Many stories have been told about postdoctoral fellows prolonging their stays in temporary positions in order to assemble that last publication thought to be necessary to compete for a faculty position. Also, popular in recent years have been stories of disappointed post-docs who were unable to find permanent academic research jobs. Despite these stories, no recent comprehensive study on postdoctoral appointees and their experiences is available, given that the last national post-doc survey was published nearly 20 years ago.
Rectifying this situation was one of the goals of the Ph.D.s—Ten Years Later study, which collected data on the career paths of doctoral recipients in biochemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, English, mathematics, and political science including the role of postdoctoral appointments.
Addressing matters related to the educational and training environment of post-docs is a task complicated by the fact that few universities have a central authority overseeing conditions of postdoctoral appointments, such as duration, salary structure, benefits, and placement services. Although in recent years a number of universities paid more attention to post-docs, still few can provide a truly accurate count of the number of postdoctoral fellows on campus. These deficiencies exist due to the lack of a consistent definition among hiring units of what constitutes a post-doc, and because post-docs are compensated and/or recorded in several different ways—some are paid as university employees; some are paid through an entirely separate stipend account; and others are paid directly by foundations and foreign governments.
Download: Complete Report
Other publications related
Nerad, M & Cerny, J. (2002). Postdoctoral Appointments and Employment: Patterns of Science and Engineering Doctoral Recipients Ten-plus Years after Ph.D. Completion, Communicator, VXXXV (7), August-September 2002. Download: Postdoctoral-appointments
Nerad, M. & Cerny, J. (1999). Postdoctoral Patterns, Career Advancement, and Problems. Science, Vol. 285, pp. 1533-1535. Download: Postdoctoral Patterns