The US National Institutes of Health's Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey writes at her Rock Talk blog that she has been getting a number of questions about what activities make up "official duties" for postdocs — most particularly whether they including going to or presenting at a conference. "I think everyone would agree that attending a professional meeting and presenting research results is a critical part of a postdoc's expected responsibilities," she says.
Indeed, she adds that postdocs supported by research grants can attend meetings as part of their duties. "The guidelines allow compensation for all activities that contribute to and are intimately related to the work supported by the award. … Delivering special lectures, writing reports and articles, participating in seminars, consulting with colleagues and graduate students, and attending meetings and conferences can be supported according to these guidelines," she says. Similar activities are allowed for postdocs supported by National Research Service Award stipends, Rockey adds.