April 13, 2011

Faculty Senate Proposes Adding Two Years to Postdoc Posts

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The Faculty Senate considered a motion Wednesday to extend the time that post doctorates — research associates who already have a Ph.D. — have to complete their research projects from three years to five years on Cornell’s Ithaca campus.Vice Provost for Research Prof. Andrew Bass, neurobiology and behavior, sponsored the resolution to increase the current maximum length of the post doctorate period by two years. Arguing that a post doctorate of three years “is almost never sufficient,” Bass said the extension would allow post doctorates to finish their research projects before advancing in their career.Although there were not enough Faculty Senate members to constitute a quorum and vote on the motion, a nonbinding straw-poll showed that no present senate member opposed the motion. The resolution will be considered again at the next Faculty Senate meeting in May.Still, the senate heard the motion and Bass discussed the benefits that post doctorates would receive from its passage. “It is common for postdoctoral training to take four to six years for successful and ambitious individuals to land faculty positions, for which competition is fierce,” Bass said. Bass also mentioned the setbacks experienced by those post doctorates who, after failing to complete their research in the given time period, are sent searching for another post doctorate position in which they can finish their projects.“[The current three year limit] is particularly harmful to those post-docs who must move on before completion of a project and acquisition of a job,” he said.Bass presented the motion to the Faculty Senate as an effort to “enhance an individual’s productivity at Cornell.”Director of the Postdoctoral Studies Program Christine Holmes agreed with Bass that the resolution would provide the time necessary for post doctorates to conclude their research projects.“Extending the post-doc period to five years will provide post-docs with more time to publish, which could benefit both the postdoc and Cornell,” Holmes said.Holmes added that the additional years will not be mandatory for all post doctorates.“[The resolution] does not mean that post-docs will have to stay five years, but that Cornell will have the option to retain them,” Holmes said. “Extending the post doc appointment to five years … does not prevent [post doctorates] from leaving their postdoc sooner, should another professional opportunity arise for them.”Support for the resolution came from Vice President for Human Resources Mary Opperman, the Life Sciences Advisory Council, a group of faculty advisors for the Provost’s office and all of the academic deans.At the meeting, Bass discussed not only the amount of internal support for the resolution, but also the length of peer institutions’ post doctoral periods. Some institutions mentioned to have postdoc positions of five years or longer included Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.The Faculty Senate also discussed a motion to extend the duration of an assistant professorship in the Johnson School of Business from six years to eight years. This motion will also be voted on at the senate’s May meeting.

Original Author: Kayla DeLeon