NIH’s biomedical research workforce initiatives, which implement Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) recommendations, include improving graduate student and postdoctoral research training through a number of measures, including increasing postdoctoral stipends to reflect years of training, and considering policies on benefits. In February we announced increases to NRSA stipend levels in the NIH Guide. Today, I’d like to talk about how we are proceeding with evaluating postdoc benefits.
To build a complete picture of the availability of postdoc benefits, we need to collect new data. We’ve started that process by developing and sending a survey to signing officials at institutions that supported postdocs in fiscal year 2013 and that are members of the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA). The responses to the survey will help us understand the benefits offered to postdocs at these organizations. While the letter has been sent specifically to signing officials, we expect research institutions to complete the survey in the manner best suited to their programs, which might include delegation to specific organizational components like a postdoc association or a central training office.
You can find a copy of the letter we sent to institutions here on the Biomedical Research Workforce site, and we’ll publish a summary of results when the information-gathering and analysis are completed.
As noted in the ACD report, there is little reliable information about the amounts and types of benefits received by postdocs, but anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a wide variation among institutions and across funding mechanisms. We believe the new survey and efforts to collect more reliable data on the number of NIH-supported postdocs and the length of their training will improve our understanding of postdoc compensation, and help NIH take actions to better support these researchers.