400 Planning Postdoctoral Study 200 0 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 FIGURE 1-3: Number of Doctorates and the Number Planning Postdoctoral Study, 1975- 1998, by Field. Source: 1975-1998 Survey of Earned Doctorates.
10 ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS 9,000 8,000 7,000 6,000 5,000 Number 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000 0 Postdoc Study Academic Industrial Other Plans Employment Unknown in US Employment Employment in US Abroad Plans in US in US FIGURE 1-4: Postgraduation Plans of Science and Engineering Doctorates at the Time They Received Their Degree, 1998. Source: 1998 Survey of Earned Doctorates. try, and physics/astronomy. Interestingly, the proportion of doctorates planning postdoctoral study was roughly constant from 1975-1994. However, beginning around 1994 the trends were no longer parallel, as a declining number of recent US doctorates have been planning postdoctoral study in the three fields examined. The importance of postdocs to research. As a whole, the postdoctoral population has become indispensable to the science and engineering enterprise, performing a substantial portion of the nationâs research in every setting. For example, a survey of research articles in two recent issues of Science found that 43 percent of the first authors were postdocs.9 In many labs, postdocs also edu- cate, train, and supervise junior members, help write grant proposals and papers, and present the laboratoryâs research results at professional society meetings. More than 15 universities have postdoctoral populations that exceed 500 (see Table 1-1). Postdoctoral experiences are increasingly seen as central to careers in research. As illustrated in Figure 1-4, about 40 percent of the 1998 doctorates that plan to remain in the US will enter postdoctoral study rather than regular employment. 9Vogel, G. Science, 1999, Vol. 285, p. 1531.
POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS IN US INSTITUTIONS 11 US Citizens/Permanent Residents 4.5 4 Temporary Residents 3.5 Years Spent in Appointment 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 All S&E Agriculture Biology Engineering Physics Chemistry Psychology Fields and Astronomy FIGURE 1-5: Median Number of Years Spent in Postdoctorate Appointment for Doctor- ates in the 1989-1991 Year Cohort, by Degree Field and Citizenship at Time of Degree. Source: 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. A postdoctoral appointment is a virtual prerequisite for those wishing to carry out long-term, independent research in the life sciences, physics, chemistry, and a growing number of other fields.10 In addition, postdocs with experience in non-research settings (e.g., AAAS Congressional fellowships, National Acade- mies internships) can substantially enhance their potential for employment in government and non-governmental organizations. Postdoctoral terms. The length of a postdoc term varies by field (see Figure 1-5). Biologists tend to stay on the longest (five years is common), engineers the shortest (a year is common). Postdoc terms for physical scientists are usually two or, at most, three years, but some physical scientists work as postdocs for six years, while a small percentage of researchers extend their postdoctoral terms indefinitely. There is no difference in the time spent in a postdoctoral position 10Nearly a decade ago, Steven Sample, president of the University of Southern California and chair of the Postdoctoral Education Committee of the Association of American Universities, stated that â...in an increasing number of fields, the postdoctorate is becoming the terminal credential, with the result that the PhD in those fields, while still very important, is becoming de facto an interim milestone.â See: AAU, Committee on Postdoctoral Education, Report and Recommendations, Washington, DC: March 31, 1998.
