Re. postdocs ...

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Fri Aug 15 14:33:44 EST 1997


> Karen Allendoerfer (ravena at cco.caltech.edu) writes
> Frankly, I think that more grant space and resources should be devoted
> to
> technicians and less to graduate students and postdocs. I think there
> should be a kind of "permanent" job in academic and/or research
> science
> that isn't P.I. Some people just like to do science, like working for
> a
> mentor they respect, and don't want to have to deal with all the
> classroom
> teaching, grant writing, committees, travelling, giving talks, etc.
> etc.
> ....

yes, there should be a place for people who don't want to run the
wholeshebang!  rather than the up-or-out mentality we have currently.
 

> When I write what I write above, I don't mean that fewer resources
> should
> be allocated to individual graduate students and postdocs (I agree
> with
> everyone who says we're underpaid, given how long it takes), I mean
> that
> in any given lab, there should be fewer people "in training" and more
> people who are already trained and working at a permanent job.
> And those people should be respected and paid what they're worth
> (including
> benefits, etc.)

How to effect these changes?  For those of us in the transition from our
former
scientific culture to our uncertain new one, it's hard.  As long as I am
judged by
the productivity and size of my lab, I have a strong incentive to keep
expanding.
People who do, of course, contribute to the "disposable student/postdoc"

attitude.  That has to change.

I'd be happy with a small team of less transient, and thus, better paid,
people
in my group (if I could only afford it).   The frustrating thing to me
as a
PI is that I have a great group (y'hear that, guys? ;-)  that works
together well,
but they will all of course move on with their lives and their careers. 
While
it's appropriate that students do so, sometimes I wish I could keep my
postdocs, and pay them what they are worth, if they wanted to stay.
I wouldn't have a problem if I train only a few really top
students and run a small group, if that were feasible and accepted.

I don't think that scenario will happen.  I think that science will
continue
to fractionate into the few big guys, and a lot of "postdocs" in their
labs who are really untitled junior faculty equivalents who do
independent
work and supervise students and are underpaid for it.  But as I said,
I'm
feeling cynical today.

Incidentally, for those who wonder...I look for postdocs who come from
different backgrounds and are not in the same field.  They bring
complementary
skills to my group, and I know they will learn new things and take
them away to be broader, better scientists.  I changed fields and
organisms
(and countries) as a postdoc.  I may have published less, but I learned
more and that has paid off in many intangible ways.  Yes, postdocs
are still about training.  To some of us, anyway.
 

-- sometimes a voice in the wilderness,
-susan
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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
http://flosun.salk.edu/~forsburg/lab.html
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