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Project Title:

The State of the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers Revisited
PIN: PGA-COSEPUP-10-02        

Major Unit:

Policy and Global Affairs

Sub Unit: Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy

RSO: Finneran, Kevin

Subject/Focus Area: Policy for Science and Technology

Project Scope
Building on the 2000 COSEPUP report Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers, an ad hoc committee will describe the state of  postdoctoral programs in the United States, examine how postdoctoral fellows (postdocs) are being guided and managed, review institutional practices with respect to postdocs, try to determine what happens to postdocs after they complete their programs, explore important changes that have occurred in the postdoc practices and in the research ecosystem, and assess how well current practices meet the needs of these fledgling scientists and engineers and of the research enterprise.

Based on a review of existing data about postdocs and institutional practices, the committee will, to the extent possible, attempt to answer key questions in the following areas:

1) General characteristics of postdoctoral fellows and positions in the U.S.
How many postdoctoral fellows are there in the U.S.?  Where are they working, in what fields, and for how many years?  

2) Current conditions for postdocs
Are expectations of principal investigators made clear? Do postdocs receive adequate professional status and privileges as well as salary and benefits? Are the rules clear about credit they receive for their discoveries in the lab, and are they receiving adequate career guidance and development?

3) Institutional provisions.
Do postdocs serve as investigators on grants? Are questions of intellectual property identified and provided for? At universities, is teaching required; if not, is it encouraged or discouraged?

4) Career paths
Where do postdocs come from?  What do we know and what can we learn about what postdocs do after they complete their programs. How well are the postdoc programs matched with the career opportunities that are open to them?

5) Recent trends and changes
Have previous recommendations been implemented and to what effect? Are there other developments in the research enterprise that have had a significant effect on postdocs?

6) Participation in the research enterprise
Are postdocs being invited to review journal articles and to write grant proposals, either formally by journals and agencies or informally by PIs, and is this experience useful? What are the impressions of postdocs about peer review today?  Are postdocs being used effectively in research?  Are postdocs acquiring the skills they need to become productive independent researchers in the future?

At the conclusion of the study, the committee will produce a consensus report.

The project is sponsored by the National Research Council, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The approximate start date for the project is August 1, 2011.

Project Duration: 24 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 10/03/2011
 Meeting 2 - 12/12/2011
 Meeting 3 - 03/08/2012
 Meeting 4 - 03/17/2012
 Meeting 5 - 06/19/2012
 Meeting 6 - 02/11/2013


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office