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Questions about the value of postdoctoral training


Michael Oberdorfer
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Michael Oberdorfer

An article in Nature highlights two studies, one in Research Policy and the other in The Scandinavian Journal of Management. These studies suggest that there aren’t that many academic jobs for postdocs, and that postdoctoral training may not prepare one for a job outside of academia.

A postdoc coordinator at the University of North Carolina reflects, “There needs to be a whole retooling of how we design postdoctoral training and how we recruit and hire people into these positions.”

Your thoughts?

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  • 2 weeks later...
Sampurna Chakrabarti

I found this article really useful since I am in the process of finding postdoc positions at the moment. I see more and more people around me looking for jobs outside the academia straight out of the PhD so indeed there is a need to offer more opportunities to build so-called “non-academic” skills, perhaps even from the PhD level.
The article also advises funding agencies to offer long-term postdoctoral contracts, but I am not sure I agree with that. One of the fear I see among my fellow PhD students is that they will be stuck at the post-doctoral level for too long. May be a better option is to have more opportunities for senior post-docs to try out an independent post?

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Michael Oberdorfer

I’m not sure what/where the answer is. At one time, quite a while ago, folks often took a job in academia right after their Ph.D. All that changed when more and more technologies emerged that required postdoctoral training. Now it seems, things have shifted again, particularly with the emergence of the private sector in the research enterprise, and other career opportunities. Government and foundation funding opportunities for postdoctoral training could be increased, plus more mentorship for postdocs. Long term postdocs could end up being exploitive without a clear transition to a career

I think that postdoctoral training is an important component of becoming a scientist, but there seems to be a mismatch with what opportunities are available.

Mike Oberdorfer

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