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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies 2 Features of the Postdoctoral Population Scientists, mathematicians, and engineers seek postdoctoral experience(s) for different reasons. They may be motivated by the desire to deepen thier understanding of a field, to learn a new subfield, to switch field entirely, or to gain experience in an industrial or government facility. Most postdocs share a desire to enter a career that emphasizes long-term research. Some learn that it is possible to combine research expertise with other skills and find rewarding employment in teaching, consulting, business, law, policy making, and other activities. The postdoctoral years are a time to match one's educational background, training, and interests with the changing world of employment and to acquire the skills necessary to enter that world. The decision (usually made during graduate school) about whether to undertake a postdoctoral appointment is seldom easy and should involve consultation with one's adviser and as many mentors or other experienced contacts as possible. Issues to examine include how much one enjoys doing research, one's level of research skills, and the kind of career that seems most attractive. A postdoctoral experience may raise one's employability, as well as be virtually obligatory in certain fields (notably the biological sciences), but a zest for research should be the first criterion in choosing a postdoc opportunity. Postdoctoral experiences can differ greatly depending on the disciplines in which they are undertaken, their sources of funding, and the institutional settings in which they occur. The following sections describe those differences in more detail.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies POSTDOCS IN DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES Figure 2-1 shows the difference among disciplines in terms of the percentage of doctorates that seek postdoctoral appointments. The percentage is largest in the biological sciences, with physics, chemistry, and the earth sciences not far behind. Differences among disciplines in the median number of years spent in a postdoctoral appointment are discussed in Chapter 1.1 The early career status of postdocs is illustrated in Figure 2-2, which also shows how employment status varies by field. Figure 2-3 indicates the median postdoctoral salaries. The lowest compensation is provided to academic postdocs in chemistry,2 the highest to engineering postdocs who work in industry. Table 2-1 compares the number of graduate students in a field with the employment of all doctorates in a field—providing an indication of the likely job market. The need for postdoctoral study also differs among disciplines. Postdoctoral work is now prerequisite for most long-term employment in the life sciences, especially for those planning academic, industrial, or other research careers, as well as teaching careers at many small colleges. In some areas, competition for positions is equally intense at universities and in the private sector, and many life-science PhDs find postdoctoral appointments in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. In the physical sciences (chemistry and physics), most PhDs who plan research careers are advised to do postdoctoral work. Postdoctoral positions are available at industrial and national facilities, where research facilities are often unique or comparable to those at universities. In mathematics, postdoctoral positions are few in number, competitive, and primarily found at universities. Postdocs in mathematics are usually hired as temporary faculty, carry a full teaching load (NSF postdocs teach less), and often have neither a structured research program nor an adviser. Postdocs are less common among both engineers and social scientists. As mentioned above, engineers usually enter full-time employment after a master's or bachelor's degree. The number of postdocs in some areas of behavioral and social science (e.g., psychology) has risen recently, primarily in health-related areas. According to a 1998 survey of four fields by the AAU,3 the proportion of PhDs accepting or seeking postdoctoral appointments increased from 25 percent in 1975 to over 42 percent in 1995. In biochemistry and physics more than 80 1 As shown in Figure 1-5, biological scientists spend the most years as postdocs, with physicists not far behind. 2 The low compensation of chemists is due in part to their relatively junior status compared to longer-term postdocs in the biological sciences. 3 The AAU's Committee on Postdoctoral Education based its 1998 Report and Recommendations on “informal” surveys of “selected major research universities” in four disciplines: biochemistry, mathematics, physics, and psychology. The purpose of the surveys was “to gain insight into campus policies and practices governing postdoctoral education and to sample the views of postdocs.”
