The National Postdoc Survey (NPS) was designed from a postdoc perspective, and is based on over 15 years of experience surveying postdocs by the Biological Science Division Postdoctoral Association at the University of Chicago. From this unique data set, we chose questions that highlight essential aspects of the postdoctoral experience, including mentoring, career development, plans, and quality of life.
While increasing numbers of institutions have begun conducting their own internal surveys of postdoctoral involvement, benefits, mentoring, career plans, and work/life balance, the status of postdocs across US institutions remains largely unknown. In this climate postdocs have often been called the “invisible population”, with a striking lack of adequate data even with respect to how many postdoctoral positions exist.
To address this issue, recently we compiled a list of survey questions that we considered most informative regarding the status of postdocs, and created a survey that may be disseminated to all postdocs nationwide. By combining postdoc data across many institutions, the larger statistical power can help document additional issues facing postdocs that might be missed in single institution surveys. Therefore, the NPS will benefit from high postdoc participation nationwide.
The NPS was conceived and developed by postdocs to benefit all members of the postdoctoral community, independent of academic discipline. Specifically, ‘postdoctoral’ encompasses classical postdoc fellows and scholars as well as others beyond doctoral work, including research associate/assistant professors and research professionals (and any others working in scientific training or temporary positions, post-PhD). This survey is designed to facilitate identification of important issues within the postdoctoral community that can subsequently be used to inform and equip those who advocate for policy on behalf of postdocs.