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The Black Hole

Quarterly summary: Postdocs in Canada, your voice is needed!


Before I get into recapping the last few months of activity on the blog, I want to make a plea to all Canadian postdocs to fill out the 2016 survey of Canadian Postdoctoral Fellows. Last time (in 2013), the survey made big waves capturing the views of nearly 2,000 Canadian postdoctoral fellows. Major findings included that over 50% of postdocs in Canada are not Canadian and that they wanted employee status rather than being considered trainees. An excellent summary statement was included in that survey:

“The average Canadian postdoc is 34 years old.  They are male (53%) and female (46%). Most are married or in a common-law relationship (69%). One-third (35%) have dependent children. Over 50% of Canadian postdocs are landed immigrants or on work visas. In short, postdocs are adults: in the middle of their lives, but at the beginning of their careers.”

One of the major themes of our blog and forthcoming book is the major demographic shift in the people undertaking scientific research across the world. However, many of these lamentations are based on snapshots and anecdotes – there is a dearth of longitudinal data.

Better decisions require better data and groups across the country can use these survey data to improve the state of the training environment for Canadian postdoctoral fellows, but only if you let them know how bad the situation is.

So, please, take 20 minutes to fill it out and make your voice heard. The deadline is April 29, 2016.

If you aren’t sure about whether you are considered a postdoctoral fellow, fill out the survey anyway since this is actually one of the biggest problems in Canada – there is no consistent status for people with PhDs. Data can always be filtered for specific classes of postdocs, but it cannot imagine whose voice might be left unheard.

Also this year, CAPS-ACSP has managed to find extra resources through the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to hire someone to help analyze and compile the survey data into a coherent document – if you think you might be interested in applying for this position, send an email including a cover letter, brief CV and writing sample to [email protected] (deadline: May 15, 2016).

We’ll be writing a series of posts around the data when it emerges later in the year and hope that we’ll be reporting on a larger, more comprehensive story that can help map positive change for current and future Canadian postdoctoral fellows.

For now, a quick recap of what Jonathan and I have been writing recently:

Jonathan continued his series on preparing for and undertaking the academic job hunt:

I chipped in on that discussion with a slightly different approach to getting my own job (The academic job hunt – keep it simple) and also contributed the following:

The parental leave post went viral (by our standards at least!) and underscores an issue that challenges the way ‘the system’ handles family life and science. This is a complicated issue in the context of the survey as well since many early career researchers find themselves in highly unstable employment (or trainee!) situations when they are making important decisions about having children. This and many other issues will be tackled in the book that we hope will lay down simple plans for how to save science by saving scientists.

If you have an issue that you feel strongly about, get in touch. An email to us is easy and a guest blog post isn’t much harder. Join the conversation.

David Kent
Dr. David Kent is a principal investigator at the York Biomedical Research Institute at the University of York, York, UK. He trained at Western University and the University of British Columbia before spending 10 years at the University of Cambridge, UK where he ran his research group until 2019. His laboratory's research focuses on the fundamental biology of blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. David has a long history of public engagement and outreach including the creation of The Black Hole in 2009.
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  1. Saeed / April 11, 2016 at 17:05

    Thanks David!

Click to fill out a quick survey