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-1: Percentage of New Doctorates Planning Postdoctoral Appointments, by Degree Field in 1998. Source: Doctorate Records File, 1998.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-2: 1997 Status of 1995 Postdoctorates, by Selected Science and Engineering Field. Source: Merged 1995 and 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. Note: Non-faculty researchers are full-time academic personnel who do not have faculty rank and indicated their primary work activity is pure or applied research. FIGURE 2-3: Median Postdoctoral Salaries by Employment Sector and Field of Doctorate in 1997 for Doctorate in the Six-Year Cohort, 1991-1996. Source: 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies TABLE 2-1: 1997 Employment Characteristics for All Doctorates and 1998 Graduate Enrollments at Doctoral Granting Institutions 1997 Employment1 Total Employed Academic Faculty* Tenured & Tenure Track Faculty Other Academic Personnel Non-Academic Employment All Postdoctoral Positions 1998 Full Time Enrollment2 Agricultural Sciences 21,264 8,201 7,470 1,448 11,042 573 8,529 Biological Sciences 101,767 41,625 34,640 8,680 39,134 12,328 45,054 Medical Sciences 16,581 7,850 6,390 954 7,276 501 41,019 Engineering 87,954 22,365 20,332 3,205 60,528 1,856 63,806 Mathematics and Computer Science 32,024 17,309 16,012 1,454 12,856 405 26,553 Earth and Atmospheric Sciences 15,766 5,354 4,594 1,578 8,111 723 9,952 Astronomy and Physics 35,803 10,073 8,766 3,130 20,551 2,049 10,326 Chemistry 53,398 12,238 11,016 2,648 36,398 2,114 15,281 Social Sciences 63,116 36,643 33,276 4,915 20,986 572 49,828 Psychology 75,347 21,219 17,790 5,347 46,740 2,041 29,032 * Individuals with faculty rank, tenured positions, or tenure track positions 1 Source: Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 1997 2 Source: Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies percent of responding departments said they would not consider hiring a faculty member who lacked postdoctoral experience. A University of California at Berkeley survey that tracked scientists who received PhDs in biochemistry in the 1980s found that 86 percent of them did a postdoc and 40 percent did two or more postdocs with different mentors.4 SOURCES OF FUNDING FOR POSTDOCS Postdocs are paid by a variety of funding sources, and their status as postdocs depends in significant ways on the nature of the source. This status is reflected in differences in pay and other benefits; some postdocs receive no health insurance, for example, while others may receive full health benefits, including dental insurance, sick leave, personal leave, disability, life insurance, and retirement plans. Within a wide range of variability by field (see Figure 2-4), most postdoctoral researchers are supported on the grant of a PI and may be called postdoctoral associates or research associates. A smaller number bring their own funding in the form of fellowships and traineeships, and are often called postdoctoral fellows. For example, of the almost 4,500 postdocs supported by the NSF, only about 200 are supported by fellowships.5 Traineeships also are provided through Center training grants, which are neither PI- nor postdoc-generated. This guide addresses all postdoctoral scientists and engineers, regardless of title or source of funding. The position of postdocs may differ considerably, according to their source of funding, even though their experiences are identical. Postdocs who work on the grant of a PI are essentially employed to work on the adviser's project and may receive standard benefits from a lab or institution; in some fields, they may also have less flexibility in choosing their research topics and extramural experiences. A postdoc supported by a competitive individual fellowship or grant generally has more prestige and initial flexibility in choosing a program and adviser particularly if the fellow is thereby without cost to the adviser's grants. On the negative side, fellows may not qualify for important institutional benefits. For example, the University of California campuses offer postdocs who are paid from research grants and classified as research associates the same benefits, including vacation, as other employees. By contrast, postdocs who are classified 4 Nerad, M. and Cerny, J. “Postdoctoral patterns, career advancement, and problems,” Science, 1999, Vol. 285: pp. 1533-5. 5 Information provided by the NSF to COSEPUP when it held its focus group at NSF indicates that of the 4,478 postdoctoral scholars supported by NSF in 1999, most are in the mathematics and physical sciences (1,885), followed by the biological sciences (1,183), geosciences (452), engineering (339), computer science (265), education and human resources (187), and the social and behavioral sciences (80).
