Postdoctoral scholars are responsible for the majority of research output in the United States and drive the entire research enterprise in both academic and industrial settings.
In 2008, the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators report estimated that there were about 89,000 postdoctoral scholars involved in research in the United States. In addition, although postdoctoral scholars often work up to 80 hours a week, they earn an average of only $38,000 a year.
Postdocs are motivated by their passion for discovery and the scientific method and their wish to make a positive difference in the world. To fulfill these desires, many sacrifice financial security and often work in countries far from their families.
The National Postdoctoral Association
The primary aim of the association is to advance the U.S. research enterprise by maximizing the effectiveness of the research community and enhancing the quality of the postdoctoral experience for all participants. The nonprofit was founded in 2003 by seven members at institutions throughout the U.S. Now headquartered in Washington, D.C., the NPA serves more than 1,500 members and more than 180 institutions that employ 40,000-plus postdoctoral scholars.
Throughout the years, the NPA continually has advocated for better conditions for postdocs, playing a prominent role in how the NIH and NSF have defined the position; advocating for the NIH Pathways to Independence award, which substantially helps postdocs transition to tenure-track faculty positions; and asking the NIH and NSF to expand their data collection regarding postdocs supported by research grants and to ensure that postdocs are properly mentored and trained. In September 2010, the appreciation week was recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives.