Monday, June 1, 2009

Postdoc Life from the Other Side

Quite a lot of this blog so far has been about the postdoc experience - fairly natural since two of us are postdocs, and our newest member only recently stopped being one.

Over at Female Science Professor today is a post about the new NSF rules which require a statement on how postdocs will be mentored to be included in any proposal including a request for postdoc funding.

I appreciate that NSF is trying with this list, but I don't think it'll change anything. I bet FemaleScienceProfessor is a great postdoc supervisor, but her comments about the new list hi-light for me how this will be taken by the vast majority of profs - just another hoop to jump through, and not really important at all.

Her comments on Item 2 are particularly annoying to me - I hear this all the time - that academic staff just don't know how to help their students find jobs outside of academia. Yet they are willing to (passively or otherwise) support a system that will dump the majority of young scientists out of academia into this situation.... hmmm. You must all have past students and postdocs who've been through this experience before - why not connect them with your current students and postdocs to help in the mentoring process. It's not only in parenting that it can (and arguably should) "take a village".

I think the postdoc system has to change, and will in the coming years. How it will happen and what can be done to help the change come smoothly I do not know. I can't even figure out how to get myself out of it at the moment! But it'll be interesting to see what the research scientist career path looks like 50 years from now (I'll be 80 - not totally unrealistic I hope). At least it's better now - except perhaps for some of the well connected young white males - than it was 50 years ago!

For some suggestions for change I recommend you look through the State of the Profession white papers from the Astro 2010 review process which you can find here.


Mrs. CH said...

I totally agree with you on the career mentoring thing. It should be started at the grad (or even undergrad!) level too! Perhaps not everyone wants to waste away 12 years to find out they can't get a faculty position (or don't want one).

Astronomum said...

I encourage everyone to check out the comments to the post over at Female Science Professor, where the debate is hotting up.