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Lab Leaders Wrestle With Paucity of Postdocs

empty lab

The stream of applicants for postdoctoral positions has "slowly reduced to a trickle," a researcher in Germany says.

Credit: Getty Images

Peter Coveney, a chemist and computational scientist at University College London, is ready to hire a postdoctoral researcher with experience in high-level computing. The problem: he's struggling to attract a single qualified applicant. He's worried that if he can't bring in someone soon, projects will be left undone and his long personal history of grants and publications could see a slowdown. "At the moment I'm not running on empty, but I might be before long," he says.

Coveney isn't the only principal investigator (PI) facing a postdoc crunch. Other researchers in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and elsewhere have reported a sudden drop in applications from qualified applicants, a sign of a potentially drastic shift in the scientific labor market.

The reasons behind the shortage are complex: politics, economics, and shifting career priorities for new Ph.D. holders all play a part. Whatever the causes, the consequences are widespread. PIs are having to change their approach to recruiting postdocs, and to rethink their expectations for their teams as postdocs worldwide are re-assessing their value and their futures.

From Nature
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