Calling all Canadian postdoctoral fellows...
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
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.