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Re. postdocs ...

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Fri Aug 15 14:33:44 EST 1997

> Karen Allendoerfer (ravena at cco.caltech.edu) writes
> Frankly, I think that more grant space and resources should be devoted
> to
> technicians and less to graduate students and postdocs. I think there
> should be a kind of "permanent" job in academic and/or research
> science
> that isn't P.I. Some people just like to do science, like working for
> a
> mentor they respect, and don't want to have to deal with all the
> classroom
> teaching, grant writing, committees, travelling, giving talks, etc.
> etc.
> ....

yes, there should be a place for people who don't want to run the
wholeshebang!  rather than the up-or-out mentality we have currently.

> When I write what I write above, I don't mean that fewer resources
> should
> be allocated to individual graduate students and postdocs (I agree
> with
> everyone who says we're underpaid, given how long it takes), I mean
> that
> in any given lab, there should be fewer people "in training" and more
> people who are already trained and working at a permanent job.
> And those people should be respected and paid what they're worth
> (including
> benefits, etc.)

How to effect these changes?  For those of us in the transition from our
scientific culture to our uncertain new one, it's hard.  As long as I am
judged by
the productivity and size of my lab, I have a strong incentive to keep
People who do, of course, contribute to the "disposable student/postdoc"

attitude.  That has to change.

I'd be happy with a small team of less transient, and thus, better paid,
in my group (if I could only afford it).   The frustrating thing to me
as a
PI is that I have a great group (y'hear that, guys? ;-)  that works
together well,
but they will all of course move on with their lives and their careers. 
it's appropriate that students do so, sometimes I wish I could keep my
postdocs, and pay them what they are worth, if they wanted to stay.
I wouldn't have a problem if I train only a few really top
students and run a small group, if that were feasible and accepted.

I don't think that scenario will happen.  I think that science will
to fractionate into the few big guys, and a lot of "postdocs" in their
labs who are really untitled junior faculty equivalents who do
work and supervise students and are underpaid for it.  But as I said,
feeling cynical today.

Incidentally, for those who wonder...I look for postdocs who come from
different backgrounds and are not in the same field.  They bring
skills to my group, and I know they will learn new things and take
them away to be broader, better scientists.  I changed fields and
(and countries) as a postdoc.  I may have published less, but I learned
more and that has paid off in many intangible ways.  Yes, postdocs
are still about training.  To some of us, anyway.

-- sometimes a voice in the wilderness,
DON'T REPLY to the email address in header.
It's an anti-spam.  Use the one below.
S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
"These are my opinions.  I don't have
time to speak for anyone else."

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