With the creation of a Postdoctoral Office, the University is taking significant measures to centralize the administration of its postdoctoral program.
Established this summer, the Postdoctoral Office will serve the nearly 1,300 postdocs at Yale. The creation of the office is part of a larger set of postdoctoral policy changes, which the University adopted July 1. The office consists of two branches, one at the School of Medicine — which is home to approximately 1,000 postdocs — and one on central campus. The new policies also stipulate that all departments with postdoctorate offerings must appoint a director of postdoctoral affairs, similar to a director of graduate studies.
Deputy Provost for Science and Technology Pierre Hohenberg said the new policies are the result of a two-year review of Yale’s postdoctoral program.
“The University never had well-defined policies,” Hohenberg said. “There was never any well-defined sense of community.”
The offices will serve as a central bank of information, which will eventually be posted on a Web site, said Ilsa Schwartz, director of the central campus Postdoctoral Office. This year, the Postdoctoral Office has already helped facilitate a session on benefits and health care options for postdocs, as well as a session on writing resumes and job searches, Schwartz said.
John Alvaro, director of the Postdoctoral Office at the School of Medicine, said the offices will also have information on social functions, sporting events, seminars and various resources at Yale. He said the offices are also currently working on an orientation handbook for postdocs.
The new University policies encompass both postdoctoral fellows and postdoctoral associates. While both types of appointees are considered “trainees,” those awarded Yale-administered research grants or funds are considered “associates,” while those receiving outside grants are known as postdoctoral “fellows.” Only postdoctoral associates are considered University employees.
Hohenberg said this distinction is crucial because postdoctoral fellows may not be eligible for certain University benefits or insurance, depending on the stipulations of their particular grants. He said because all postdocs perform the same duties, a major goal is to make the two types of appointments more similar.
“We wanted to make sure that it’s not a two-class society,” Hohenberg said.
But Schwartz said the office is still trying to compile a list of postdocs and other pertinent information. The offices will then make appropriate recommendations to the provost’s office, Schwartz said.
“We’re just finding out the details of what some of the differences are [between associates and fellows],” Schwartz said.
Alvaro said reforming compensation and benefits measures for postdocs might be difficult because these are often based on national funding.
“It’s something that’s in the works, but that’s going to take a long time,” Alvaro said.
Schwartz said because there is no dean for postdocs, the offices will act as a centralized administration for postdoctoral programs.
“The purpose of the offices is to provide services to postdocs, to give them a home, because they’ve been sort of a lost tribe,” Schwartz said.
The offices will authorize and administer postdoctoral appointments. In addition, the new programs will provide support for appointees at Yale, so the postdocs — many of whom are from overseas — feel less isolated, Hohenberg said.
“[The new programs] will help postdocs take full advantage of the resources of the University,” Schwartz said.
Alvaro said while these programs — especially career counseling — will be helpful to postdocs, they will be tailored to the needs of the appointees.
“The postdocs only spend two to four years at the University, and it’s a very intense time,” Alvaro said. “So there are limits to what we can be doing.”