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-4: Source of Support for Academic Postdoctoral Appointees, by Field, 1998. Source: 1998 Survey of Graduate Student and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. as fellows have no allowance for vacation. Health benefits vary similarly, as indicated by the wide variety of responses to the COSEPUP survey (see Box). Most individual fellowships are funded by federal agencies, notably the NIH and NSF. Other fellows are supported by foreign governments, private foundations, and private firms. Some fellows receive supplementary funding
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies Does Your Organization Provide Medical Benefits to All Postdocs and Their Dependents? This question drew a wide distribution of responses. Among universities, only one-tenth reported paying for medical benefits for all postdocs and their dependents. An equal number provided full medical benefits to all postdocs but not their dependents. Over one-third of respondents reported that the source of the postdoc 's funding determines medical benefit availability. Nearly one-fourth reported that “the organization informs postdocs of medical benefit plans that they and their dependents can enter at their own expense. ” About one-sixth said that the organization requires postdoc advisers to pay for the medical benefits of their postdocs. Of nonacademic organizations, more than half reported paying for “medical benefits for all postdocs and their dependents.” COSEPUP Survey Results when their stipends are insufficient (although there are restrictions on using funds from one federal grant to pay another federal grantee). Different sources of funding cause some confusion regarding taxes. Institutions tend to regard postdocs who work on research grants as employees, with-holding tax money from their pay. Postdocs, however, are not usually regarded as employees for tax purposes; they must file quarterly estimated payments as self-employed individuals. The issue of tax status is a complex one that deserves clarification on the national level,6 especially with regard to postdocs who are not US citizens.7 6 The legal status of postdocs has received limited attention at the federal level, being generally inferred from regulations governing the treatment of graduate students. There is discussion occurring as part of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Presidential Review Directive “Renewing the Federal Government-University Research Partnership for the 21st Century” being developed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the NSTC. Office of Management and Budget Circular A-21 stipulates that federal agencies can support graduate students as research assistants on federally funded research grants only to the extent that “a bona fide employer-employee relationship” exists between a student and a faculty investigator. There are suggestions that federal policy should be clarified to recognize the dual trainee/employee status of postdocs. For further perspective, see the AAU's “Graduate Education Report: Final Draft,” June 12, 1998. 7 According to numerous COSEPUP interviews with postdocs who are not US citizens or permanent residents, their contributions to the research enterprise are often reduced by their inability to obtain or maintain appropriate visa status. The most common options—the “J” student visa and the “H” professional visa—have substantial drawbacks when applied to postdocs. For example, foreign nationals on a J visa commonly depend on their advisers for visa extensions or conversions to a green card, creating the potential for abuse.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies Postdocs in universities may face uncertainties with regard to their funding if they do not know the termination date of the research grant that supports them. Postdocs in government and industrial settings are less often dependent on funding with a fixed termination date and may have fewer financial worries. POSTDOCS IN DIFFERENT SECTORS Participants in the COSEPUP focus groups indicated a wide variation in their postdoc experiences according to sector. In industrial and national facilities, postdocs tend to receive higher salaries and clear institutional standing with the same benefit structure as other temporary or contract employees. In universities, stipends are lower, benefits vary by source of funding, and institutional standing may be uncertain. Postdocs in universities. The vast majority of postdocs work in universities as research associates on PI grants.8 The exact number of grant-supported postdocs is unclear, however, because different institutions use different titles to describe them, and because major funding agencies (e.g., NSF and NIH) do not have a mechanism for counting or tracking the postdocs they support (though NIH is currently considering a tracking system). Postdocs in academia have more opportunity than other postdocs to teach and mentor others (especially graduate students). These activities are important in gaining subsequent university employment, and can be essential for landing a faculty position at a four-year college. Most postdocs, however, report little time (or encouragement from advisers) for activities away from research. Without these experiences their job options may be limited (especially for foreign postdocs, many of whom can benefit from stronger language skills). Other critical skills developed by many academic postdocs include writing grant proposals, critically reviewing manuscripts, and presenting research results at disciplinary society meetings. Although graduate students and postdocs often work closely together in universities, their roles and experiences differ. Graduate students usually have access to special student offices and resources, have many peers, and can rely on oversight from multiple faculty. According to COSEPUP's survey and focus groups, postdocs often work under a single adviser with no other oversight or protection, may have little or no access to institutional facilities or benefits, and sometimes know few or no other postdocs at the institution. 8 Exact proportions are not available. Federal agencies, which support most postdocs via research grants, award grant monies directly to institutions, which may assign various titles to those who are supported by those grants. Thus the same postdoc who is a “research associate ” at one institution might be called a “fellow” at another. However, it is clear that the vast majority of postdocs are supported by research grants. As previously stated, of postdocs supported by NSF, some 95 percent are paid from research grants.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies The funding situation for postdocs at medical schools has several distinctive features. Many postdocs who plan careers in biomedical research work in medical schools and most are paid from NIH research grants. Clinicians with medical degrees, however, may also do “postdoctoral ” research for a year or more without intending a traditional research career. Clinicians who take time away from the hospital continue to be paid a house-staff salary, which is typically more than twice that of most postdocs. Postdocs in industry. Private firms value postdocs for their up-to-date training and technical skills. Industrial postdoc positions usually differ from academic ones in offering higher salaries, stricter time limits (three years is common), fewer teaching opportunities, and an environment geared toward creating marketable and profitable products. Practical advantages may include standardized employee benefits, access to well-equipped labs and technology, exposure to industrial culture, teamwork, and management styles, all of which can differ greatly from university life. Depending on the company and research environment, drawbacks may include the chance of being transferred from one's chosen project, limited ability to take ownership of a project, a focus on marketable results, and restrictions on information exchange for proprietary reasons. Restrictions on the use and publication of results may in some cases hinder a postdoc from moving back into academia. Many firms do not hire their own postdocs as staff scientists, or hire only those with specific technical skills. Postdocs in government facilities. Government postdoc positions, particularly those in large national labs, may offer opportunities not available in a university or industry setting. Some national facilities are unique in the scope of their research, the complexity of their equipment and research facilities, and the size of their research groups. A national facility may provide a more interdisciplinary setting than a university, as well as more interaction with other divisions and researchers. Some laboratory groups are run collaboratively by staff and postdocs, who jointly make decisions on hiring and other strategies. It is possible for a postdoc to be the only person working on a project, but a team setting is more common. Like private firms, national facilities afford few teaching or mentoring experiences and may allow a postdoc less flexibility than a university in determining the direction of research. At most national settings, applicants are expected to submit proposals that fit closely with the adviser's ongoing work. Exceptions occur for postdocs who bring their own funding, such as National Research Council (NRC) research associates. Postdocs at national facilities are usually temporary employees, receiving salaries at the high end of the postdoctoral scale. Terms of two to three years are normal. National labs used to offer postdocs permanent research positions, but this may be less common in times of hiring restraints (some agencies, such as NASA, have imposed multi-year hiring freezes). Some postdocs at government
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies facilities move to “soft-money” grants or contracts, others to jobs in academia or the private sector. Postdocs at some facilities, such as NIH, may be barred from applying for certain fellowships. Postdocs abroad. Because science is increasingly international, experience in a foreign country can strengthen one's network of potential collaborators and bring valued exposure to different research settings. For the citizens of many countries, postdoctoral work abroad (usually in the US or Europe) is virtually mandatory for an academic career. A smaller number of Americans are willing to seek postdoctoral positions overseas, fearing that too much time “out of sight” can reduce their chances at the best positions at home. For this reason, some overseas postdocs schedule at least one meeting a year in the US. The NSF's International Research Fellow Awards support work abroad, including time for relocating back to the US. The program director reports that few postdocs seek positions abroad, but that those who do have little difficulty finding desirable positions upon their return. SUB-POPULATIONS OF POSTDOCS Certain special issues regarding the postdoctoral experience arose repeatedly during focus group and committee discussions: the impact of foreign postdoctoral scholars, challenges to women, and the need for information about minority postdocs. These issues are discussed in more depth below. Foreign postdocs. The postdoctoral setting is now an international one. For more than a decade, foreign postdocs (i.e., postdocs who are residents of other nations or residents in the US on permanent visas) have played a substantial role in the US postdoctoral experience. At present, slightly more than half of all postdocs in science and engineering are temporary residents (see Figure 2-5). Disciplinary societies and institutions estimate that this percentage holds true for virtually every field in science and engineering. According to NSF data, about half of foreign postdocs remain in the US after their term's end. The proportion who stay on varies by region of origin; however, postdocs from southeast Asia are more likely to stay than are postdocs from western Europe or Japan, for example. Variations are at least partly attributable to job prospects in their home countries. US institutions report several concerns over the experiences of foreign postdocs. Many postdocs arriving from abroad have serious difficulties adjusting to the language and customs of this country. Even though lack of language skills has been associated with poor career outcomes, 9 some foreign postdocs—especially those who work with others who speak the same language —do not master English, hampering their teaching and other professional abilities. In addition, 9 “Poor career outcomes” referred to the inability to find a desired position, as reported by Roger Chalkey of Vanderbilt University at the COSEPUP workshop, Dec. 21, 1999.