NIH Research Festival
Postdoctoral fellows are highly-skilled scientists that, classically, have been trained to enter into academic tenure-track positions. However, the number of these tenure-track positions is remaining largely flat while the number of postdoctoral fellows is increasing, meaning that many scientists will enter into other types of careers. To make informed decisions about these careers, scholars need institution-level knowledge about their options. Institutions have been implored to collect and report this information for decades, but a lack of standard career outcome taxonomies and visualization methodologies has severely impeded progress. Here, we address these impediments by developing a three-tiered taxonomy and visualization methodology—creating standard definitions for A) job sectors; B) job types; and C) job specifics-–that will empower meaningful cross-institutional career outcome comparisons. Applying these methods, we report the first account of detailed career outcomes for all postdoctoral scholars present at NIH | NIEHS within the past 15 years, and discovered striking differences among subpopulations. U.S. scholars enter the for-profit sector in professional job-types conducting applied research at a much higher rate than international scholars. International scholars enter the academic sector in tenure-track job-types conducting basic research at twice the rate of U.S. scholars—but they predominantly enter these positions outside of the U.S. Conversely, U.S. scholars constitute the majority of those entering into tenure-track positions within the U.S. We envisage that the standard taxonomy and visualization methods described here can be built upon by others and broadly applied to ascertain finely-tuned career outcomes of postdoctoral scholars on a global scale.
Scientific Focus Area: Social and Behavioral Sciences
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