Numerous concerns have been raised about the sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise in the United States. Improving the postdoctoral training experience is seen as a priority in addressing these concerns, but even identifying who the postdocs are is made difficult by the multitude of different job titles they can carry. Here, we summarize the detrimental effects that current employment structures have on training, compensation and benefits for postdocs, and argue that academic research institutions should standardize the categorization and treatment of postdocs. We also present brief case studies of two institutions that have addressed these challenges and can provide models for other institutions attempting to enhance their postdoctoral workforces and improve the sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise.

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Published in eLife, v. 6, e32437, p. 1-7.

© 2017, Schaller et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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GM is supported by a grant to the Future of Research from the Open Philanthropy Project. MSG is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Career MCB1252345). DES is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R01 GM065383) and the National Science Foundation (MCB1518817). WIS receives funding from the National Institutes of Health (R37 AI51174, P50 08245, and GM112080).