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-5: Percentage, by Field, of US Citizens or Permanent Residents with Postdoctoral Appointments in US Institutions, 1988-1998. Source: Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies there is anecdotal evidence that foreign postdocs have received lower compensation than postdocs who are US citizens of the same professional accomplishment.10 If mentoring problems arise the foreign postdoc is restricted by visa guidelines from changing advisers. About a third of the institutions responding to the COSEPUP survey did not have staff that dealt specifically with the needs of foreign postdocs. Of those institutions offering help, most found that foreign postdocs needed assistance in the areas of visas, taxes, Social Security, housing, and language skills (see section and COSEPUP Survey Box, “Special Needs of Foreign Nationals,” in Chapter 5 for more information). Women postdocs. The experience of women postdocs differs from that of men in several respects. In some fields, notably engineering and the physical and mathematical sciences, women are significantly under represented as would be expected by their low participation in these fields. Women are outnumbered by men in engineering by more than four to one (826 vs. 205), and in physical and mathematical sciences by a similar difference (3,044 vs. 680). Women postdocs lag behind males in the life sciences (5,920 men vs. 4,363 women) and outnumber men in the social/behavioral sciences (1,173 to 963). Figure 2-6 reflects this same trend when the data is broken down by degree field. Figure 2-7 shows that there is essentially no change in the proportional representation of women as doctorates or postdoctorates. See Appendix Table B-19 for more details. A second difference can be seen in salary levels (see Figure 2-8). Here women postdocs lag behind their male counterparts in every field. The difference in engineering is most striking, with men receiving an average of $6,000 (20 percent) more, but even in the social/behavior sciences, where women postdocs outnumber men, the “gender bonus” in favor of males is $3,000. Women in the COSEPUP focus groups reported discrimination against those who take time away from the lab to start a family. Some funding organizations are working on this issue. Burroughs Wellcome now offers flexible timelines on grants for women in the biomedical sciences. (See box on Postdocs and Family Life.) Minority postdocs. Little information is available on members of underrepresented US minority groups who are postdoctoral scholars. (Far more is known about foreign postdocs than minority postdocs.) The available data are provided in Table 2-2. As indicated, in 1997 there were 1,242 minority postdoctoral scholars, or 5.5 percent of the US postdoc population.11 Their salaries 10 Agencies that compile statistics on postdoc compensation do not distinguish recipients by national status. However, both US and non-US postdocs stated during interviews with COSEPUP that foreign postdocs have received lower compensation than US nationals, and that it has not been uncommon for foreign postdocs (especially women) to work without any compensation. 11 Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 1997.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-6: Number of Male and Female Postdoctorates in 1997, by Degree Field, for the 1991 to 1996 Degree Cohort. Source: 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-7: Percentage of Female Doctorates and Postdoctorates in 1997, by Degree Field, for the 1991 to 1996 Degree Cohort. Source: 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-8: Postdoctoral Salaries in 1997 for Doctorates in the 1991-1996 Cohort, by Gender and Broad Field. Source: 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. in academia and industry are $2,000-3,000 higher than those of all postdocs, while their salaries in government are the same. As with all postdocs, the majority are employed in academia. The latest available data (1997) indicate that members of minority groups are slightly less likely than others to hold postdoctoral positions: 32.3 percent of all PhDs enter postdocs, versus 30.4 percent of minority PhDs. Of those minority group members in regular employment, a greater percentage are employed by universities and four-year colleges than by industry, compared to the rest of the doctoral population. Of all those who received PhDs in 1995 and 1996, 14 percent were employed in universities and four-year colleges and 35.6 percent were employed in industry. For minorities, the picture was reversed: 27.1 percent were employed in universities and 21 percent were employed in industry. Additional study is needed to gain a better understanding of this key sub-population and the issues of primary importance to group members. For example, several focus group participants stated that African-American postdocs may
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies Postdocs and Family Life Many postdocs have reached an age when they want to start families. Two surveys, at the University of California at San Francisco and Baylor College of Medicine, indicated that one-third to one-half of postdocs are parents.12 The Survey of Doctoral Recipients (see Figure 2-9) indicates that more than half of postdocs in all fields except mathematical and computer sciences (45 percent) are married. Many postdocs report a prejudice among both men and women faculty against women who choose to start a family during postdoctoral training and against men who wish to take parental leave after the birth of a child. Nonetheless, institutions are beginning to create appropriate policies that take family life into consideration. At the University of Pennsylvania's medical school, where the average age of postdocs is 34.5 years, postdocs receive six weeks of paid parental leave. At Vanderbilt, women postdocs who have taken time away from a program to have children are allowed to exceed the institution's standard five-year training limit. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute builds flexibility into the use of its funding: If a postdoc has a spouse with medical benefits, for example, the postdoc may use the allowance normally allotted to medical insurance for child care. Useful “survival techniques” reported by postdoc parents include meticulous time management, careful organization of activities (even including “appointments” to spend time with spouses and children), and highly focused attention to each activity. They advise enlisting extra help from family and friends and a clear understanding of parental leave policies. The Survival Skills workshop at the University of Pittsburgh notes that the stresses caused by overlapping demands are often associated with depression, and that campus health services usually offer help. Science's NextWave web site13 offers many specific suggestions by postdocs who are parents. 