So…You Want To Do A Postdoc? Talk by Executive Director at University of Michigan

So…You Want To Do A Postdoc? Talk by Executive Director at University of Michigan

On April 27 2017, Executive Director Gary McDowell gave a talk to graduate students at the University of Michigan, “So…You Want To Do A Postdoc?” The talk presents some data about the postdoc position to provide context for discussing some barriers junior scientists face, and some advice on things to consider. This talk doesn’t aim to be a comprehensive resource, but rather to provoke thought and reflection, and challenge some basic assumptions people may have about the postdoc position.   The talk is available here on YouTube, and the slide deck is available here at F1000Research in the Future of Research Channel. After downloading the PDF of the slide deck it should be possible to click on the links to access the resources and citations mentioned.   A note on the data presented: the talk includes a very preliminary analysis using publicly-available data from the University of Michigan. It is hard to draw concrete conclusions from the data about salaries, but is used to highlight the difficulties in finding out salary info that potential postdocs may face; to challenge the assumption that all postdocs are paid on a defined scale (usually assumed to be the NIH NRSA stipend scale); and to demonstrate that a wide range of salaries can be found, and that postdocs need to ensure they are advocating for themselves in potential negotiations for positions....
Postdoctoral salaries at Rutgers: an analysis, in the wake of the Fair Labor Standards Act turmoil

Postdoctoral salaries at Rutgers: an analysis, in the wake of the Fair Labor Standards Act turmoil

In the wake of the injunction against updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which affected postdoctoral researchers, a number of institutions initially indicating that they would raise salaries to comply with the new minimum have reversed their plans to do so. One such institution was Rutgers University, in New Jersey. As described in this post and this post from Rutgers Postdoc Association, the institution claimed “the court ruling prohibit[s] implementation at this time of the proposed regulations.” This has not prevented other institutions from raising salaries, including the NIH, which has raised its NRSA postdoc stipend levels despite the injunction against the FLSA updates. Indeed, Rutgers (like many institutions) has previously tied its salary levels for postdocs to the NIH NRSA stipend levels. Postdocs at Rutgers are now being encouraged to sign a petition, asking the institution to resume its plans to raise postdoctoral salaries.   As part of the progression of our FLSA and postdocs resource, we have begun requesting all individual postdoctoral salaries from public institutions, using Freedom of Information requests, to see what postdocs in the U.S. are actually being paid. To help provide data to put the Rutgers Postdoc Association petition into context, here we summarize briefly an analysis of the data we received from Rutgers of all individual postdoctoral salaries as of Dec 1st 2016. The trends and data presented here are consistent amongst a number of datasets we have from various institutions.     There is a four-fold difference between the lowest and highest postdoctoral salaries. There are 542 postdoctoral associates or fellows in the dataset from Rutgers University. The average postdoc salary is $47,620.69. The median postdoc salary...
Guest post: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) injunction and postdocs: one month later

Guest post: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) injunction and postdocs: one month later

This is a guest post by Adriana Bankston, a volunteer with Future of Research and one of the travel award winners for the Advocating for Science symposium in Boston, 2016.  Adriana has been collecting data directly from institutions as part of this effort.   UPDATE: This post has been updated, the first figure was previously showing institutional plans, not the percentage of the postdoctoral population affected by each change as described in the text.     On December 1st 2016, postdocs working more than 40 hours per week were due to see salary raises from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ruling issued by the Department of Labor. At Future of Research, we have been collecting data and documenting the compliance of universities with the FLSA in our online resource. These data were also communicated in a paper published F1000 research in November 2016. To document this compliance periodically, we published subsequent blog posts at one month, 20 days and 10 days prior to the original FLSA implementation date of December 1st. Our data indicated that, at 10 days prior to December 1st, 69% of all postdocs were expected to receive salary raises, 6% of postdocs were to have either salaries raised or hours tracked with no central institutional mandate for either, 3% of postdocs were at institutions focused on allowing hours tracking, and for 22% of postdocs no data had been made publicly available (below).     Complying with the FLSA ruling for such a large percentage of postdocs with 10 days to go was due to have a very positive impact...
Guest post: If They can do it, then…

Guest post: If They can do it, then…

A guest post by Tammy Barnes, Ph.D., postdoc at the University of Michigan and co-chair of the University of Michigan Postdoctoral Association (UMPDA).   I’m a Kentucky gal.  Before I moved to Ann Arbor for work as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, all that the word “buckeye” meant to me was a treat to be savored around this very time of year.  These days, however, I have started bleeding a different shade of blue and detesting a darker hue of red.   Two weeks ago, a federal judge issued a court order to block changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that were intended to take effect on December 1, 2016. These changes would have raised the salary of an individual to $47,476, unless paid overtime.  At the University of Michigan, this act would have positively affected at least 2,400 faculty and staff, including postdoctoral research fellows (often called “postdocs”).  As a result of this recent FLSA court injunction, the University has paused implementing these changes.  In other words, postdocs will remain overworked and underpaid. As one of the 1,400 postdoctoral fellows at the University of Michigan, I have heard countless testimonies from devastated postdocs who have planned for their future based on the FLSA ruling. Therefore, I cannot sit idly knowing that now colleagues will suffer.      My first year as a postdoc, I worked 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week, typical of the position.  I care deeply about my research and am working to make a difference in how we treat obesity and its many co-morbidities, including type 2...
Guest post: Carrot on a Stick: FLSA regulation, postdoc salaries, and the impending confusion

Guest post: Carrot on a Stick: FLSA regulation, postdoc salaries, and the impending confusion

This is a guest post by Dr Sridhar Vedachalam, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Water Institute at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the travel award winners for the Advocating for Science symposium in Boston, 2016.   In May 2016, the Obama administration’s Department of Labor issued a new regulation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that raised the threshold for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 per annum. At that time, it was unclear how the new regulation would impact the academic sector that employs nearly 40,000 postdoctoral researchers (or “postdocs”), the vast majority of whom are paid more than the current threshold, but less than the proposed threshold. Within days, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Labor Secretary Tom Perez wrote an op-ed advocating for  better postdoc salaries, arguing forcefully that not only do postdocs deserve to be paid more as stipulated in the FLSA regulation, but that the research and academic enterprise and the nation stand to benefit from well-compensated researchers.     To comply with the new rules, universities could either raise postdoc salaries, or track their hours to enable overtime payment. Gary McDowell is the Executive Director of the non-profit Future of Research, an organization that works with junior scientists to improve the scientific research enterprise. When the FLSA regulation came out, he expected all institutions to raise salaries. “This is because it is against the spirit of academia – and frankly, in my opinion, practically impossible – to track postdoctoral hours and pay overtime, as postdocs are often expected to be available to...
Webinar with New York Academy of Sciences on the FLSA and postdocs: Tuesday December 13

Webinar with New York Academy of Sciences on the FLSA and postdocs: Tuesday December 13

On Tuesday December 13th, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST, the New York academy of Sciences will host a webinar: “The Changing Landscape for Postdocs in the US: Potential Implications and Systemic Changes to Support Postdocs in the US Beyond the FLSA Ruling” The speakers will be Dr. Kate Sleeth from the National Postdoctoral Association, Sam Castañeda from University of California Berkeley, and Future of Research Executive Director Dr. Gary McDowell. The webinar, when originally scheduled, was intended to discuss the updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act and their effects on postdoctoral researchers after coming into effect on December 1st, but on November 22nd a preliminary injunction against the updates was granted, and now there is a different landscape in which some institutions are raising salaries as planned, and some are not, as we have been laying out in our resource on the FLSA and postdocs....