New Study Shows Positive Trends and Continued Challenges for University Postdocs

April 30, 2021


Media Contact: 
Jason Papagan
Manager of Communications
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society 


Research Triangle Park, N.C. – A new report from the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) published in partnership with Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society highlights the growing institutional support of postdoctoral fellows and identifies gaps to be addressed. Growing Progress in Supporting Postdocs: 2021 National Postdoctoral Association Institutional Policy Report was published with support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

The report analyzes data collected from 79 institutions across the United States on the impact of certain important and measurable factors, such as the number of postdocs at an institution, on postdoc policies, benefits, and training programs. The latest data show positive trends when compared to the last edition, such as the continued creation of new postdoc offices at research facilities, a small increase in postdoc office budgets, and a few more institutions offering family friendly benefits to postdocs, to name a few.

“We are headed in the right direction in many areas of the postdoctoral experience,” noted Tom Kimbis, executive director and chief executive officer of the NPA. “However, there are clear areas demanding improvement illustrated in this report that should be considered by all institutions supporting postdocs.” 

The report’s key recommendations to institutions that hire postdocs are to increase the staff and budget for postdoc offices, provide higher compensation and equality in postdoc benefits, implement a uniform postdoc onboarding process, offer an intentional training program, build a diverse postdoc population, and implement better career tracking of postdocs after they leave their training institutions.

Growing Progress in Supporting Postdocs is being released as a supplement to the May-June 2021 issue of Sigma Xi’s publication, American Scientist, and is also available online at the Sigma Xi and NPA websites. Comprehensive data from the full report is also available to NPA members only on the NPA website. The report is the third in a series of triennial reports on this topic. It is an update to the 2014 and 2017 reports.

“This report provides a window into the modern-day postdoc experience,” said Jamie Vernon, Sigma Xi executive director and chief executive officer. “It’s gratifying to see that advocacy on behalf of these key researchers is working, but it’s clear that institutions still have work to do to create fair and equitable postdoc opportunities.”

This is the first look at longitudinal data covering a span of six years and originating with the last three NPA Institutional Policy Reports and includes identification of areas of strength and weakness in institutional progress over that time. The institutions covered in this year’s iteration represent 36,000 of the country’s approximately 70,000 postdocs. Work is underway to begin the next round of data collection starting in 2022.  

About National Postdoctoral Association:

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational association headquartered in Rockville, MD. Founded in 2003, the NPA envisions an inclusive community where all postdocs are empowered, valued, recognized, and supported in their current and future endeavors. The NPA serves the entire postdoctoral community, including its 18,000 individual and 215 organizational members.

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More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety