What we call postdocs matters, scientists and policy experts say

In an opinion piece published Oct. 24 in the journal eLife, eight scientists and science policy experts from ASBMB make the case for standardizing how postdoctoral researchers are categorized by human resources offices and provide a framework that willing institutions can follow.

The authors argue that the widespread use of inconsistent titles for researchers who’ve earned Ph.D.s and hold temporary research positions, primarily at academic institutions, makes tracking their progress difficult and counting them simply impossible. What’s more, the authors say, different designations come with different salaries, benefits and professional-development opportunities, leading to disparities in treatment of similarly ranked employees both within and across institutions.

“Postdocs are a key component of our biomedical research workforce,” says Wesley I. Sundquist, co-chair of the biochemistry department at the University of Utah and emeritus chair of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee. “We owe it to them, and also to the overall health of our enterprise, to ensure that they are treated equitably and professionally, receive great scientific training and have strong career development opportunities. Standardizing postdoc titles and positions is one important step along that path.”

Read the rest of this article in the November issue of ASBMB Today.