This article is published in the October 2015 issue.

Postdoc Best Practices Program

National Postdoc Association LogoThe week of September 21-25 was the sixth annual National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW), sponsored by the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).

NPAW, the nation’s largest celebration of postdoctoral scholars, was established with the goal of increasing awareness of postdoctoral researchers (postdocs). Institutions are encouraged to plan activities that honor postdocs and recognize the contributions they make to research and development in the United States.

The Postdoc Best Practices (Postdoc BP) program is coming into its second year. This project is a joint effort of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), designed to create a set of best practices for postdocs in computer science.

The Postdoc BP program has given grants to three different universities/university groups:

  • University of Washington (UW)
  • Arizona, made up of Arizona State, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University
  • and NYC ASCENT, made up of Columbia University, New York University, Cornell University, and The City University of New York

Each group in the Postdoc BP program has a number of important commonalities. Each of the programs has a major focus on career counseling and professional skills development – more than you would see in most traditional post-graduate programs. Both the NYC ASCENT and UW programs emphasize the creation of an Individual Development Plan (IDP), and Arizona is looking to add it to its program.

The Individual Development Plan seeks to provide:

…a planning process that identifies both professional development needs and career objectives. Furthermore, IDPs serve as a communication tool between individuals and their mentors. While IDPs have been incorporated into performance review processes in many organizations, they have been used much less frequently in the mentoring of postdoctoral fellows. An IDP can be considered one component of broader mentoring program.

The Postdoc BP programs are also invested in ensuring a connection between the postdocs and the broader department. For instance, the Arizona program hosts monthly lunches with the department and postdocs. Meeting informally like this is a great way to establish a deeper connection between members of the computing research program.

Additionally, the programs give the postdocs an opportunity to receive grant money. For example, the UW program offers one year, mini-grants (less than $10,000) that come from the department for the postdocs to conduct and manage their own research, and the NYC ASCENT program offers travel awards so that postdocs can attend conferences.

Learn more about the Postdoc BP program on the CCC website and stay tuned to the CCC blog as we begin to share the impact of the best practices on postdoc researchers during the coming months.