(The following is cross-posted with CRA’s Computing Community Consortium blog)

The Computing Research Association recently published the results of its annual Taulbee Survey, and the numbers of PostDocs rose to record levels, continuing a trend that we have witnessed for more than a decade — and bringing new meaning to the CRA’s PostDoc white paper effort.


As we have blogged here before, CRA — the umbrella organization of the CCC — initiated an effort last fall to engage the community in a conversation about PostDocs, at a time when a growing number of new CS PhDs appeared to be going that route. A committee commissioned by CRA prepared a white paper reporting the statistics associated with academic and industry hiring, with the aim of providing a starting point for further discussion throughout the community. The white paper was posted online on Feb. 2 – http://cra.org/postdocs — and we have received some comments on the companion web forum.

New Survey Data

Based on this year’s Taulbee Survey data, the three-year rolling average for the number of new PhDs pursuing PostDocs rose from 159 in 2009 to 218 in 2010 — an increase of 37% in just one year. That’s on top of a tripling in the number of PostDocs observed during the 12-year period from 1998 through 2009, as reported in the white paper, suggesting that the trend toward PostDocs is not only continuing but perhaps also accelerating.  Meanwhile, the number of new PhDs who pursued tenure-track faculty appointments declined yet again, from 151 in 2009 to 137 in 2010, or 9% (three-year rolling averages). (The numbers of new PhDs pursuing other positions, including teaching and research appointments in academia, positions in industry, etc., remained essentially flat.)

Here’s a graph showing the hiring of new computer science PhDs from U.S. and Canadian universities from 1998 through 2010 (three-year rolling averages):

Hiring of new computer science PhDs from U.S. and Canadian universities, as a 3-year rolling average, 1998-2010

And taking a closer look at just the academic positions:

Academic hiring of new computer science PhDs from U.S. and Canadian universities, as a 3-year rolling average, 1998-2010

(For comparison purposes, these graphs are updates to Figures 1 and 2 in the original white paper.)

We Need Your Input

What do you think about these trends — and the implications for PostDocs, graduate students, faculty, universities, companies, and the field as a whole? Please discuss the white paper with your colleagues within your departments and labs — and post your views about this trend and PostDocs generally on the companion web forum: http://cra.org/postdocs. Some things to consider:

  • Should funders increase or decrease the number of PostDocs in response to the economy, or, more explicitly, in response to academic and industrial hiring trends?
  • Does an increase in funding of PostDocs come at the expense of funding for graduate students? If so, at what point does the growth in PostDoc positions begin to threaten the pipeline of next-generation researchers?
  • Is the PostDoc the most effective way to encourage interdisciplinary interactions?
  • Are there reasons to maintain a PostDoc pipeline in one computing subfield at a higher level than in another?
  • To what degree is a PostDoc experience helpful for a researcher who will take a non-academic position?
  • Is there a gender difference in terms of the impact on PostDocs?
  • To what extent should the computer science community be engaged in setting guidelines for the balance between PostDocs and students, if the total amount of funding is roughly constant?

Your input is immensely valuable, as the committee will soon compile and articulate the consensus of the community, if any, on this issue.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director, and Member, CRA’s PostDoc Committee)

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(Crossposted with the CCC Blog!)

Today, the Computing Community Consortium, a standing committee of the Computing Research Association, is pleased to announce a call for 2011-12 Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows). The CIFellows Project, established in 2009 with support from the National Science Foundation, offers recent Ph.D. graduates in computer science, computer engineering, information science, or a closely related field an exciting opportunity to obtain one- to two-year positions at universities, industrial research laboratories, and other organizations that are pursuing innovation in computing and its positive impact on society. I encourage applications from recently graduated/graduating Ph.D.s by the May 31, 2011, deadline!

Program details

The goals of the CIFellows Project are to retain new Ph.D. scholars in research and teaching during challenging economic times, while also supporting intellectual renewal and diversity in the computing fields at U.S. organizations. A total of 107 Ph.D.s have been supported through the program since 2009. These CIFellows have received outstanding research and teaching enrichment experiences, and several have landed permanent positions (including tenure-track faculty appointments) in academia and industry as a result of their experiences. (For more details, see here and here for previous blog posts about our CIFellows.)

CRA/CCC will make awards for the 2011-12 academic year. The exact number of awards will be contingent upon the quality of applications received as well as the outcome of a proposal for funding that we have submitted.

For prospective applicants

Graduates awarded the Ph.D. or equivalent from U.S. institutions between May 1, 2010, and Aug. 31, 2011, have until 5 p.m. EDT on May 31, 2011, to apply to be a 2011-12 CIFellow. Applications must be submitted online (through the CIFellows Project website).

All applicants must secure and submit written commitments from one to three prospective hosts/mentors at U.S. institutions. Each prospective mentor must be with an organization other than the institution of the applicant’s graduate research, and the CIFellow is expected to be in residence at the mentor’s organization during the CIFellowship period. (You can find possible mentors at a matchmaking website we’ve created.) Applicants must also provide (a) statements describing their research accomplishments and goals for the CIFellowship; (b) a letter from the Ph.D. advisor or department chair affirming their graduation date; and (c) two confidential letters of recommendation that are to be submitted separately by the application deadline.

CRA/CCC will announce the awards by July 15, 2011, and the positions will begin this fall.

For prospective mentors

If you are interested in hosting a 2011-12 CIFellow, please create a profile on the CIFellows Project matchmaking website as soon as possible.  You need only specify your name, location, personal research webpage URL (if you have one), a few keywords describing your research interests, and your e-mail address. We are pointing candidates to this website as a resource for finding mentors.

Those of you who may have already created a profile on this website in past years, please visit the website and review your information as soon as possible. Any updates may be submittedhere. If you have previously created a profile but are no longer able to host a CIFellow, please tell us that through the update form so that we may archive your profile.

More information

For more information, please visit the CIFellows Project website.  Complete details on the submission procedures for applicants and mentors as well as the eligibility requirements can be found there. Again, all application materials must be received by 5 p.m. EDT on May 31, 2011.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC & CIFellows Project Director, and Frans Kaashoek, Chair of the 2011-12 CIFellows Project Steering Committee)

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From the Computing Community Consortium blog (and CIFellows website):

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) and the Computing Research Association (CRA), with anticipated funding from the National Science Foundation, are pleased to announce a new call for Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows) for the 2010-11 academic year.  The CIFellows Project is an opportunity for new Ph.D. graduates in computer science and closely related fields to obtain one- to two-year positions at universities, industrial research laboratories, and other organizations that advance the field of computing and its positive impact on society.  The goals of the CIFellows Project are to retain new Ph.D.s in research and teaching during challenging economic times, and to support intellectual renewal and diversity in computing fields at U.S. organizations.

We anticipate that awards will be for $75,000 salary for 12 months with approximately $25,000 for fringe benefits and a $15,000 allowance for moving, travel, and discretionary expenses. Host organizations will receive indirect costs at the 25% rate. The 12-month assignment must begin by November 1, 2010.

If you or someone you know might be interested in applying for these highly competitive fellowships, head to the Computing Innovation Fellows website for all of the details and eligibility requirements.

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