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...
Future of Research statement on immigration Executive Order, and commitment to future work

Future of Research statement on immigration Executive Order, and commitment to future work

FoR’s mission is to improve the scientific research enterprise. We promote grassroots advocacy amongst junior researchers to discuss the problems they perceive with science, and possible solutions to fix them. We then work on making these solutions a reality, working with and advocating to institutions, scientific societies, federal agencies and senior scientists to effect change – and to speak as a voice of junior researchers. We also seek to empower junior researchers by collecting data about academia and scientific training, and make the data available to help them make rational decisions when figuring out how best to use their passion for science to benefit society.   This mission applies to problems like postdoc salaries and the recent Fair Labor Standards Act fiasco. It also applies to problems like the President’s Executive Order banning nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days, and how we as a scientific community respond to them.   A huge number of junior researchers in the U.S. are not U.S. citizens. Two-thirds of postdoctoral researchers are estimated to be foreign nationals, and the majority of those are estimated to be on temporary visas such as J-1 or H-1B visas. Considering just one of the seven affected countries, there were more than 10,000 Iranian students alone in the U.S. in 2013-14, and 1,364 Iranian scholars at U.S. institutions.   This Executive Order prevents these scientists from re-entering the country if they leave, or entering if they are currently outside. It prevents scientists from traveling to and from conferences.   But these actions not...
The Next Generation Researchers Initiative at the National Academies: New Study Begins

The Next Generation Researchers Initiative at the National Academies: New Study Begins

A new study commenced work at the start of 2017: the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative,” directed by the Board on Higher Education and Workforce at the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine.   The study originated in a bill introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and has been mandated by Congress in both the 2016 Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. The study is aimed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), members of Congress, institutional administrators and faculty, industry, foundations and professional associations: specifically, to the Office of the Director at NIH, the Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.   The project scope is (taken from the National Academies Current Projects page):   “An ad hoc committee overseen by the Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW), in collaboration with COSEMPUP, BOSE, and HMD, will conduct a study that examines the policy and programmatic steps that the nation can undertake to ensure the successful launch and sustainment of careers among the next generation of researchers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, including the full range of health sciences supported by the NIH. The study will examine evidence-based programs and policies that can reduce barriers to, and create more opportunities for, successful transitions to independent research careers. It will also examine factors that influence the stability and sustainability of the early stages of independent research careers. The study will include: • An evaluation of the barriers that...
Guest post: Landing Your First Postdoc Position

Guest post: Landing Your First Postdoc Position

Holly Hamilton was a travel awardee for the Advocating for Science Symposium and Workshop in Boston, 2016:   After completing 23+ years of education, you may come to realize that one thing you do not know is how to land your first job. If after careful consideration and research, e.g.: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2016/08/23/should-you-pursue-postdoc-or-not-essay http://www.nature.com/news/the-future-of-the-postdoc-1.17253 http://cheekyscientist.com/phds-stop-applying-postdocs-start-applying-research-scientist-positions/ http://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/to-postdoc-or-not-to-postdoc http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/11/postdoc-special-kind-hell)   you have decided that a postdoctoral position is your next step, here is your how-to guide to success.     Identify faculty in fields that interest you.   For a postdoc position, job boards are nearly useless. Most professors do not use job boards to advertise positions and are notoriously bad about updating and listing job openings on their lab websites. So unless you know for a fact that this faculty is not currently seeking a postdoc, keep them on your list anyways. After spending several years on your doctoral thesis on one very specific subject, you may feel compelled to stay within that field. However, if you plan to stay on the tenure-track, you should know that many granting agencies (ahem, the NIH) prefer to see a postdoc in a subject that is entirely separate from your graduate training. Why? The NIH believes that the purpose of a postdoc is the train you on a new subject-area and methods. You can explore other fields by attending scientific meetings. And when you are there, network, network, network. You may meet your next boss. At the very least, you can decide whether certain fields are right for you. And since one day you will want to get paid, pay close attention to fields that...
New publications: Using Census Data to See the New Face Of U.S. Science

New publications: Using Census Data to See the New Face Of U.S. Science

One of the key challenges in our work pushing for reform of the academic system and the scientific enterprise is convincing those resistant to change that there is a problem. Part of the issue in dealing with this is the debate about the quality/quantity of data available about the scientific workforce; with almost no tracking of career outcomes for graduate students and postdocs, and the variable degree to postdocs are administered in the U.S. hindering data collection efforts, a key argument against reform is the scarcity of data with which to make informed changes.   To combat this, we have started working more closely with those in science policy and the social sciences who work on these issues, and recently teamed up with labor economists at the U.S. Census Bureau/NIH to look at the U.S. biomedical workforce using census data. We have produced a comprehensive analysis of the historical size, shape and demography of the biomedical workforce in our working paper, “Preparing for the 21st Century Biomedical Research Job Market: Using Census Data to Inform Policy and Career Decision-Making” which is discussed in our comment in Nature out today, “The New Face of Science in the U.S.”. Our hope is this analysis will be of use to policy-makers, and can also help to inform junior and senior scientists alike (particularly in academia) about the realities we currently face.    We used the Integrated Public-Use Microdata Series-USA (IPUMS-USA, University of Minnesota) dataset, which contains data from both the decennial census and the annual American Community Survey (ACS), to look at biomedical scientists in the U.S. (for more details on the methods, see Appendix...
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...