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Communications of the ACM


Ask Not What Your Postdoc Can Do For You . . .

Ask Not What Your Postdoc Can Do for You, illustration


The number of postdoctoral fellows in computer science (CS) has risen dramatically in recent years. Studies show that U.S. and Canadian Ph.D.'s taking postdoc positions have tripled since 2000,7 and the total number of postdocs in the U.S. rose to new, sustained highs over 2009–2014.6 It is now clear that postdocs are a substantial constituency in research-focused university departments.

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC), whose mission is to promote the vitality of computer science research, observed that postdocs in CS now play a much enhanced part in the conduct of research and education at universities. Postdocs are in training positions yet, anecdotally, most departments pay little heed to the training they receive. Certainly, support for postdocs is not on par with the education of graduate students. CCC asked: what are best practices in supporting the computer science postdoc population? An early document by Jones and Gianchandani3 analyzed such best practices and a 2013 Communications Viewpoint2 raised issues for the CS community more broadly. In the broader context of science and engineering, efforts to improve postdoctoral experience are discussed by Davis.1


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