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postdoc disparity

PJ Schlax pjschlax at JHUVMS.HCF.JHU.EDU
Tue Aug 12 11:10:10 EST 1997

Science's next wave has an interesting discussion (moderated)
about postdoc woes.  Basically, it is turning into a session complaining
about being underpaid and overworked.  A call for unionizing is being
made, and I am opposed to it, but wonder what other people think.

I posted a letter to it about disparity in the way postdocs funded by
the NIH (in different ways) can be treated. the main points are posted
here as well- 

If one receives an individual fellowship, one makes a fixed amount
(18-19 K year one, 20-21K year 2 and 25-26K year three) that
cannot be supplemented by any federal monies.  Additionally, there are
limited maternity benefits (30 calendar days leave) and one's own
insurance can be paid out of the $3k institutional allowance.

If one is funded by  one's mentor through their RO1 grant, it seems like
nothing is really specified- they can pay more (at least) than the NRSA
individual award (why accept if your mentor will pay you more?) or less,
and I don't think there are any provisions for health insurance or
sick/maternity leave- it is up to the institution to have those rules in
place (or not).

To make things even more fun, if you work as a postdoc at the NIH, I
think you can make significantly more than the NRSA salary (one person I
know makes close to $30K in their first year)- I don't know about other

It seems absurd that one funding agency allows this disparity to exist.
My friend at the NIH says people turn down the NRSA if they are awarded
it! I don't know how often cost of living increases get factored into
NIH salaries (on grants or at the NIH itself). 
A few questions-

1) Are there guidelines in place restricting what can be paid to a
postdoc off an RO1?  If a PI asks for $25K for a postdoc salary, is it
normally awarded?

2) Doesn't it sseem reasonable that a 'prestigious' fellowship
should reward an awardee at least as well as the benefits given to
people working at the NIH at the same level?   If the award doesn't pay
enough to attract people to the position at the NIH, it probably isn't
enough to live on (Bethesda MD can't be that much more expensive than
every other place in the country...)

3) Why can't advisors supplement individual awards with their grant

Please reply to the group- and let me know if I'm the only one who
thinks that this is strange and potentially very unfair. 

Paula Schlax

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