Compensation, benefits and parental leave, among other issues, continue to be problems for US postdocs, according to the US National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).
US academic institutions continue to enhance postdoctoral researcher experiences, but there is room for significant improvement, according to a 3 January report from the NPA in Rockville, Maryland.
“Supporting the Needs of Postdocs” recommends that postdocs receive greater compensation, equal health-care benefits regardless of their classification or funding and more-generous parental-leave policies. The report notes that universities have made the greatest strides in ensuring health-care coverage for postdocs, establishing international-scholar offices to support postdocs from outside the United States and creating postdoctoral offices or associations on campus.
The report collated the results from a 2016 survey completed by 102 of the 190 institutional NPA members. The survey results, published in partnership with Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, indicate that 94% of NPA member institutions now have a clear edict to outline policies and resources to new postdoctoral researchers and other recruits. The survey also found that 85% of institutions have an orientation programme to detail services and amenities available for postdocs.
Postdoc pay rates, however, are less consistent, despite legislation passed by Congress in May 2016 that raised the minimum salary for all US hourly workers to US$47,476 per year or required employers to offer overtime pay. Just 77% of institutions pay that rate or above, or are in the process of raising their minimum compensation levels, the report says.
Just a third, or 36%, of responding institutions require annual stipend increases for postdocs while 43% recommend it. About a fifth, or 21%, have no policy on the matter. While most postdocs receive insurance benefits and paid time off, those who have their own funding often lose access to benefits—a point of contention that NPA urges institutions to address.
NPA continues to champion diversity concerns and calls for institutions to create inclusive recruiting procedures and policies, ideally within a diversity office on campus.
To better determine postdoc needs, the report recommends that institutions track postdoc information on diversity, disabilities and disadvantaged backgrounds, and maintain contact with postdocs after they leave to develop a more-comprehensive alumni network and to track career paths. Currently, 45% of member institutions administer exit surveys and 28% track their postdocs after they leave.
Virginia Gewin is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon.