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047: How many postdocs are there? The answer may surprise you!

It sounds like a simple question: how many postdocs are there in the United States?

Maybe you want to know because you ARE a postdoc and you’re thinking about what kind of competition you’ll face for a faculty position.

Maybe you’re a program manager at the NIH, and you’d like to direct extra funding toward STEM training and postdoctoral positions.

Or maybe you’re a university administrator, and you’re wondering how the new labor laws will affect salaries this year.

Well, too bad. No one actually knows how many postdocs there are.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bigleaftropicals/8539517000
Count von Count auditioned for a role in the Twilight movies, but was passed over in favor of actors with less emotional range.

We Love to Count Things! Ah ah ah!

And that’s the surprising answer.  In an era where we collect data on everything from the number of steps you took today to the composition of soil on Mars, no one seems to know how many postdocs we’re training at any given moment.

Of course, there are ‘estimates’, but they range from under 40,000 to over 90,000!  How is it possible that we don’t have a better understanding of our scientific workforce and training outcomes?

Participants in the Future of Research Symposium think we can do better.  They’ve called for better accounting and transparency for postdoctoral positions in universities across the country.  Only by tracking postdoc training and career outcomes can we improve the process for all scientists.

When Life Gives You Lemons

Also this week, we clear out the back of the fridge with a Shock Top Lemon Shandy.  The label proudly proclaims that it contains ‘natural lemonade flavor.’  Not lemon.  Not even lemon flavor.  But ‘lemonade flavor.’

Uhhhhhm…. No thanks.

 

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