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NPA Responds to NAS' The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited
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December 17, 2014

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) commends the National Academy of Sciences Committee to Review the State of Postdoctoral Experience in Scientists and Engineers for their recent report The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited (2014). The recommendations are consistent with the NPA’s Recommendations for Postdoctoral Policies and Practices, and our mission to improve the postdoctoral experience by supporting enhanced research training and a culture of enhanced professional growth to benefit scholarship and innovation.

The NPA believes that the postdoctoral experience should be a temporary, defined period of mentored training, consistent with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) definition of (a maximum of) five years in duration. Our 2014 NPA Institutional Policy Report found that 63 percent of our postdoc offices have a five-year maximum term length.

The NPA also advocates that compensation and benefits should adequately reflect the years of education, experience, and value postdocs bring to the research enterprise. Therefore, we support the recommendation that the initial Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Research Award (NRSA) stipend should be raised to at least $50,000 and adjusted higher for local cost of living, disciplinary norms and institutional or sector salaries.

At the NPA, we believe that mentoring is an essential component of postdoctoral training. We provide many mentoring resources on our website, and encourage postdocs to seek multiple mentors to guide and prepare them for multiple career trajectories.

To understand the present state of postdoctoral training, the recommendation on the importance of collecting data on postdoc demographics, career aspirations, and career outcomes is critical. These data will inform the tailoring of programs to better prepare trainees for the actual careers they will pursue, and provide better career information to graduate students. We applaud the recommendation to collect outcomes data for non-academic careers, as well as for non U.S.-trained postdoctoral researchers (who comprise 60 percent of the postdoc population in our membership).

Since its founding in 2003, the NPA has been a key stakeholder in driving the considerable improvements in the postdoctoral landscape. These accomplishments include increases in the number of postdoctoral offices nationwide (from 25 in 2003 to 167 today), enhanced adoption of the NPA Recommendations for Postdoctoral Policies and Practices, utilization of individual development plans, and increased stipends. Successful implementation of the recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences’ report will take the coordinated effort of funding agencies, institutions, professional societies and associations, and postdoctoral researchers. The NPA is hopeful that this important report will encourage and build upon the previous improvements to the postdoctoral experience, and looks forward to partnering with key stakeholders to enhance the postdoctoral experience.

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