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October 05, 2014

Is the "ongoing PostDocs Crisis"a symptom of Broader problems Plaguing BioMedical Research, Are the PostDocs a Grunt work force of today's Science?

Chart/Illustration/Pic from Boston Globe news-Link
The "plight of PostDocs"has become a major crisis of the Science/biomedical research field, however, where is the crux of the problem lies?. It is the  academic structure itself is the basis for this terrible young scientists crisis. While the awareness about impending issue amongst the postdocs, academics and administrators is slowly picking up steam after almost a Decade of our UCONN Health Center Postdocs Unionization, the mainstream media and scientific media broadly ignored this topic. Seems like they are ready to write about it, I am hoping it is time they too come forward and participate, create and raise awareness about the plight of postdocs and that is actually the plight of our todays scientific research field. The following Boston globe "Metro" news piece seems like a step in that direction of mainstream participation.
             Gary McDowell, 29 a Biology student reveals the cliff of PostDocs crisis, he quotes that the lab bench work and research for these PostDocs is like a "Grunt Work Force", he and other postdocs hopes this Guttural Hogs condition of postdocs changes sooner than later to avoid burnout and major crisis to the scientific research field. 

If there is anything one can learn about the PostDocs issue, it is pretty pathetic and serious...........................Read further into this news piece to know the plights of PostDocs, read further to know what Carolyn has to say about the PostDocs Plight.

Some Quotes from this news piece: Yellow Highlighted
  toiling in obscurity in a low-paying scientific apprenticeship that can stretch more than a decade
this is like captured from My Blogs header, but means and sounds what I meant in the header
But in recent years, the postdoc position has become less a stepping stone and more of a holding tank.
How low can you equate these great makers of science and medicine, -Just a Supply vs Demand, that sucks:
Some of the smartest people in Boston are caught up in an all-but-invisible crisis, mired in a biomedical underclass as federal funding for research has leveled off, leaving the supply of well-trained scientists outstripping demand.
The hero of this news piece, Gary, a Biology PostDocs says this "
 “There’s this huge labor force here to do the bench work, the grunt work of science. But then there’s nowhere for them to go; this massive pool of postdocs that accumulates and keeps growing.”
about PostDocs, Carolyn writes, is it real or a myth?:
they are both future leaders and the workers who carry out experiments crucial for science to advance. 
It is Certainly true and real on the tongue and in books, or perhaps on this news piece, but not real when it comes to rewards or recognition, they are treated like some kind of "extra pair of hands"- a lab or postdoc jargon. It is not real to see the PostDocs treated and respected that way, no not at all, their screams are like Guttural....!! you heard that from Gary...remember?.
Well, as a former PostDoc, an Advocate and the PostDoc Unionization Pioneer, though I moved up a million miles above the PostDoc's stage after two successful and great, productive postdoc positions and a jaunt at the Yale Medical School,  I can say what Gary or other postdocs lamented in this news piece about their plight is just an understatement and it is rather dire. I wish that future leaders and experts get their share and recognition, respect in due time, not at the end of their life. The bottom line is this damn academic structure, funding and functioning of scientific research needs "Service and overhaul" without that the plights of postdocs "will never change much to the level of appreciation".

Oh I like these lines so much, this is a much needed step towards some action
The plight of postdocs has become a point of national discussion among senior scientists, as their struggles have come to be seen as symptoms of broader problems plaguing biomedical research. After years of rapid growth, federal funding abruptly leveled off and even contracted over the last decade, leaving a glut of postdocs vying for a limited number of faculty jobs. Paradoxically, as they’ve gotten stuck, the pursuit of research breakthroughs has also become reliant on them as a cheap source of labor for senior scientists.
 they do seems like follow a "Well-Worn Pathy?--
Biomedical research training traditionally has followed a well-worn path. After college, people who want to pursue an advanced degree enroll in graduate school. The vast majority of biology graduate students then go on to do one or more postdoc positions, where they continue their training, often well into their 30s.
they are like "invisible people", but their toil and struggle in the lab for more than 40 hours get  good funding and promotions for their Supervior and lab chief, but what do these little fellows get?
Their progress is very poorly tracked; the leader of a national report on the state of postdocs has called them “invisible people.” The National Institutes of Health estimates there are somewhere between 37,000 and 68,000 postdocs in the country. Salaries vary, but rarely reflect their level of education. The NIH stipend ranges from $42,000 a year for a starting postdoc, up to $55,272 for a seventh year.
and how long they and how many years they toil to reach for independent research jobs? but yet the majority do not attain that target in real world
 Their progress is very poorly tracked; the leader of a national report on the state of postdocs has called them “invisible people.” The National Institutes of Health estimates there are somewhere between 37,000 and 68,000 postdocs in the country. Salaries vary, but rarely reflect their level of education. The NIH stipend ranges from $42,000 a year for a starting postdoc, up to $55,272 for a seventh year.
there is no proper teenable models, not just some but most of them are not....
 “Some of the models we see don’t seem tenable in the long run,” Krukenberg said.
sure do the senior scientists, some of them agree with this, but many are oblivious and do not care for PostDocs
 Many senior scientists, who may fondly remember their own postdocs days, agree that laboratories have grown too bloated. As the cost of conducting research and the number of institutions doing such work have increased, science has outgrown the traditional model in which trainees are also the worker bees, they say.
game is changed but there is no game changer for postdocs
 “The game is changed, and what should be a wonderful time in people’s lives is, in many cases, a time of great, great anxiety and unhappiness.”
I think, Casey has done something good for himself, not worrying about years of his postdoc field and experience, he found an alternative way to prosper and progress
If there is one problem amongst PostDocs, is this one. Are they brain dead or what to go caught up with this cobbled web of Postdoctoring?, why not change your aims, goals and directions, why not think out of the box, why not use your creativity for something else in this world. Instead of that futile "faculty" job or academic career?. I wish PostDocs come out of their grunt work force and use their talents. Yes, the academy is broken and useless to reform, there is no one to listen to you, look at the scientific funding, some damn representatives may fund millions and millions of dollars for worthless areas in America but they do not want to provide even basic amount of funding used to be allocated for scientific research, so what is the use in screaming, just find an alternative and use your talents.  Here is a guy who did exactly that....
Casey Ydenberg’s path illustrates how easy it is to follow a dream and find oneself locked in a career track without a destination.
Ydenberg, 33, has an impressive resume: he earned a PhD at Princeton, then went for a postdoc at Brandeis. This summer, a decade into his training, he realized that not only were the odds of getting a faculty job against him, but he didn’t think he really wanted one. He felt burnt out.
Today, Ydenberg is pursuing a job that gives him real joy, building websites. He isn’t bitter; he cherishes his memories of graduate school. But he uses none of his formal training and thinks there should be more conversations, earlier, about future careers so that people don’t spend as long honing research skills that may not prove relevant.
For Postdocs plight to change, not only reformation and changes are needed immediately, but also the postdocs instead of being caught in the vicious cycle, must think out of the box and out of the routine or out of the ordinary, do not suck into this mundane daily routines of lab work.

Glut of postdoc researchers stirs quiet crisis in science By

 | Globe Staff   October 05, 2014

“It’s sunk in that it’s by no means guaranteed — for anyone, really — that an academic position is possible,” said Gary McDowell, 29, a biologist doing his second postdoc at Tufts University who hopes to set up his own lab in a few years. “There’s this huge labor force here to do the bench work, the grunt work of science. But then there’s nowhere for them to go; this massive pool of postdocs that accumulates and keeps growing.”

August 06, 2014

PostDocs in the UK: Do the University employed PostDocs have better "Output" than others, study says Yes.

Univresity PostDocs vs PostDocs in other Places (like industry, institutions and pvt labs?)

