Topic: Postdoctoral training
by Megan Mayerle—on behalf of P-value
University of California San Francisco
The postdoc is intended as a time for a young scientist to increase her independence, ideally by executing a research project related to but distinct from the main research program of her advisor. In doing so, she creates a unique research program to continue as an independent investigator. This model is no longer the case for many postdocs. A contributing factor is a lack of institutional support for postdoc research distinct from the advisor’s research. P(ostdoc)*Value is a grassroots think tank of concerned UCSF postdocs seeking creative and actionable solutions to the unique challenges that today’s postdocs face. Our goal is to both challenge and collaborate with administration officials at the local, regional, and national level to improve our training experience and lead in reforming biomedical training in the US.
To this end, P-value surveyed a group of postdocs in the Bay Area that had gained independent research support through either the UCSF Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research (PBBR) or the UC Berkeley Miller Fellows. The PBBR fellowship supports 8-14 fellows on an annual $15K research grant, while 10 new Miller Fellows annually receive $65K salary and benefits, $10K research funds, along with community support in the form of structured interactions with faculty and career development workshops for 3 years. Survey results indicate recipients of these fellowships have a higher chance of obtaining a tenure track position as compared to other UCSF alumni, with approximately 50% of PBBR fellows and 70% of Miller fellows receiving positions as compared to 25% of all UCSF postdocs. Furthermore, the vast majority of these fellows credit their fellowship with helping them obtain their top career choice. Benefits of these fellowships are not only monetary. 91% of fellows reported that their fellowship was very important for establishing independence during their postdoc. 96% credit the fellowship with improving their morale during their postdoc, and 75% indicated it was critical for their productivity. Given the benefits independent funding provided for these postdocs, p-value recommends the following: 1) Increase the number of Institutional and National fellowships for postdocs. 2) Increase the training related budget for postdoctoral fellows, and ensure that this money goes toward research, not overhead or health care. 3) Provide community support programs similar to those provided by the PBBR and Miller Fellowships such that more postdocs experience the benefits of such programs.