As professors struggle to recruit postdocs, calls for structural change in academia intensify

Katie Langin in Science:

When Jennifer Mason posted an ad for a postdoc position in early March, she was eager to have someone on board by April or May to tackle recently funded projects. Instead, it took 2 months to receive a single application. Since then, only two more have come in. “Money is just sitting there that isn’t being used … and there’s these projects that aren’t moving anywhere as a result,” says Mason, an assistant professor in genetics at Clemson University.

She isn’t alone. On social media, many U.S. academics have been pointing to widespread challenges in recruiting postdocs. An investigation by Science Careers bears this out: More than 100 U.S.-based researchers were contacted because they advertised for postdoc positions this year on scientific society job boards, and of the 37 who responded with information about their hiring experiences, three-quarters reported challenges recruiting. “This year is hard for me to wrestle with: … we received absolutely zero response from our posting,” one wrote. “The number of applications is 10 times less than 2018-2019,” another wrote.

Those experiencing challenges span STEM fields, including biomedicine, chemistry, environmental science, anthropology, physics, and computer science. Many reported not only a drop in the total number of applications, but also in the quality of applications. “It took two rounds of advertising my current postdoc opening—once in October 2021 and again in April 2022—to find a competitive applicant,” one researcher wrote by email. “I received 28 applications in all, which in the past I could have expected within a month of the first announcement.” The number coming from applicants who are currently based at U.S. institutions has also declined, according to many respondents.

More here.