In this interesting "Exploratory" research study, carried out by PLOS One, those postdocs working in the university set up seems to have more publications or demonstrated a better out put compared to those who employed in industry or pvt labs or institutions etc., in the academic world the out put of an individual (postdoc or faculty or graduate) is mostly measured by how many papers one can publish. It is so important for PostDocs than a graduate or for that matter even for a faculty. As the faculties enjoy University job and its advantages, the PostDocs are like asylum seekers inside a faculties lab to train themselves for the future. While Faculties too must work hard and get papers in order to survive and get promotions and better salaries, it is the PostDoc who is in desperate need of papers and more papers published, and interestingly that is a good news for the faculty as they reap the benefits of having a bright and productive PostDocs in their lab increase the faculties promotion and prospects better than not having one. In simple words "The faculty gets best Bangs for their bucks hiring productive PostDocs". Anyways, this study is not about graduates or faculties, but about PostDocs who are in the university setup seems to have more output, better output than postdocs in other places. For PostDocs Paper Publications also translates better chances for future jobs, grants and tenure. The Plos One results are not surprising to me, coming from University background and considering how many paper I published quite successfully during my University PostDoc days.

 The survey of about 200 participants though a small number, but it is pretty reflective of the field, the study also found that PostDocs struggle about their future?;

Here is the Original Article and review:

Research Article

Postdoctoral Researchers in the UK: A Snapshot at Factors Affecting Their Research Output

  • Fatima M. Felisberti mail, Rebecca Sear


Postdoctoral training is a typical step in the course of an academic career, but very little is known about postdoctoral researchers (PDRs) working in the UK. This study used an online survey to explore, for the first time, relevant environmental factors which may be linked to the research output of PDRs in terms of the number of peer-reviewed articles per year of PDR employment. The findings showed reliable links between the research output and research institutions, time spent as PDR, and parental education, whereas no clear links were observed between PDRs' output and research area, nationality, gender, number of siblings, or work environment. PDRs based in universities tended to publish, on average, more than the ones based in research centres. PDRs with children tended to stay longer in postdoctoral employment than PDRs without children. Moreover, research output tended to be higher in PDRs with fathers educated at secondary or higher level. The work environment did not affect output directly, but about 1/5 of PDRs were not satisfied with their job or institutional support and about 2/3 of them perceived their job prospects as “difficult”. The results from this exploratory study raise important questions, which need to be addressed in large-scale studies in order to understand (and monitor) how PDRs' family and work environment interact with their research output—an essential step given the crucial role of PDRs in research and development in the country.

also other news quotes:

Research output higher among postdocs in universities

Plos One study also reveals that parenthood has little impact on publishing productivity
Pile of research papersPostdoctoral researchers based in universities publish more on average than those based in research centres, according to new research.
The study, published in Plos One, also found that postdoctoral researchers with children tend to have the same research output as those without children.
And the survey of around 200 postdoctoral researchers revealed that two-thirds believe that their job prospects are “difficult”.

June 20, 2014

Open Access to Scientific Journals without Subscription, Postdocs fight to get Open access free for all and that I call a good activism...

Good work dear postdocs, keep up, any publicly funded research data, materials and articles must be freely available to all, there is no question about it..........subscription
Postdoc brings open access issue to the table
Jimmy O'Dea helped start a discussion at Cornell about an open-access policy.
Jimmy O’DeaCornell scientists report research discoveries almost every day, but to the nonacademic world, clicking on a link to a published paper usually leads to a pay wall, barring access without a journal subscription.
Many feel that such research – often paid for at least in part by public money – should be freely available to all inquiring minds, not just paid subscribers. Among them is Cornell postdoctoral research associate Jimmy O’Dea.

Guardian Blog article on PostDoc Jobs in UK: Academic Jobs are scarce but we're Optimistic??...Really?.

The Reader, visitors and PostDocs who is going to read this Blog article of the guardian must read some of the PostDocs comments, that is the real indication of what is the job trend, not the news as such....Read the comments...

 Young Scientists and their job prospect in UK, though this Guardian News paints a positive picture, when I browsed through the comments made by many PhD holders who are looking for jobs past several months and some of the years, its kind of negative. Not sure about the plights of postdocs looking for jobs in USA, as I left the academy long time ago... it is time someone here in US review the job prospective of newly awarded PhDs or postdocs looking for jobs....might be of use to the graduates who are enrolled in PhD degrees and to those who are continue to do their one to five postdocs?.

Postdoc diaries: academic jobs are scarce but we're optimistic

For six months, we've followed PhD graduates Mel and Dean in their hunt for a job. The final instalment sees them feeling positive about the future 
Remember childhood? Job-hunting seemed to be so much easier back then. I recall that I didn't even want my first few jobs. One day, my uncle told me that I needed "toughening up". So he gave me a job in construction that was actually more boring (eg mixing cement) than physically demanding.
For my second job, my friend convinced me to apply for work in silver service waiting with him. We learnt some valuable life lessons ("food is served from the right-hand side of the guest"), but we spent all our meagre wages on the fuel we needed to get us to work and back. (In frustration, we later set up our own company, so we could work on the things that we felt were important and would actually excite us.)

June 19, 2014

Academics take on the $400,000 salary for Administrators in Universities and institutions?, will the Canadian's campaign stir the money Pot in USA too?

For decades or as long as the academic system established, there was no scrutiny or challenge to the amount of salary paid to the so called Administrators, Deans, Vice-Chancellors etc, for the first time, a Canada based Academics facebook joke took a turn into a Campaigning, the Edmonton based group of academics are asking why is that a $400,000 (almost half a million dollar salary is given to an administrator in the university but the academics get paid 5 to 10 times lower salary than an administrator, yikes, is this the next union busting activism to happen after PostDoc Union?....

Academics Protest High Salaries of University Administrators

Tongue-in-cheek campaign highlights income disparity, program cuts

EDMONTON—After the job of president at the University of Alberta was advertised with a starting salary of $400,000, Kathleen Cawsey joked on Facebook with a fellow academic that they should jointly apply for the position and split the pay, making the point that they would both be better paid than they are currently.
A few other academic friends joined the conversation, and Cawsey, an associate professor of English at Dalhousie University, decided to get serious with the idea.
The joke then became a tongue-in-cheek campaign to apply in groups of four for the well-paid position. U of A’s current president is stepping down at the end of the month.
“I think we got 56 people who sent in applications in groups of four,” says Cawsey.

May 08, 2014

Woman PostDocs- what is their plight in Academy and Research?.

Inside Higher Eds recent Piece on Woman PostDocs:

PostDocs in general are not well paid that is the universal truth
why "PostDoc" Unions are upraising but there are issues within
PostDoc issues, that is the "Woman in PostDoc" or woman doing
PostDocs, what is their plight?. Looks like the following
piece written by Graduate Student Jennifer Bussell from
Rockefeller University discusses about that critical issue.

June 5, 2013
The message is loud, clear, and has reached cultural saturation: women are underrepresented at the top of highly competitive professions because they cannot reconcile the amount of time needed for such careers with the time they want to spend raising children. Just acknowledging this point has been a recent watershed moment for feminism, triggered by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial Atlantic article and the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Slaughter and Sandberg offer different views on exactly what’s holding women back, but both agree that much of it has to do with raising children. And, of course, each woman and critic has proposed an array of internal and structural changes to help improve work-life balance for women in highly competitive fields.
Read more:
Inside Higher Ed 

March 10, 2014

Jakarta: Lack of Enough PhDs Among the Indonesians?

Concerned with the lack of enough PhDs in the country, the Education and Culture Ministry encourages the nations researchers and students to pursue more PhDs. What the Indonesian Education and Culture ministry must do is to bring foreign PhDs to train the youngsters and students to embrace higher education leading to PhDs. You need a culture a better academic culture, better infrastructure and promote interests.
University World News: 
Ministry needs more researchers with PhDs

Original Full News:-
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Wed, March 05 2014, 5:15 AM

The Education and Culture Ministry has encouraged the country’s researchers to get doctoral degrees as part of its efforts to improve the quality of higher education.
“We need to increase research in all sectors so that we can improve our education system and the quality of our human resources. We are willing to work together with anyone to achieve this goal [...],” the Education and Culture Minister, Muhammad Nuh, said at a Global Education Dialogue conference in Central Jakarta, on Monday.
The conference, organized by the British Council, aimed to promote collaboration between universities and research institutions in the UK, Australia and Indonesia.

