The most important event for Postdoctoral fellows is fast approaching. I am talking about National Postdoc Appreciation of course. This is where postdocs and other researchers celebrate the contribution postdocs make to science, both here in the US and worldwide. The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) aims to advance the U.S. research enterprise by maximising the effectiveness of the research community and enhancing the quality of the postdoctoral experience for all participants. In 2009, the NPA began recognizing the contributions that postdoctoral scholars make to the U.S. scientific enterprise through National Postdoctoral Appreciation Day. This nationwide event subsequently became National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week (NPAW) in 2010, and was officially recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives when H. Res. 1545 was passed on 23 September 2010. I am a member of the NPA Outreach Committee which oversee’s NPAW, it is one of the largest events the NPA is involved with. I am really looking forward to this year’s NPAW. I have been involved at the national level with the NPA but have also been working with the postdoctoral associations across LA to organize a joint event. This week will be the culmination of an awful lot of effort and planning for many people across the country.
The 2nd annual NPAW will be held from 19 to 23 September 2011 at locations across America and Canada. In 2010, there were over 110 separate events held in 30 U.S. states and 1 Canadian province. A large number of events are held in honor of this week. The events range from coffee afternoons, invited speakers through to networking socials between research institutions across large cities here.
So why do we celebrate? Postdoctoral scholars are responsible for the majority of research output in the United States, and drive the entire research enterprise in both academic and industrial settings. It is estimated that there are approximately 89,000 postdoctoral scholars involved in research in the United States (National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2008). Postdoctoral scholars in the United States often work up to 80 hours a week but only earn an average of $38,000 a year. They are motivated by their passion for discovery, the scientific method and their wish to make a positive difference in the world. In order to fulfill these desires they sacrifice financial security and often work in countries far from their home. The future of research depends upon their contributions–and their innovation. It is important for postdocs to support each other and for other researchers to recognize the impact we make.
The events held are usually organized by institutions Postdoctoral Associations (PDA’s) or, if they are fortunate enough to have them, their Postdoctoral Training Office (PTO). If you are unsure if your institution has either a PDA or a PTO it should be possible to find out from either the graduate school or human resources. If there is no PDA it is possible to begin a PDA if a few dedicated and enthusiastic people combine forces. Lots of PDA’s across America have begun from grass roots movements, answering the need for postdocs to get support and training. PTO’s have also been instated by institutions where a strong PDA has lobbied and shown how vital further postdoctoral training and support is. If your institution already has a PDA I encourage everyone to take an interest and get involved. It is an enjoyable experience and also allows the development of “soft skills” which are necessary if a non-academic career is wanted. Many PDA’s do not have a lot of institutional funding however if there are limited funds, or none at all, it is still possible to organize an NPAW event. Hold a coffee hour in a local coffee shop and request that everyone purchases their own food and beverages. Alternatively hold a social and networking event at a bar or restaurant and again everyone can pay their own way. If there are multiple research institutions in the same city or reasonably close by it may be beneficial to pool resources and have one large event where all postdocs may attend (as we do in LA). The size and complexity of the events is unimportant, each event will encourage the support and networking of postdocs while also celebrating our contributions to our institution, our research field, and science in general.
For more information about NPAW, including a schedule of events in 2011, please visit the NPA website at:
I look forward to hearing what everyone is doing to celebrate this important week and I hope that everyone has a wonderful celebration.