Post-docs in Canada – a report.
Based on a survey they conducted in the spring, the position paper suggests that post-docs in Canada are falling through the academic cracks, and no one is paying attention. The picture is not a positive one – more than 6,000 post-docs are working in Canada, with almost 80% of them earning less than $45,000 annually before taxes. Post-doc tenures are expanding (almost 20% of post-docs in the life sciences now last longer than 5 years), and competition for academic jobs in increasing rapidly. Since 2002, doctoral enrolment has increased more than 60% whereas full-time university teacher numbers increased only 20%. In 2007, PhD enrolment was more than 40,000, 4,800 doctoral degrees were granted, more than 6,000 post-docs were registered, but only 2600 new faculty were hired in Canada. It is clear that an academic career will be impossible for the vast majority of post-docs.
The report suggests that post-doctoral study is becoming a “parking lot” of HQP who have completed their training and have nowhere to go. Unfortunately, but maybe understandably, the report’s proffered solution to this problem is to increase post-doctoral pay and standing, and to increase opportunities within academia.
This seems like a non-starter; though I think improving working conditions for post-docs is long overdue, solving the oversupply problem by swelling academic ranks is unrealistic. Instead, and getting back to the issue of how we improve industrial commitment to innovation through R&D, more effort should be placed at moving this glut of PhDs from academia into other areas of society. As I’ve written before, I think recently graduated PhDs possess important entrepreneurial skills, but lack any sort of experience or exposure to such a career. If we want more companies like RIM in Canada, we need smart people with experience in R&D to be starting them. Helping post-docs transition out of academia seems a logical step.