In DepthU.S. Scientific Workforce

Proposal to rescue postdocs from limbo draws darts

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Science  20 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6386, pp. 253
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6386.253

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An expert panel has offered some new solutions to an old problem in U.S. biomedical research: too many young scientists vying for scarce academic research jobs and stable funding. Although many of its recommendations echo past proposals that have largely failed to gain traction, a few—including one to limit postdoctoral researchers to receiving just 3 years of funding from their principal investigators (PIs), and another to create a new federal oversight council—are catalyzing heated debate. The problem with current funding practices, the panel says, is that they encourage some PIs to view postdocs primarily as labor and provide little career mentoring. As a result, postdocs can linger in relatively poorly paid positions for years. But the proposed 3-year postdoc cap has drawn fierce opposition, which some researchers worry could prematurely end careers.