March 06, 2014

PostDoc Unions:- How do Science Magazine and Nature Publications Look at it?.

Nature Publications Group (NPG) headquartered in London and The Science Magazine (AAA) based in Washington DC are the two leading science publishing groups quite well read and world wide known for their reputation to be the number one science publishers. But, it is ironic to notice that they have been on the other side of the fence with respect to PostDoc issues, quite touchy and distanced themselves to support postdoc organizing themselves, rather they openly opposed any such organizations for postdocs except of their own vested interest NPA like organizations.  From the day one Uconn Health Center (UCHC) PostDocs began to fight for their own voice to be heard by the management and the policy makers, most scientific groups and institutions kept their distance with organizing postdocs...! Why?..
.................both these scientific magazines been utterly negative about Unionization of PostDocs. If any of the readers, visitors and advocates have any idea and thoughts on why, I invite you to share it, there are several obvious reasons one can come up with and share here.

They continued their anti-postdoc attitudes in a very subtle manner so that the innocent or naive postdocs and young scientists around the world would not notice their "anti" stand. So that they can keep the naive postdocs in their loop without loosing postdoc readership of these magazines. The subtlety lies in their method of writing about postdocs, what they did is to create two groups of journalists insider their writers roster, one group will write in a postdoc union positive tone, and the other journalists will bash it and try to put the Union effort into trash, eventually they gave up once Unionization's emerged at Uconn........ they found a new love for postdocs by allocating more space and time after the Uconn Health Center's PostDoc unionization, the success of postdocs organization perhaps taught them a lesson, because postdocs put together far more powerful effort than these magazines ever thought?, and thereby the spread of postdoc unions led to some changes in their attitude towards writing about postdocs plight?.

The very mechanisms and the way these two science publishers approached this postdoc issues are pretty perplexing to someone who knows how things work at Nature and Science Magazine. I will provide some instances later, but after bashing the postdoc union for a long time (number of years?), both Nature and Science magazines slowly waking up and are coming to a realization now that it is too late to keep chanting the anti postdoc union mantra but move on writing "As IT IS" about postdoc issues. The following nature article is simply the most obvious display of the change of mind of Natures writers and editors, but science has done it's own part by letting Beryl write freely on PostDocs union without any constrain......!?. Time does bring changes to even the most notorious mindsets! I wrote earlier, no one can stop the Postdoc unionization spreading all over the world let alone in US...Bravo Uconn Health Center PostDocs!.

The Spread of "PostDocs Unions"
..............this is the latest news about postdoc penned by Virginia Gewin, I never heard of this name associated with postdoc issues but it is interesting to note how a genuine story can be told to the world in their narrowed outlook at times with their own little interpretation of what is happening in the world of PostDocs. This is a news publication stemmed from one of the Nature publications,, a division of nature publishing group (NPG). Nature for some reason did not like PostDocs getting unionized,  oh well, why would they and most corporations squirm at the thought of unions?

If you thought that was interesting to know, it gets even more interesting if you know how Science magazine and Alfred P.Sloan Foundation (supposed to have GM connections, they claim in their "about us" page that it is independent and no formal relationship with the General Motors Corporation, well yea, we believe it!!?) together put their heavy hands to create and support to a looser organization known as "National Postdoctoral Association". Though, there might have been some genuine reasons to create a body for PostDocs that represent all the US PostDocs, NPA was one of the least influential of such organization I ever seen, it is like for the heck of it they made an org? that has no vision or any record of helping postdocs, because it was a failure from it's very inception!.

When I was attending their very first meetings during 2003 (infact, the NPA gave me a travel fund to attend and present my views as a member of the PostDoc Union organizers from Uconn Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut. I was not sure about what their stand, and thought that they might be genuine supporter of postdocs cause, thought they are open minded and will have the right perspective about PostDoc Unions. What I noticed during the conference that there was not much interests among organizers and sponsors of this conference about postdoc Unions.The NPA folks at that time (2003) about 90% of them opposed the idea of postdoc union, or the union approach to resolve postdoc issues?. Their argument was an association like NPA will spearhead and fix issues without conflicts with PIs or Universities, whereas unions cannot?. I had attended this conference against my own colleagues advice not to participate, I kept a open mind to explore what is that NPA and the backers upto?. My colleagues who are fighting with the university for salaries, benefits and betterment of postdocs at UCONN thought that I might be sucked into the anti union gang and taken over by the NPA that I might leave the postdoc unionization efforts, they did not realize that I can't be swayed away by these organizations and such people!!, I came out of NPA with clear and strong views that Unionization is the best option for Postdocs and NPA is anti union.

They created this organization to fight the postdoc unions and made their effort to somehow stunt the growth beginning by opposing the first Postdoc union (ours?) and in that process NPA miserably failed. big upset for them?.

To be cont'd,,,,,,,,,,,,,,More to come....!!!

University of Toronoto PostDocs win Unionization Drive- Canada PostDocs Unionize.

CAUT & ACPPU Bulletin: Canada

Interesting news from our neighbors, the Canadian Postdocs are fighting for unionization, UofT is probably one of the first to win labor board certification and forming union, (I might be posting it bit later than the news release, nevertheless it is a good news and to be shared).

Postdocs at Toronto win unionization drive

altkeyword4 Postdoctoral scholars at the University of Toronto have been certified as a trade union by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, after a four-year organizing campaign. In the representation vote held in April, 73 per cent of postdocs voted in favour of unionization.

Postdocs whose salaries are paid by the UofT will be represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3902, and will become members of CAUT through that affiliation. The new bargaining unit will comprise approximately 600 postdocs, and will be the largest unionized group of postdocs in Canada.

Organizing efforts started in February 2009, when CUPE 3902 launched a drive to certify all postdocs at the university. An application was submitted to the OLRB five months later but the university challenged the application, arguing that postdocs were not employees and consequently not eligible for union representation. Although a vote was held, ballots were segregated and sealed while the parties litigated the challenge.
Read the full Article at the above bulletin Link
University of Toronto News:Postdoctoral Fellows vote for trade union certification
June 4, 2013To:       PDAD&C; Professional & Managerial Staff From:   Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity
Re:       Postdoctoral Fellows vote for trade union certification
On April 26, 2013, Postdoctoral Fellows voted on whether they wished to proceed with a CUPE application for trade union certification. Yesterday afternoon, the ballot boxes were opened and the votes tallied. The results were in favour of trade union certification.
CUPE will represent a set of the Postdoctoral Fellows, and we await documentation from the Labour Relations Board confirming the membership of this group.

Featured Post

Univerisity of Washington PostDocs Forming Union- Latest University PostDocs to Unionize!

University of Washington, yet another top notch higher education/research institute known for an impressive history and record setting, rig...

UNION yes!!!

UNION yes!!!
Hello Grads-Say Yes to Union!

Here is the PostDoc Wheel of PRO/UAW, this is like the Wheel of Dhamma of Lord Buddha's that is a symbol of justice and liberation. The latest news from PRO/UAW is very promising to the 5000 or more postdocs in different campuses of University of California System.

The Union for Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of California
PRO/UAW is the Union for over 5,000 Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of California. By signing up a majority of Postdocs, we can exercise our legal rights to bargain with UC. Postdoc representatives we choose will survey us to determine priorities and will then negotiate a contract with UC. We can negotiate for improvements in wages, hours, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment. Postdocs will then have an opportunity to democractically approve the agreement that UC and our bargaining team reach, before it becomes a binding contract.