Excerpts from the Replies

A. Benefits:

“We…offer postdocs the full range of fringe benefits, such as health care, which are also offered to staff and faculty. The only exception is that they're not required to pay into the State's educational retirement plan…”

“…we have now established that they receive retirement benefits and health insurance, which was not demanded before by the university.”

“I am frankly surprised that there are institutions that don't offer proper health benefits and maternity leave. Such things should be considered mandatory costs of doing business and institutions that can't provide them shouldn't be hiring.”

“Our fellows have direct access to the University BlueCross/BlueShield Preferred Care Program that covers all faculty and staff.”

“…postdocs have the same health benefits as faculty.”

“Maternity leave: same as faculty.”

“Post docs are considered full time staff employees of the University with full access to benefits… but there are no provisions for paid maternity leave.”

“With regards to health benefits, we have no set policy on campus or in the department… I talked to my program officer at NSF, and she said that there is no policy at any of the agencies… this is an issue that needs to be taken up at the national level.”

B. Combating Isolation:

“…a "handbook" for new postdocs that includes discussions of things like maternity leave policies; an annual social event hosted by the chair; and a relocation guide for incoming postdocs.”

“Our fellows have offices next door to other faculty and student members of the research group.”

“We invite post-docs to our once a year faculty party.”

“Qualified post docs may be appointed as Research Assistant Professors. As such they are entitled to participate in faculty meetings.  Their concerns are more likely to be heard.”

“We encourage our post-docs to give seminars in the department.”

“…we have a very active seminar series attended by our graduate students and several post-docs.”

“We recently had a departmental research retreat. Postdocs were…invited, and we explicitly reserved slots for postdoc talks.”

C. Career Development

“Work to increase the number of tenure-track faculty positions! Everything else is just window-dressing.”

“[Postdocs should] interview with current post-docs at the place you have been offered a job.  Also look at where previous post-docs have gone and the number of publications (and or their impact) they were able to produce.”

“A postdoc in theoretical physics may need some guidance and should be welcomed as a collaborator if he or she wants to work on a joint project, but the postdoc is an independent scientist who ought to be able to choose his or her research topics and methods.”

“… in writing grant applications, PIs are obliged to state in fairly specific terms what post docs will do… and aren't really at liberty to let them do what they want.”

“Senior people…have a professional obligation to mentor their junior colleagues and to help them with career development.”

“Mentoring is encouraged.”

“Our fellows actively work with several faculty on multiple projects in their research area.”

“Provide a faculty mentor to each postdoc who is not the research supervisor. This faculty mentor would meet once every 1-2 months with the postdoc and listen. S/he would focus on the postdoc's professional development and not on the needs of the supervisor's research program. If it turns out that there appears to be a conflict this mentor could have a friendly "chat" with his/her colleague, the postdoc's research supervisor.”

D. Postdocs and Travel:

“All decisions regarding postdoc travel and duties are left to the discretion of the individual faculty members.”

“I do not…think that grants are obliged to provide travel funds to their postdocs. Rather this is something that prospective hires should be counseled to ask about before accepting an offer.”

“There is some travel money available through the university.”

E. Postdocs and Teaching:

"Our department offers postdocs with aspirations for academic positions an opportunity to teach... Several postdocs who have participated in this way have eventually found tenure track academic positions and have told us of the value of having this early teaching experience."

“Postdocs who are qualified to teach are used to fill in for faculty when the faculty are out of town.”

“…the department gives first priority to our post docs for excess teaching assignments.”

“…many post-docs are looking for some type of real teaching experience... we make available teaching positions for post-docs - either in intro physics or at the advanced graduate level.”

“We try to broaden their opportunities by having them teach classes, so they have a chance to integrate more into the dept.”