Lucie Low, newly elected Vice Chair, Finance of CAPS and a current non-Canadian postdoctoral researcher at McGill has just published in Nature a scathing critique of Canada’s system which promised her more than it delivered, and further suggesting that
…Canada will lose some of its brightest minds
This was of course inspired by the continuous rage that is being felt in the postdoc community after being told in Budget 2010 that their fellowships were definitely not classed as scholarship income – an issue we’ve reviewed here and agree with Lucie that the comparison to medical residents, lawyers, and accountants is remarkably unfair.
Perhaps more worrisome than singly annoyed postdoctoral fellows who feel wronged by a tax decision though, is the set of statistics that Erika just forwarded to me about the most recent NSERC competition. In 2011, the rates of funding for trainees were as follows:
- 50% of MSc applications were funded (828 of 1640 applications)
- 52% of PhD applications were funded (876/1684)
- 9% of Postdoc applications were funded (133/1431)
This is compared with 2008-10 numbers which are:
- 74-75% of MSc applications
- 66-68% of PhD applications
- 21% of PDF applications (250-286 successful)
Yes – that’s right… 9% funding success and ~50% fewer funded postdocs. It seems that now is not the best time to be coming to Canada to perform postdoctoral research. In fact, things don’t appear to be good for people (particularly in the life sciences) across the world with talks of (and formation of) postdoctoral fellow unions, advocacy groups like the National Postdoctoral Association, and even a depressingly accurate caricature of postdocs from a comic strip about graduate school.
A LinkedIn group has emerged called PostDoc Forum with some very lively discussion in recent months including A Flood of Life Scientists: The Practical Guide to Escaping the Crowd by Escaping the Bench and discussion on Why Your Mentor Sucks (and how to fix it) from Biodata blogs.
All in all it seems that junior academics are teething quite viciously. One of our very first entry on this blog was about the human resources crisis in biomedical science and it appears that people are starting to notice, get frustrated, and speak out. Granting councils, governments, universities and prospective PhDs take note – some serious work needs to be done in order to defuse this potentially huge waste of talent and training.