12 See www.bcmitmc.edu/pda/reference/surveyresults.html; www.saa49.ucsf.edu/psa/415survey.html 13 See nextwave.sciencemag.org Best Practices find few role models among advisers and may experience even more social isolation than some foreign minorities, who are present in higher numbers.14 14 Very few postdocs who are members of underrepresented US minority groups participated in the COSEPUP focus groups, including those held at Howard University and Morehouse University School of Medicine (two of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs); COSEPUP did conduct additional surveys of minority postdoctoral scholars using e-mail lists, but the response rate was far too low to be generally useful.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies FIGURE 2-9: Percentages of Postdoctorates who are Married or have Children, by PhD Field and Gender, 1997. Source: 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies TABLE 2-2: Available Data on US Underrepresented Minority Postdoctoral Scholars, 1997. Source: Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 1997. Median Salaries of Underrepresented Minority Postdoctorates by employment sector Number of Underrepresented Minority Postdoctorates by employment sector Number of Underrepresented Minority Postdoctorates by Field Life Sciences 711 Engineering 79 Math Sciences 60 Physics 22 Chemistry 155 Atmospheric and Geosciences 23 Social/Behavioral Sciences 192 Total 1,242 Industry Academia Government Life Sciences 39,000 30,000 37,000 Industry Academia Government Other Total All Science and Engineering Fields 75 881 158 128 1,242 Note: Underrepresented minorities are African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies Fellowships for Underrepresented Minority Postdocs While minority graduate students can choose among a variety of special fellowships, minority postdocs have few options. Among them are the following: The Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships for Minorities are aimed at minority groups “whose underrepresentation in the professorate and in formal programs of postdoctoral study and research in the United States has been long-standing and remains severe as a result of past discrimination. ” For the year 2001, 25 fellowships of $35,000 will be given for one year of postdoctoral research in fields of science or engineering (excluding “practice-based” professions, such as medicine, law, and social work). Eligible applicants include “current or potential college or university faculty members and researchers” who are U.S. citizens and belong to one of the following groups: African-Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians, Native Pacific Islanders, Mexican Americans/Chicanos, and Puerto Ricans. The program is administered by the National Research Council of the National Academies on behalf of the Ford Foundation. The UNCF-Merck Postdoctoral Science Research Fellowships is a program jointly administered by the United Negro College Fund and Merck with ten awards with a stipend of $55,000. This program is “...designed to increase the number of African Americans in the pipeline of biomedical science education and research.” The program is open to US citizens who are African Americans. They may work at academic or nonacademic research institutions, but not private industrial labs. The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists & Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) Awards, “recognizes outstanding scientists, engineers, and science teachers who have made significant contributions in their fields. ” While most of their awards are intended for graduate and younger students, the Lloyd Ferguson Young Scientist Award goes to young African American scientists with 8-10 years of professional experience. See also a web site for minority researchers called “Just/Garcia/Hill Science Web Site,” at http://hyper.hunter.cuny.edu/jghweb. Best Practices
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ENHANCING THE POSTDOCTORAL EXPERIENCE FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies SUMMARY POINTS The postdoctoral years are a time to match one's education, training, and interests with the changing world of employment options and to acquire the skills necessary to enter that world. A good postdoctoral experience is educational in the sense that it significantly advances one's professional capabilities and increases one's technical abilities. The postdoctoral experience differs widely according to discipline, sector, and source of funding. The postdoctoral experience differs widely according to discipline, Most postdocs are paid from the grant of a principal investigator and are frequently called research associates. In such situations, they are often treated as employees. A smaller number of postdocs are paid by external, independent mechanisms (e.g., US fellowships and training grants, foreign government grants). In such cases, they may be classified as students or receive no institutional classification and are called fellows. “Research associates,” “fellows,” and postdocs with other titles may all perform the same functions in the same laboratories, and yet their institutional title, tax status, compensation, and benefits may differ in significant and often unintended ways. The greatest uncertainties and inequities occur in universities, where most postdocs work. In national and industrial facilities, postdocs are usually treated like other temporary or contract employees and receive similar classification, compensation, and benefits. About half the total US postdoctoral population consists of foreign citizens, half of whom choose to remain in the US after their appointments. Foreign postdocs face extra challenges in mastering English, adapting to American culture and style of work, achieving equitable compensation, and dealing with visa requirements. Support mechanisms at host institutions to provide help for foreign postdocs (e.g., with visas, tax laws, and language instruction) are not uniform across the country. Additional information is needed about postdocs who are members of underrepresented minorities; less is known about these groups than is known about foreign postdocs.
Representative terms from entire chapter: