The Plight of Postdocs

Michael Cowan Many consider postdoctoral fellows the sinew of American science; they enable forward motion and new discoveries as science flexes its muscle. "Since the 1960s, the performance of research in the United States has relied more and more on graduate scientists and engineers who have recently earned a Ph.D. and are pursuing further education and training," asserts a recently published report on postdocs by the Committee on Science Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National

Harvey Black
Jan 21, 2001


Michael Cowan
Many consider postdoctoral fellows the sinew of American science; they enable forward motion and new discoveries as science flexes its muscle. "Since the 1960s, the performance of research in the United States has relied more and more on graduate scientists and engineers who have recently earned a Ph.D. and are pursuing further education and training," asserts a recently published report on postdocs by the Committee on Science Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences.1 Michael Cowan, recently appointed associate dean for postdoctoral affairs at Stanford University puts it more directly: "They are producing the results that really drive the discovery of new knowledge. They're incredibly important to the nation."

Postdocs do not, how- ever, always feel their treatment matches the weight of those words. According to Pauline Wong, a postdoc in the department of biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins School of...

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