STIINPL › Public sector research - core policy instruments - post-doctoral fellowships
Acquired after doctoral education, the post-doctoral experience is primarily a period of apprenticeship for early stage researchers to gain scientific and technological knowledge as well as professional skills that are necessary and sometimes indispensable for their future career, mainly in the public research sector. Post-doctoral fellowships and other related funding mechanisms offer post-doctoral researchers financial support over a fixed time period (typically 2-3 years) to undertake a period of supervised apprenticeship.
Broadly, what activities and outcomes do post-doctoral fellowships seek to influence?
Although they vary greatly by field and sector, post-doctoral positions are often seen as a precondition for academic careers and many other research positions in various fields of science and technology. They enable early stage researchers to broaden and deepen their cognitive knowledge in their field of science and technology, to engage in focused R&D activities, and to develop confidence and leadership skills. In many OECD countries, post-doctoral researchers contribute significantly to the scientific record of research universities and public research institutes and are essential to increase the stock of researchers. Post-doctoral fellowships offer financial support to PhD holders to acquire post-doctoral experience.
How do post-doctoral fellowships have an influence?
While they benefit from an employment premium, doctoral graduates encounter a number of difficulties on the labour market, notably in terms of working conditions. These difficulties are to some extent linked to the changes affecting research systems, where employment conditions have become less attractive. For example, over recent years, the labour market of researchers in research universities has witnessed a lower availability of tenured positions and an increase in less stable types of posts. This means that many doctorate holders are on temporary contracts for longer periods and the transition to full employment may take up to four or five years. Post-doctoral fellowships cannot overcome this structural shift to temporary contracts but can help to alleviate some of the uncertainty around funding. At the same time, different sources of funding can have implications for the status and conditions of post-doctoral positions:
What factors should be considered when implementing post-doctoral fellowships?
Several factors should be considered when implementing post-doctoral fellowships:
COSEPUP (2000), Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers, Washington D.C.: National Academies Press.
European Commission (2005), The European Charter for Researchers -The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
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