The third week of September is officially National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW). Since 2009, the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has sponsored this week-long celebration of the critical role of postdocs in the global research enterprise. In 2010, NPAW culminated with the passage of house resolution 1545 by the U.S. House of Representatives, formally recognizing NPAW.
The NPA defines a postdoc as an “individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in temporary period of mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his or her choosing.”
This one-sentence definition includes the main elements of a postdoctoral appointment and the key activities they should be engaged in–research, mentoring, professional development and career planning. Taken together, this describes a mutually beneficial relationship between the postdoc and their research institution. But how do the benefits of this relationship manifest?
For the postdoc, the benefits should include opportunities to build a reputation as an independent researcher, acquiring new skills and the development needed to ensure smooth career transitions.
For the institution, the benefits include the obvious contributions to research objectives—the work gets done. Beyond that, though, postdocs bring tremendous value to organizations in many ways. At Argonne, postdocs directly contribute to each pillar of the Impact Argonne strategy.
Through research productivity, innovation and output, they help grow our reputation as a science and technology leader. They are both part of and help build the world class community of talent through the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne, mentoring students, contributing to major initiatives such as the Core Values forums and Vision 2050 sessions, and serving on lab-wide committees such as the Employee Resource Group Forum, Diversity and Inclusion councils and the WIST Steering Committee. By serving on safety committees and offering valuable input on processes and procedures, postdocs help us sustain operational excellence.
This year during NPAW, I encourage us to think collectively about the value of postdocs and all they bring to the Laboratory. Find ways to let them know they are a valuable part of the Argonne community. Give a postdoc a core value shout-out. Give them a mention at a divisional meeting. Introduce them to colleagues to expand their networks. Encourage them to take part in NPAW events such as the special PSA Coffee Break featuring a guest motivational speaker. Or, simply tell them they are valuable members of your team and you are glad they are here.