Postdoctoral researcher

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"Post-doctoral" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Post-doctoral degree.
Postdoctoral researcher
Occupation
Occupation type
Profession
Activity sectors
Academia
Description
Competencies
Education required
Typically a PhD

A postdoctoral researcher is a person conducting research after the completion of their doctoral studies as part of a temporary appointment, usually in preparation for an academic faculty position. It is intended to further deepen expertise in a specialist subject, including integrating a team and acquiring novel skills and methods. Postdoctoral research is often considered essential while advancing the scholarly mission of the host institution; it is expected to produce relevant publications. In some countries, postdoctoral research may lead to further formal qualifications or certification, while in other countries it does not.[1][2]

Postdoctoral research may be funded through an appointment with a salary or an appointment with a stipend or sponsorship award. Appointments for such a research position may be called Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Postdoctoral Research Associate, or Postdoctoral Research Assistant. Depending on the type of appointment, postdoctoral researchers may work independently or under the supervision of a principal investigator. However, a designated postdoctoral research appointment may also be taken up when other suitable positions are not available, rather than merely pursuing the deepening of scholarly experience. In many English-speaking countries, postdoctoral researchers are colloquially referred to as "postdocs."[3]

Job security and academia[edit]

Due to the nature of their work,[4][5][6][7][8] and an over-supply of graduating PhD students in many fields,[9][10] some postdoctoral researchers face an uncertain future in academia,[2][11] and a large proportion will not gain tenure[12] or a coveted faculty position in their chosen field of research.[13][14][15][16]

Regional variations in postdoctoral employment[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, 25% of doctors in the natural sciences continue to undertake postdoctoral research.[17]

Since the landmark ruling in the employment tribunal (Scotland) Ball vs Aberdeen University 2008 case (S/101486/08), researchers who have held successive fixed-term contracts for four years service are no longer temporary employees but are entitled to the open-ended contracts.[18]

United States[edit]

In the US, a postdoctoral scholar is an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his or her choosing.[1] Postdocs play an important role in spearheading research activity in the US. The median salary of postdocs is $42,000 a year for up to 5 years after receiving their doctoral degrees — 44% less than that of tenured positions.[19] The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA)[20] is a member-driven organization that provides a voice for postdoctoral scholars in the United States.

Postdoctoral research may be required for obtaining a tenure-track faculty position, especially at research-oriented institutions. Post-doctoral appointments that were traditionally optional have become mandatory in some fields as the degree of competition for tenure-track positions in academia has significantly increased over previous decades. In fact, the small supply of the professional positions in academia compared to the growing number of postdocs makes it difficult to find tenure-track positions. In 2008, the proportion of postdocs who got a tenure or tenure-track within 5 years after they received a doctoral degree was about 39%;[19] nearly 10% of postdocs were still waiting for tenure-track positions over 40 in 2003.[21]

On the other hand, 85 percent of engineering doctoral degree recipients are likely to initially go into business or industry sector.[22] Under the circumstances, providing doctoral students as well as postdocs with necessary skills for nonacademic positions has become one of the important roles for graduate schools and institutions. The America COMPETES Act recognized the importance of graduate student support for obtaining skills needed when they pursue nonacademic careers, and required National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase or decrease funding for the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) programs[23] at least at the same rate as it increases or decreases funding for the Graduate Research Fellowship program. IGERT has been providing Ph.D. graduate students with more interdisciplinary experience, broad based professional and technical skill, various training needed in nonacademic careers, off-campus internships and career information since 1998.

There are no comprehensive data of postdocs in the US because of the less-organized survey and the difficulty in counting international postdocs. The proportion of postdocs on temporary visas reached 53.6% in 2010.[24]

In the US, life sciences have a greater share than other fields due to higher federal funding of life and medical science areas since mid 1990[citation needed]. One survey shows that 54% of postdocs major in life sciences, whereas those who majored in physical science, mathematics, and engineering account for 28%.[25]

In 2010, postdoctoral researchers in California formed a union, UAW Local 5810 in order to secure better working conditions such as the right to file a complaint for alleged discrimination or sexual harassment through a formal grievance procedure.[26] In California, new postdoctoral appointments receive at least the NIH postdoctoral minimum salary ($39,264 in 2011) and many receive annual pay raises of 5-7% or more in accordance with the NIH’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA).[27]

Australia[edit]

Salaried appointments at the minimum Level A, Step 6 for academic salaries, for doctoral qualified employees (beginning in 2008) are set at A$75,612 p.a. at the University of Sydney,[28] A$75,404 p.a. at the University of Melbourne,[29] and A$75,612 p.a. at the University of New South Wales.[30]

Alternatively the Australian Research Council (ARC) provides Postdoctoral Fellowships. For example their Discovery Projects,[31] funds 3 year Fellowships, beginning in 2009, with A$61,399 p.a.[32] Furthermore, a mandatory superannuation payment of 11-17% is paid by Universities.[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "What is a Postdoc?". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. 
  2. ^ a b Powell, Kendall (2015). "The future of the postdoc: There is a growing number of postdocs and few places in academia for them to go". Nature 520 (7546): 144. doi:10.1038/520144a. 
  3. ^ "National Postdoctoral Association: Career Development Resources". NationalPostDoc.org. Archived from the original on 2015-03-16. 
  4. ^ Bourne, P. E.; Friedberg, I. (2006). "Ten Simple Rules for Selecting a Postdoctoral Position". PLoS Computational Biology 2 (11): e121. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0020121. PMC 1664706. PMID 17121457. 
  5. ^ Ruben, A. (2013). "The Postdoc: A Special Kind of Hell". Science. doi:10.1126/science.caredit.a1300256. 
  6. ^ Brooks, I. M. (2008). "Postdoc glut means academic pathway needs an overhaul". Nature 454 (7208): 1049. doi:10.1038/4541049a. PMID 18756230. 
  7. ^ Theodosiou, M; Rennard, J. P.; Amir-Aslani, A (2012). "The rise of the professional master's degree: The answer to the postdoc/PhD bubble". Nature Biotechnology 30 (4): 367–8. doi:10.1038/nbt.2180. PMID 22491294. 
  8. ^ Odom, D. T. (2014). "Survival strategies for choosing the right postdoc position". Genome Biology 15 (3): 107. doi:10.1186/gb4163. PMC 4053951. PMID 25001498. 
  9. ^ Cyranoski, D.; Gilbert, N.; Ledford, H.; Nayar, A.; Yahia, M. (2011). "Education: The PhD factory". Nature 472 (7343): 276–279. doi:10.1038/472276a. PMID 21512548. 
  10. ^ McCook, A. (2011). "Education: Rethinking PhDs. Fix it, overhaul it or skip it completely — institutions and individuals are taking innovative approaches to postgraduate science training". Nature 472 (7343): 280. doi:10.1038/472280a. 
  11. ^ Anon (2014). "Harsh reality: Two reports highlight the plight of postdocs on both sides of the pond aiming for academia". Nature 516 (7529): 7. doi:10.1038/516007b. 
  12. ^ Kaplan, K. (2010). "Academia: The changing face of tenure". Nature 468 (7320): 123. doi:10.1038/nj7320-123a. 
  13. ^ Jones, A. (2013). "The explosive growth of postdocs in computer science". Communications of the ACM 56 (2): 37. doi:10.1145/2408776.2408801. 
  14. ^ Anon (2011). "Fix the PhD: No longer a guaranteed ticket to an academic career, the PhD system needs a serious rethink". Nature 472 (7343): 259–260. doi:10.1038/472259b. PMID 21512527. 
  15. ^ Rohn, J. (2011). "Give postdocs a career, not empty promises". Nature 471 (7336): 7. doi:10.1038/471007a. PMID 21368781. 
  16. ^ Alberts, B; Kirschner, M. W.; Tilghman, S; Varmus, H (2015). "Opinion: Addressing systemic problems in the biomedical research enterprise". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (7): 1912–3. doi:10.1073/pnas.1500969112. PMC 4343141. PMID 25691698. 
  17. ^ "UK GRAD Programme: Physical sciences and engineering PhD graduates from 2003 at a glance". Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  18. ^ "UCU - University and College Union - Research staff". 
  19. ^ a b "Science and Engineering Labor Force. In Science and Engineering Indicators 2012" (PDF). 
  20. ^ Gewin, V (2010). "The spread of postdoc unions". Nature 467 (7316): 739–41. doi:10.1038/467638a. PMID 20930810. 
  21. ^ http://www.sigmaxi.org/postdoc/highlights.pdf[dead link]
  22. ^ "Pathway Through Graduate School and Into Careers" (PDF). 
  23. ^ "Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program". 
  24. ^ "Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Grew Substantially in the Past Decade but Slowed in 2010". 
  25. ^ "Postdoctoral Education Survey Summary of Results". 
  26. ^ Kristen Minogue (Aug 13, 2010). "California Postdocs Embrace Union Contract". Science Insider. Retrieved June 22, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Stipends, Tuition/Fees and Other Budgetary Levels Effective for Fiscal Year 2012". National Institutes of Health. 
  28. ^ http://www.usyd.edu.au/hr/eb/2006/AC_annual_rates.pdf, Retrieved on 4 June 2012
  29. ^ http://policy.unimelb.edu.au/UOM0115#section-1.1.1, Retrieved on 4 June 2012
  30. ^ http://www.hr.unsw.edu.au/services/salaries/acadsal.html, Retrieved on 4 June 2012
  31. ^ Discovery Projects - Australian Research Council (ARC)
  32. ^ Appendix 3, p. 58, http://www.arc.gov.au/pdf/DP09_FundingRules.pdf, Retrieved on 22 July 2008
  33. ^ http://www.hr.unimelb.edu.au/benefits/superannuation, Retrieved on 22 July 2008