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National Research Council Revisits Postdoctoral Training

December 12, 2014—The National Academies Dec. 10 released a report urging significant changes to improve the postdoctoral training system in the United States, as some aspects of the continuum have seen little change over the last decade. Gregory Petsko, Ph.D., Arthur J. Mahon Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, chaired the study committee that reviewed the postdoctoral experience.

To make further strides, the committee recommendations focus on several areas of best practice, including period of service; title and role; career development; compensation and benefits; mentoring and data collection; and that postdoctoral positions no longer be viewed by graduate students or faculty as a default, but rather should consider the broad range of scientific career paths.

For example, the report recommends that postdoctoral salaries be increased; appointments be no more than five years in duration and that postdoctoral researchers move to permanent staff positions or positions elsewhere once the appointment period is completed; training and mentoring be at the center of the postdoctoral experience; and that institutions track and collect career outcomes. 

The report recognizes the creation of postdoctoral affairs offices to better provide services for postdocs; the consideration of postdoctoral training issues within the AAMC Graduate Research, Education, and Training (GREAT) Group; and the establishment of the National Postdoctoral Association, to create a voice for postdoctoral researchers. 

Guiding the recommendations, the committee considered the advancements made since a 2000 National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) report, “Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers” that also examined the postdoctoral training experience. 

The study was sponsored by the Presidents’ Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.


Jodi B. (Lubetsky) Yellin, PhD
Director, Science Policy
Telephone: 202-828-0485


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