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Academic ecosystems critical to sustainable postdoctoral workforce

April 13, 2020

Postdoctoral scholars comprise an invaluable component of global research communities, yet their support and training systems are poorly aligned with today’s job market. These issues are widely discussed in academia and in lengthy reports and op-eds; still, there is glaring lack of succinct, data-driven publications that provide clear and feasible corrective steps.

Graphic showing key elements of research by postodctoral team
The authors analyzed published datasets (above) to develop feasible aims for aligning postdoc careers with job markets and support sustainable workplace productivity. Graphic courtesy of the authors.

To address this deficiency, a team of 13 current and former Michigan State University postdoctoral researchers affiliated with the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Program co-authored a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution that outlines strategic reforms to better support the world’s growing postdoctoral workforce.

“The project sprang from several informal meetings among the study co-authors during overlapping postdoctoral appointments,” said Eben Gering, a former MSU postdoctoral researcher who is now an assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University and senior author of the paper. “From there, it continued to gain momentum as interest grew around the issue.” 

Following intensive analyses of relevant literature, data and personal experiences, the group identified five overarching goals:

  • Align career development with job markets
  • Sustain wellness and work-life balance
  • Enhance mentoring
  • Develop administrative support
  • Increase broader support.

To achieve these goals, the group recommended progressive changes that target levels of organization ranging from principle investigators to broader communities that fund and support postdoctoral positions.

Read more at NatSci and MSU Today.