Currently, postdoctoral fellow (PDF) researchers in Canada face challenges due to the precarious nature of their employment and their overall low compensation and benefits coverage. This report presents three themes, presented as statements of need, to support an inclusive and thriving PDF community. These themes are the need for better terms of employment and conditions, the need for access to grants by non-permanent research staff, and the need for a sustainable PDF hiring model that considers the outcomes for the PDFs. We make six recommendations, which are:- R1. PDFs should be hired and compensated as skilled experts in their areas, not as trainees. - R2. Standard PDF hiring practices should be revised to be more inclusive of different life circumstances. -- R2.1 Allow PDFs the option of part-time employment. -- R2.2 Remove years-since-PhD time limits from PDF jobs. -- R2.3 Financially support PDF hires for relocation and visa expenses. - R3. CASCA should form a committee to advocate for and provide support to astronomy PDFs in Canada. - R4. CASCA should encourage universities to create offices dedicated to their PDFs. - R5. PDFs and other PhD-holding term researchers with a host institution should be able to compete for and win grants to self-fund their own research.- R6. Astronomy in Canada should hire general-purpose continuing support scientist positions instead of term PDFs to fill project or mission-specific requirements. Our main recommendations revolve around our community compensating PDFs as skilled experts instead of trainees (R1) and ensuring that PDF hiring practices are inclusive of the wide diversity of astronomers (R2). These two recommendations are part of the solution to all three issues. We also note that while a successful implementation of these recommendations would involve systemic changes to PDF employment in Canada, these recommendations are very much actionable at the level of an individual or committee responsible for PDF hiring decisions. We also make two recommendations for CASCA, where we ask for a CASCA Postdoc Advocacy Committee (R3) and for CASCA to encourage universities to create offices dedicated to supporting PDFs at these institutions (R4). These leverage the wide network of our discipline's national society to pool resources and influence. Finally, we make two recommendations intended to overhaul the employment of PDFs and early career researchers in Canadian Astronomy. R5 asks for a major change in policies of funding agencies such as NSERC, which fund many disciplines outside of astronomy to allow researchers on term appointments to compete alongside tenure-track faculty for grant dollars. R6 asks all astronomy institutions in Canada to end the practice of fulfilling their operational needs with serial term position hires instead of continuing positions. Whether these operational needs are to build a diverse research portfolio or to fulfill requirements for specific missions or projects, we advocate for hiring general-purpose astronomers that can modify their assigned work instead of hiring another term PDF without consideration of the outcomes for the outgoing PDF. These last two recommendations are ambitious for LRP2020 but we believe these ideas are important to consider as employment conditions evolve. Reviewing these recommendations, we highlight that recommendations R2.1, R3, and R4 come with no real costs and can be implemented immediately. R2.2 requires coordination with R1 and R6. We recognize that in a flat-funding scenario for Canadian astronomy research, there will be challenges for recommendations R1, R2.3, R5, and R6. However, we strongly believe this is the required path in order to sustain a successful, inclusive and ethical astronomy research program in the long term. With limited resources, we argue for a reduction in the number of PDFs in order to ensure each PDF can thrive. Although this may decrease the amount of science supported in Canada, we advocate for a solution that involves justifying additional funds instead of a solution that asks PDFs to accept precarious employment with little support. The latter (current) scenario creates a selection bias on the researchers themselves, which compromises the diversity of thought required for a successful national astronomy research program. In short, we ask for prioritization of people over production of papers. We provide online supplementary material to this report at http://rebrand.ly/lrp2020pdf, where the reader can find additional data, a list of signatures of Canadian astronomy community members in support of this report and the ability to add their own signature.
Canadian Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics White Papers
- Pub Date:
- October 2019
- Zenodo community lpr2020;
- Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics;
- Physics - Physics and Society
- State of the profession white paper submitted to the Canadian Long Range Plan 2020 decadal survey with appendices