postdoc disparity

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Tue Aug 12 15:48:57 EST 1997


In article <1660E36164 at bio.tamu.edu>, JFRUGOLI at BIO.TAMU.EDU ("Julia
Frugoli") wrote:

> The point is, while $17,000 a year is fine here in TX (it's nice to know 
> that a PhD gets you make a few thousand more a year than the lab 
> technician who graduated with a BS in June :),


This jsut isn't true.  Just about every technician I know earns very close to
$30,000 a year and if they have a master's degree, it's OVER $30,000. 
There are four post-docs in this lab;  we negotiated our salaries.  i am
independently funded (and had the luxury of turning an NRSA down) and I
still make less than two of the others.  One is funded through Japan---and
psot-docs there make a hell of alot more money than we do in the US.  And
another is simply a far better negotiator than i am, and had alot more
skills to bring to the lab than i did.  I think this is all fine.

However.

I never used to think I cared about the money.  I was wrong.  I DO care. 
Life is so much happier when you do not have to worry about every penny. 
Academics start their labs with salaries of about $45,000, as far as I can
tell.  I have a friend who jsut started working in industry and in her
first year will more than double that.  What noble cause is worth being
this poor---if you have the education that would allow to do better
financially?  It is not as though no choices exist!  

Finally, did everyone see the article in Sunday's New York Times about the
woman who successfully sued the University of Michigan?  It turns out this
woman was a post-doc there, and entered into a collaboration with people
in the psychology department.  She developed a behavioral assay that was
considered truly ground-breaking.  The collaborator urged her to aplly for
grants and write up the preliminary stuff, to make it her full-time
project.  She then found out the collaborator was being supportive to her
to her face, and then stabbing her in the back behind her back----writing
bad letters and producing manuscripts based on the work with herself (the
collaborator) as the author. It took the post-doc 20 years and her career
was ruined, but she was awarded 1.6 million dollars!  Interestingly, the
judgement was not against the unethical PI, but against the university for
allowing this to happen!  The psot-doc had complained to higher-ups, who
did nothing!

I was stunned at this.  Just about everyone I know has stories like
this---everyone knows SOMEONE who got screwed over royally.  Is this the
dawning of malpractice fear in academics?  The precedent this sets is
amazing.  So really the era of your post-doc being an additional period of
training, with no rights and no recourse for bad treatment---that era
seems tobe drawing to a close.  And I think the way you get respect in the
US is to earn a respectable salary, which is not true for graduate
students or post-docs and that needs to change.

                  That is MY inflammatory 2 cents worth!

                           Alice



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