"Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience": A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars
This guide, "Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers, A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies" was released this fall. The 184-page guide is available for purchase at the National Academy Press web site at www.nap.edu or can be viewed at http://national- academies.org/postdocs
Mildred S. Dresselhaus, MIT, and now the Director of the Department of Energy's Office of Science, chaired the project guidance group. The report was based on meetings with 39 groups of postdocs and advisers at 11 universities, as well as discussions at seven national laboratories and five private institutes or firms. A workshop was held, as were meetings with NSF and NIH staff and an external advisory group.
This guide is of particular interest to physics post-docs, since, as the guide states, "In the physical sciences (chemistry and physics), most PhDs who plan research careers are advised to do postdoctoral work." Of the ten fields surveyed, "physics and astronomy" ranked third in the number of new doctorates planning postdoctoral appointments (considerably less than those in biological sciences, and almost identical to chemistry doctorates.) By far, the greatest source of support for these physics and astronomy appointees was from federal research grants, followed by non-federal support. The number of physics doctorates planning postdoctoral study peaked around 1994, and was, according to one chart, starting to increase in the period from 1997 to 1998. The report also states that "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 one very brief chapter of this report entitled, "The Postdoc and the Disciplinary Societies." "The nation's disciplinary or professional societies can play a larger role in enhancing the postdoctoral experience," the report declares, suggesting meeting strategies, web site career listings, "the development of norms regarding the postdoctoral experience," and the collection of statistics. The report cites the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union as examples of disciplinary societies.
The report also discusses the features of the postdoctoral experience; postdoc rights, opportunities, and responsibilities; and the relationship of the postdoc to the adviser, institution, and funding organization. It concludes with a chapter with practical "principles, action points, and recommendations for enhancing the postdoctoral experience."
A Postdoc Network was recently established by Science magazine that can be accessed at: http://nextwave.sciencemag.org/feature/postdocnetwork.shtml
Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
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