The contribution of the postdoctoral fellows to the advancement of knowledge

This content is not available in the selected language.

Introduction In most fields, postdoctoral training is a necessary step after the PhD for those who seek an academic career. However, given the increasing number of PhD graduates and the relatively stable number professor/researcher positions available, the number of postdoctoral fellows and the length of this period in the life of recent PhD graduates have been increasing over the recent years. Hence, several studies have documented an overpopulation of postdoctoral fellows in some fields (Nerad and Cerny 1999; Jones 2013). In Canada only, the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (CAPS) estimated that there were around 9,000 postdoctoral scholars in 2012 (Mitchell 2013). Moreover, in most North American universities, little is known on the characteristics of the population of postdocs, mainly because their administrative status is often unclear — are they students or researchers? — and not systematically managed (AAU 1998, 2005). Also, given their increasing number and the longer time during which they remain postdoctoral fellows, many of them have started to regroup into associations and are pleading for better salary levels and benefits in agreement with their professional status (Mitchell 2013; Åkerlind 2005; NIH 2012). Along these lines, CAPS has been encouraging academic institutions to adopt better policies. To address these recommendations it is crucial to draw a clear picture of the situation of Canadians postdocs, which means, among other things, to analyze their demographic data as well as their research output. Due to the lack of proper administrative record, these tasks are rather difficult to accomplish. Hence, despite the fact that the contributing to research — and increasing one’s research output — is the main purpose of a postdoctoral fellow, the research output of these high-qualified Canadian researchers stays unknown, and few small studies were undertaken to bring up bibliometric indicators about these researchers. Using data on postdoctoral fellowships award by the Canadian and the Quebec governments, this paper aims at assessing the global contribution of Canadian postdoctoral fellows to the advancement of science, in the different fields and countries of destination.

This content has been updated on March 26th, 2017 at 4 h 42 min.