Postdoctoral Appointments and Disappointments: A Report of the Committee on a Study of Postdoctorals in Science and Engineering in the United States, Commission on Human Resources, National Research Council

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Detailed findings on a broad range of issues concerning the importance of postdoctorals to the nation's research effort and the value of postdoctoral experience to young scientists and engineers pursuing careers in research are presented. The report, the first comprehensive study of postdoctorals in 10 years, identifies the following issues: (1) the lack of prestige and research independence in postdoctoral appointments for the most talented young people; (2) the mismatch between the important role that postdoctorals play in the nation's research enterprise and the lack of opportunities that they find for subsequent careers in research; (3) the lack of recognized status of postdoctoral appointments in the academic community; and (4) the underutilization of women and members of minority groups in scientific research. Chapters include: an explanation and background of the study; a historical overview of postdoctoral education; changing employment patterns; postdoctoral paths to careers in research; an examination of issues from the perspective of postdoctorals; postdoctoral contribution to research; and findings and recommendations. Four specific recommendations are made: (1) establishment of 250 federally supported, portable postdoctoral fellowships annually, for specially qualified young scientists and engineers with two-year stipends competitive with employment salaries and with some research expense funds to foster innovative research; (2) establishment of 50 additional fellowships a year, similar to those described above, but expressly for minority Ph.D. recipients; (3) establishment, at every university with sizable numbers of nonfaculty research personnel, of a standing committee on postdoctorals and other nonfaculty doctoral research staff to review the situations of members of these groups on its campus and to recommend university policies; and (4) expansion of the National Science Foundation's longitudinal data-gathering effort to include a survey specially focused on career decisions of young scientists and engineers. Numerous figures, tables and appendices are provided. (LC)

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