12 ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS How Is the Duration of a Postdoctoral Appointment Determined? Responses to this question were divided fairly evenly. The largest number (58 percent) reported that the duration of an appointment may be determined primarily by the adviser at any time during the appointment. Almost as many (55 percent) reported that duration is determined primarily by the source of funding and/or fund- ing availability. Some 45 percent reported that duration is determined before a postdocâs arrival. Many institutions reported firm limits on postdoctoral terms (typically 3, 4, or 5 years). Others allowed for extensions âin special cases,â which sometimes required the approval of an administration officer. Other policies were 1) to appoint post- docs for a year at a time, with renewal depending on funding and performance, and 2) to allow the length of training to vary by field and source of funding, with no suggested limit. COSEPUP Survey Results when viewed from the perspective of citizenship for all science and engineering doctoral fields, but in the biological sciences, chemistry, and especially in physics temporary residents spend longer periods in postdoctoral positions. The 1998 Association of American Universities report11 recommended limiting the total postdoctoral experience to six years; some universities now impose five-year limits, with exceptions for such circumstances as illness, childbirth, a need for exposure to multiple fields, or a need to finish a project that is in an advanced stage. The COSEPUP survey results suggest that institutions have a wide variety of policies on postdoctoral terms, and many institutions allow the adviser to determine the length of the term at any time during the appointment (see Box). Multiple postdoctoral positions. In some fields, such as neuroscience, genetics, and epidemiology, more than one postdoctoral position may be useful to gain multidisciplinary expertise. In other fields, a tight job market forces some researchers to complete two or even three postdoctoral appointments while they hunt for jobs. In some cases, multiple postdoctoral appointments may bring many years of low compensation and a lack of security and stability that is demoraliz- ing and stressful. This is of special concern for postdocs with families. In other cases, researchers may continue beyond their postdoctoral term to spend their careers in successive soft-money positions they find challenging and rewarding. Unmet expectations. By design, the experience of postdocs should be pro- fessionally productive and career enhancing. For many of them, however, the 11AAU, Committee on Postdoctoral Education, Report and Recommendations, 1998.
POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS IN US INSTITUTIONS 13 TABLE 1-2: Comparison of Postdoc Annual Median Earnings with Other Populations, 1997-1998 Annual Median Population Earnings Minimum Wage (4) $10,300 Poverty Level, family of 2 (3) $11,060 Poverty Level, family of 4 (3) $16,700 Administrative Support, all workers (4) $24,120 All US workers (1) $26,150 POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS, Academic sector, within 6 years of PhD (2) $28,000 POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS, All sectors, within 6 years of PhD (2) $30,000 Technical Support, all workers (1) $32,420 Bachelorâs degree recipient, 25-34 years old (1) $35,030 POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS, Industry sector, within 6 years of PhD (2) $36,000 POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS, Government sector, within 6 years of PhD (2) $37,000 Public school classroom teacher, average, all workers (1) $40,130 Masterâs degree recipient, 25-34 years old (1) $40,800 Assistant Professor, Science & Engineering, within 6 years of PhD (2) $42,800 Doctorate degree recipient, 25-34 years old (1) $47,780 Professional degree recipient, 25-34 years old (1) $58,080 Sources: 1. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1999, Tables 266, 282, 702, and 703 and refer to the time period, 1997-1998. 2. 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. 3. Federal Register, Vol. 64, No. 52, March 18, 1999, pp. 13428-13430. 4. www.dol.gov/dol/esa/public/minwage/main.htm Notes: â¢ This analysis should be viewed as only a rough approximation. For comparison purposes, all analyses are on the basis of 40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year in the 1997-1998 timeframe. â¢ Benefits are not included above. The degree to which postdoctoral scholars receive benefits varies widely. experience falls short of expectations. They often fail to achieve the recognition, standing, or compensation that is commensurate with their experience and skills (See Table 1-2 for salary comparisons). It is not uncommon for postdocs to hold uncertain standing in the institutions where they work, to receive inadequate mentoring or technical supervision and, in some fields, to accept stipends and benefits substantially below those of their professional peers in academia, gov- ernment, or industry, as well as below those of non-PhD technicians. Some
14 ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS researchers continue to be categorized as âpostdocsâ for a decade or more after completing their doctorate. Many postdocs voice frustration at not finding the kinds of positions they anticipatedânotably, academic positionsâwhen they began their many years of graduate and postdoctoral education. According to the Survey of Doctoral Recipi- ents, the opportunities for doctorates and postdoctorates to move into faculty positions have decreased significantly since 1987 (see Figure 1-6 for the ratio of tenured faculty positions to number of doctorates). A substantial minority of postdocs in all fields reported difficulty in finding the jobs they wanted, and that the reason for taking a first postdoctoral appointment was that âother employ- ment was not availableâ (see Figure 1-7). The NRCâs Trends report on the life sciences noted a 42 percent increase in PhD production between 1987 and 1996 that âwas not accompanied by a parallel increase in employment opportuni- ties.â12 The report stated that many recent graduates who are unable to find full- time positions use the postdoctoral experience as a âholding pattern.â 13 Similarly, an on-line survey of Baylor University School of Medicineâs post- docs in 1997 indicated that 34 percent had prolonged their terms because of difficulty in finding other employment; only 6 percent reported a âpermanent career position that will start in the next 12 months.â 14 Variations by field and sector. It is difficult, however, to draw broad con- clusions about postdoctoral experiences, which vary widely by field and by sec- tor. In some fields, such as computer science and engineering, there is relatively little incentive to pursue a postdocâor even a PhDâbecause rewarding jobs are available at the bachelorâs and masterâs levels. In other fields, such as biology and physics, a postdoc is virtually mandatory, especially for academic employ- ment. Some postdocs, especially in government or industrial laboratories, are paid better than some junior faculty. Stipends for academic postdocs, however, especially in the life sciences and chemistry, may be $15,000 to $20,000 lower than for government or industry postdocs (Figure 1-8). Even within a single discipline, experiences differ across advisers, programs, employment sectors, and geographic regions. At its focus groups and workshop discussions, COSEPUP heard lively de- bates on the quality of the postdoc experience (see Appendixes). There was little disagreement about the potential value of research activitiesâalmost all discus- sants agreed that the postdoctoral period can be one of the most professionally 12Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel, National Research Council, Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998. 13The report states: âThe frustration of young [life] scientists caught in the holding pattern is understandable. These people, most of whom are 35-40 years old, typically receive low salaries and have little job security or status within the university. Moreover, they are competing with a rapidly growing pool of highly talented young scientistsâincluding many highly qualified foreign postdoc- toral fellowsâfor a limited number of jobs....â 14See www.bcm.tmc.edu/pda/reference/proposal.html
16 1987 1997 14 12 10 8 6 4 Ratio (Tenured Faculty Positions/Number of Doctorates) 2 0 Agriculture Biological Medical Engineering Mathematical Earth, Physics Chemistry Social Sciences Psychology Sciences Sciences and Computer Atmospheric, and Sciences and Astronomy Ocean Sciences FIGURE 1-6: Ratio of the Number of Tenured Faculty to the Number of New Doctorates Awarded in 1987 and 1997. Source: 1987 and 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. 15
16 All S&E Postdoctorates Chemistry Physics and Astronomy Earth, Atmospheric, and Ocean Sciences Biological Sciences Medical Sciences Social and Behavioral Sciences Engineering 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Percent Expected or Additional Work with Training Outside Other Employment Other Training Specific Person PhD Field Not Available FIGURE 1-7: Reasons for Taking First Postdoctoral Appointment, by Field of Doctorate, 1997. Source: Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 1997.
POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS IN US INSTITUTIONS 17 60,000 Academe 50,000 40,000 Dollars 30,000 20,000 10,000 0 Life Sciences Engineering Physics and Chemistry Social/Behavioral Astronomy Sciences Postdocs Assistant Professor Non-Faculty Researchers 70,000 Government 60,000 50,000 Dollars 40,000 30,000 20,000 10,000 0 Life Sciences Engineering Physics and Chemistry Social/Behavioral Astronomy Sciences Postdoctoral Non-Postdoctoral 80,000 Industry 70,000 60,000 50,000 Dollars 40,000 30,000 20,000 10,000 0 Life Sciences Engineering Physics and Chemistry Social/Behavioral Astronomy Sciences Postdoctoral Non-Postdoctoral Note: Non-faculty researchers are full-time academic personnel who do not have faculty rank and indicate that their primary work activity is pure or applied research. Non-postdoctoral personnel in industry and government are individuals who hold full-time positions. FIGURE 1-8: Median Salaries in 1997 for Doctorates in the Six-Year PhD Cohort, 1991-1996, by Field, Sector, and Type of Appointment. Source: 1997 Survey of Doctor- ate Recipients
18 ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS rewarding of their lives. The debate focused instead on institutional standing, compensation, benefits, and other issues, which cause many postdocs to question the value of the experience. As some indicated, the lost-opportunity costs of forsaking other employment begin to outweigh the benefits of an otherwise ful- filling experience. Some postdoc advisers and representatives of funding organizations indicated that the low compensation received by many postdocs is justified because it is offset by the benefits of supervised education and training.15 Some postdocs, however, stated that they are regarded primarily as a âskilled pair of handsâ that support the work of the principal investigator (PI), rather than as junior col- leagues who only require further education and training to move toward their own research independence. Increasing age. Issues of standing and compensation are exacerbated by the increasing age of the postdoctoral population. Todayâs junior scientists and engineers take longer to complete their doctorates (the average PhD recipient in the life sciences is 32 years old),16 and many then take two or even three post- doctoral positions. In the Baylor survey, 67 percent of respondents were over age 30 and 21 percent were over age 35; 46 percent had children. The NSF reports a similar picture among the postdocs it funds (see further discussion in Chapter 2). Although many postdocs have families that include children, few institutions or funding organizations provide family health insurance, child care, or other fami- ly benefits received by others of similar professional stature. The same is true of their salary (Table 1-2). A debate over responsibility. Another debate that emerged during focus groups concerned whether the host institution or the funding organization bears the primary responsibility for providing benefits and oversight for the postdoc. Some PIâs are reluctant to increase the salaries of their postdocs due to limited funds and the possible reduction in the number of postdocs they could fund. Even if they wish to do so, postdoc advisers indicated they face barriers from both the institution and the funding organization at the proposal acceptance stage and once funding is received. Some major funding organizations stated that institutions are directly responsible because they set salary compensation levels and receive funding (as a designated portion of each grant) from which to provide fringe benefits. Many institutions contend that funding organizations are primarily responsible, because they set the standard at which most postdocs are compensated. In particular, many universities use the scale NIH has developed for its National Research Service Award as it is the only standard available. 15E.g., good supervision, depending on the postdocâs level of experience and skill, might include guidance in planning a research program, obtaining funding, managing a lab, mentoring others, and finding a permanent position. 16The NRCâs report Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists found that life scientists in the 1990s took two years longer to complete a doctorate than their predecessors of the 1960s and 70s.
POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS IN US INSTITUTIONS 19 Further, some federal funding organizations (including NIH) prohibit supplement- ing a fellowship from other federal grants. The postdocs themselves expressed frustration at having no role in these debates. In this guide, COSEPUP provides information, principles, and recommen- dations for all involved in the postdoctoral experience with the goal of enhancing the postdoc experience while preserving the excellence of the research enterprise.
20 ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS SUMMARY POINTS Â® Since the 1960s the performance of research, especially in universi- ties, has relied more and more on a growing population of post- doctoral scholars. Â® The size of the postdoctoral population has increased without a parallel increase in the number of academic faculty positions. Â® Postdoctoral experience is now seen as a virtual prerequisite for academic careers and many other research positions in the life sci- ences, physics, chemistry, and some other fields. Â® The postdocs themselves do not always achieve recognition, status, or compensation commensurate with their experience and skill. Â® Many postdocs remain in their positions for an indefinite number of years, beyond the five years or so during which they are reasonably considered trainees. Â® Many postdocs report frustration at not finding the employment positions they anticipated in return for their years of intensive effort. Â® The demographic characteristics of postdocs are changing. Many postdocs are in their middle to late 30s, with families that include children, and their medical and family support needs have increased.