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Canadian Postdoc Survey

Caren Helbing chelbing at acs.ucalgary.ca
Tue Mar 5 11:34:35 EST 1996

Calling all Canadian postdoctoral fellows...

National Postdoc Survey

	We invite you to participate in the first national study of Canadian
postdoctoral fellows.  The purpose of this study is to identify members 
of the Canadian postdoctoral community and address issues that are 
important to this group.  Although postdoctoral fellows represent a major 
product of a university, we do not have an accurate estimate of their 
number, their fields of interest or career fates (1, 2, 3, 4).  This is 
in marked contrast to medical residents for whom demographic and career 
data exists (5).  Indeed, it is surprising to learn that while Canada 
prides itself on the calibre of its researchers, it has so little 
information about those that are being trained to carry on our tradition
of excellence.  With the generous support of several Canadian granting 
agencies (see below) and the University of Calgary, we are currently 
launching a national study of postdoctoral fellows training in Canada and 
Canadian postdoctoral fellows training abroad.  Through this national 
study we will obtain valid demographic data on this group, identify 
sources of stress and determine the methods most often used to cope with 
this stress.  We will also be able to characterize the training 
experience obtained by Canadian postdoctoral fellows and examine their 
outlook for future job prospects.  We believe that the information 
obtained in our national study will be of great interest to all
levels of the academic hierarchy, including undergraduate and graduate 
students who are contemplating an academic career, as well as faculty and 
academic administrators.  Our findings will also be of interest to 
granting agencies, industry, and government.  Upon completion of the 
study, our results will be published in leading journals.
	To establish our credibility for this effort, we performed a 
pilot study aimed at obtaining basic demographic data and measuring the 
perceived stress levels of postdoctoral fellows at the University of 
Calgary.  Within the limitations of our small sample size (n = 46), the 
highlights of our results were that female fellows constitute 
approximately 30% of the postdoctoral pool, that most
postdoctoral fellows are in their early thirties and approximately 50% have
families.  We also found that stress and dissatisfaction among postdoctoral
fellows increases markedly during later years of training.  Our most telling
finding was that only 15% of postdoctoral fellows surveyed would 
recommend their career path to others without reservation.
	One of the most challenging parts of such a study is simply 
identifying all eligible postdoctoral fellows.  To address this 
difficulty, we have initiated a multifaceted search for postdoctoral 
fellows training in Canada and Canadian postdoctoral fellows training 
abroad by a letter campaign to Canadian universities and granting 
agencies, computer news group postings, and an article
in the Canadian Federation for Biological Sciences newsletter.  Many of these
sources have readily supplied us with lists of postdoctoral fellows and our
compiled database exceeds one thousand names.  If you are currently 
undertaking postdoctoral training in Canada or are a Canadian citizen or 
landed immigrant of Canada who is obtaining postdoctoral training abroad 
and would like to be included in the study, please register in the 
database and/or request a questionnaire by contacting us by email (see 
below).  Each member of the database will receive a package containing a 
letter of invitation to participate in the study, a questionnaire, and a 
database registration card.  We wish to stress that participation in the 
study is voluntary and confidential. Therefore, if you receive a package 
but do not wish to participate in the study or be included in the 
database, please return the appropriately completed registration card.  
	We look forward to hearing from you.  Many thanks in advance for your

Cheryl Wellington, Ph.D.
	cwelling at acs.ucalgary.ca
Caren Helbing, Ph.D.
	chelbing at acs.ucalgary.ca
		Department of Medical Biochemistry
		University of Calgary
		3330 Hospital Drive, NW
		Calgary, Alberta, Canada
		T2N 2N1

We gratefully acknowlege the support of the Medical Research Council of 
Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, 
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Alberta 
Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, and the University of Calgary.

1.  Holden, C., A.S. Moffat, J. Kaiser, P. Selvin,  and K.C. Fox.  
Careers '95: The future of the Ph.D. Science 270: 121 - 146, 1995.
2.  Doering, D. S.  Degrees of Freedom, Science 269: 903, 1995
3.  Marshall, E.  Fewer young researchers are seeking NIH grants.  
Science 265:314, 1994
4.  Goodbye to academia, Nature 370: 235 - 236, 1994.
5.  Canadian Post-M.D. Education Registry (CAPER) publishes an annual 
census of Post-M.D. trainees.

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