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The Tough Postdoctoral Years

Two reports, one from the US and the other from the UK, highlight the pressure that postdocs face, says a Nature editorial.

In a report from Boston-based researchers, US postdocs say they are "invisible" and "primarily treated as cheap labor rather than as participants in a well-rounded training program." Meanwhile, a third of researchers in the UK under the age of 35 say there's temptation or pressure to compromise on research integrity or standards, according to a Nuffield Council on Bioethics report.

Research, Nature adds, can be a brutal career path, especially in academia.

"Perhaps the most telling line comes from the UK report: of 100 science PhD graduates, about 30 will go on to postdoc research, but just four will secure permanent academic posts with a significant research component," it adds. "There are too many scientists chasing too few academic careers."

And yet, that path still seems to be the default one that advisors assume their trainees will follow. The solutions, Nature says, "demand a change in culture"

"Institutions that offer [postdoc positions] must be transparent about future prospects and help postdocs to develop transferable skills to ease their transition into the broader job market," the editorial argues.


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