If Scientists Don’t Value Our Labor, Who Will? The San Diego Postdoc Edition

I think there’s something in the water in the San Diego area because researchers there are offering volunteer post-docs: that’s right–you get to be a post-doc for free. Recently, an ad was posted for a volunteer post-doc “in the La Jolla area.” It’s supposedly ‘only’ 15 – 30 hours per week, but name one science position in which you ‘work to rule.’ I have a feeling it would expand to more than thirty hours. Just a hunch.

Well, there’s another ad for a volunteer post-doc, this time for the full forty hours [cough] per week.

This is obscene. It doesn’t help that scientists, on the whole, do not value our labor. Yes, there are certain ‘volunteer’ activities that we should do without compensation–if you want to do so. But research is not one of those things.

Despite the absurdity of the ads, they’re not unexpected–this is the obvious end point of a PhD glut. And if I hear another NIH official talk about how there isn’t a glut…

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9 Responses to If Scientists Don’t Value Our Labor, Who Will? The San Diego Postdoc Edition

  1. biochembelle
    biochembelle says:

    wrt to the second, which was I think posted as VA “without compensation” (post no longer exists), that may be an oddity of the VA hiring system. Dr24Hours and I chatted about this, and if you’re being paid by a university but need access to data or facilities at the VA, then VA posts as without compensation – and bc it’s a government job, posting is required, even if it’s for a specific individual. Or at least that’s what I got from it.

    But the first is definitely disconcerting. And it turns out that Stanford Med has guidelines prohibiting “volunteer postdocs”, which, IME, is oft an indication of a prior situation. There are also postdocs getting paid part-time while working full-time. And the number of unpaid internships for moving into science-related non-research paths is appalling. Amid talk of how valuable STEM training is, people rationalize free labor for the “experience” and how it makes you “competitive”. Sadly, if that’s true, then many Ph.D.s can’t afford to be competitive.

  2. Min says:

    IMNSHO, there is not a PhD glut, there is insufficient funding for science.

  3. sethkahn – I'm a Professor of English (composition/rhetoric) at West Chester U of PA. Born and raised in Hotlanta, BA in History/Philosophy from Wake Forest U, MA in English (Comp/Rhet) from Florida State, PhD in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric from Syracuse U. Proud union thug. Played in a punk band called Three Chicks and a Jew.
    sethkahn says:

    So given the number of scientists reading this, maybe you can help sort out the reality. I’m in the humanities (English), and especially in English, our PhD glut is primarily a result of needing zillions of grad students to staff general education courses. I taught composition (which is also my scholarly specialization, so this isn’t sour grapes about what I taught) all the way through both my MA and PhD programs. Almost everybody I knew did the same, and at Florida State, where I did my MA in the mid-90s, we had as many as 300 GTAs teaching writing courses at any given time–for an average stipend of about $7000/year.

    That, combined with a shrinking job market for faculty in liberal arts (because apparently management doesn’t understand that our people get hired just like scientists and business majors do, which is to say, “infrequently”), has led to the glut. In the humanities, of course, because we don’t have labs to which to assign post-docs for exploitation, lots of our overproduced PhDs just become adjunct faculty.

    I’ve heard, anecdotally but many times, that what keeps science overproducing PhDs is the analogous cheap labor that PhD students/candidates provide in labs. Fair statement?

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