postdocs -- ask your mentor

Bart Janssen bjanssen at
Fri Aug 15 18:47:36 EST 1997

Judith Gibber wrote:

> Looking at it this way, c., the low pay, is okay.  Most trainees are
> paid very little.  Undergrad interns here make $1000/month;  MD
> residents
> earn about the same as postdocs.  It's acceptable because of a. & b.

About 8 years ago in NZ interns went on strike because of this.  And
won.  They didn't think it was acceptable and neither do I.

> If you think of a postdoc as a job, the only logical solution to the
> postdoc crisis is to demand that the pay be increased.  A fair
> increase
> would be, what?  $20,000?  And there are how many postdocs?  I'm
> taking
> a wild guess here:  2000?  So that would be a mere $40,000,000 per
> year.
> Who's handing out that kind of money?

Last week Clinton used the line item veto to delete 3 items that totaled
US$750 milion.  It was described as "three trivial programs".  40
million IS a trivial amount of money for the US.  The problem is that
even if NSF NIH etc budget were increased by 40 million I'd be willing
to bet that none of it would make it to the post-docs.

> I think that the postdoc should be a training period, and we should
> focus on changing it back to what it was:  a) a short-term position
> and
> b) a chance to broaden one's scientific skills by learning something
> new.

Agreed.  What we don't agree on is the fact that having obtained a PhD a
scientist is already a highly skilled and highly valuable worker.  By
all means make the post-doc a shorter term (although in the current
climate I have no idea what comes after that term).  But during that
term post-doctoral scientists should be given salary and recognition in
concert with their skills and moreover in concert with their value to
society as a whole.

If you pay post-doctoral scientists $18-26000, you are sending a message
to all high school and college students.  Is that the message you really
want to send at the same time you are trying to teach high school the
"value" of science and trying to encourage more intelligent young women
(and men) to use their intelligence and skills in scientific


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