Postdoc Jobs: The Funding Outlook is Bleak

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In recent years federal funding for research has dwindled significantly. Postdoctoral fellows and young research scientists are finding it difficult to find funding and positions. The recent ARISE report recommends that federal agencies, private foundations, and universities create and strengthen large awards, and develop expectations for grant funding appropriate to career stages.

One of the things stressed in this report is that the way funding is done is more important than the amount of funding. It emphasizes the need for mentoring programs at the university level, which would also include reworking tenure and promotion policies. The report calls specific attention to be paid to the special mentoring needs of minorities and women.

In addition, the ARISE report recommends that private funders take a look at the mechanisms they use to provide funding. Large or multiple awards given to single investigators are discouraged in favor of smaller awards that can help spread out funding among multiple postdoc jobs.

Other methods that could help improve the funding situation for postdoc jobs include improved data collection and more support for people in postdoc jobs with families. This might include better stipends and family-friendly policies.

Of course, these kinds of changes are large and need to be implemented on an equally large scale to have any affect. However, there are a few strategies that an individual postdoc can use to improve his or her chances of getting funding for postdoc jobs, even in a poor funding environment.

Make sure that you apply for independent postdoc job funding to cover your salary. A postdoctoral advisor will appreciate anyone who comes to him or her with an independent funding source. You can even work on the application with the person you expect to be your advisor.

Also try to expand your connections and network. The better your connections and the wider your web, the better your chances are of coming across opportunities in the research world. Since conventional, committee-driven funding is getting harder to come by, these connections and chances can be viable alternatives for some people.

Although the current funding climate is poor, postdoc jobs are still available, and funding for them can still be obtained. There are a number of issues currently considered by large institutions, but they may not be implemented on a large scale for quite some time. By applying for funding and positions strategically, however, you may be able to eliminate some of the disadvantages that come from a poor funding situation, such as the current one. Take the time to look at all of your options, instead of sticking with the road most traveled. You'll be surprised at the opportunities that you encounter. Take advantage of them.
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