Shorter Postdocs Would Be Better for Scientific Progress
I've been going to a lot of seminars lately. Since the trend of scientific training these days is:
grad school 5-7 years
postdoc 5-9 years
I've noticed this has a severe effect on the way we think.
We need new blood.
For a while, there was a lot of emphasis on making sure that graduate students switched fields for postdoc, to 'get exposure' and 'broaden their training.'
In reality, these people take longer to get jobs, because they either
a) have to spend the time to get a footing in the new field
b) have to spend time at the end of their postdoc going back to their original field.
So here's a thought. In the 'old days', postdoc 'training' was only 1-3 years long. This had some interesting consequences.
First, let's think about how labs are structured.
1.You have the lifers: lab managers, technicians, and PIs.
2. You have the long-termers: grad students.
3. You have the fast-moving component: postdocs.
Oops, except now the last two catgeories have kind of blended into one long, slogging pile of people who are in no hurry to go anywhere, and who get entrenched in thinking, more and more like the lifers.
I've noticed that many advisors thrive on having new people in the lab: it's like a new toy. Everyone I've worked for was excited about me at the beginning, but after a while they lose interest. And it's not just me, I've seen this happen to everyone.
So here's an idea. Maybe if we went back to shorter postdocs, it would help invigorate science more. Speed up the mixing process and encourage more cross-discipline collaboration.
Let's just leave the job thing out of it for a minute.
Okay, minute's over. I still have no solution for that.