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NPA ADVANCE Clearinghouse - Postdoctoral Oversight
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About NPA ADVANCE Summit on Gender and the Postdoctorate Presentations and Articles
Data on Postdocs and Gender Clearinghouse on Promising Practices Contact Us

Potential Interventions to Aid in Retaining Postdoc Women

A clearinghouse of promising practices

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Many issues facing postdoc women may be mitigated through the establishment of structured postdoctoral oversight, which has been shown to correlate with increased satisfaction and success of all postdocs [1]. Thus while these changes should have significant benefit for women, they would also benefit postdoc men.

1. Encourage postdocs to develop research plans and individual development plans (IDPs). Some institutions require such things as a condition of re-appointment while others strongly encourage their use either by postdoctoral supervisors or by the individual postdoc. The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has established postdoctoral Core Competencies that could be used as a basis for individual development plans.



2. Letters of appointment, detailing the terms of the postdoctoral appointment, such as verification of funds for the duration of employment, conditions for re-appointment, detailed stipend information, and information on benefits.

Examples (although many institutions have these):


3. Establish an office of postdoctoral affairs (a postdoc office or PDO), which is an administrative entity within a research institution that has oversight and coordination responsibilities for postdoctoral training and research. The office provides a centralized source of information and support for postdoctoral scholars and their faculty supervisors.

Examples (although many institutions have these):


4. Establish other postdoc policies:

  • Establish performance evaluations to provide regular feedback

  • Conduct exit interviews as a means to evaluate the postdoctoral experience provided by the institution and PI and to acquire contact information for tracking the postdoc (some institutions have established exiting postdocs as alumni).

  • Establish limits for total time as a postdoc, although, institutions should consider making special accommodations for postdocs who must take extended family leave.

    • University of California limits the total duration of postdoctoral service to five years, plus one additional year with special permission; see UC Postdoc Contract, Article 2

  • Implement explicit postdoctoral leave policies (sick/vacation)

    Examples (although many institutions have these):
    • Stanford: postdoctoral scholars are eligible for both paid sick and vacation leave

    • University of Chicago: all postdocs are eligible for paid vacation and paid sick leave

  • Establish parental leave policies for postdocs

  • Establish clear grievance policies for postdocs, since more women than men use formal procedures during conflicts.

  • Set a base salary for postdoctoral fellows so better salary can help with productivity and family and childcare costs

    Examples (although many institutions have these):
    • University of Chicago sets a minimum and maximum stipend for postdoctoral fellows (on fellowships) and scholars (employees on grants). The minimum is linked to the National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award (NRSA) stipend scale.

    • J. David Gladstone Institutes postdoc salary is based on national data and NIH stipend guidelines

5. Many additional examples can be found in the NPA's Postdoc Office Toolkit.


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[1] Davis, G. 2005. Doctors without orders. American Scientist 93(3, supplement).


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0819994. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.