The Postdoc Initiative of the Research Center Borstel

Background

Being a postdoc is not a career! Universities and research institutes are not only regulated by law to keep the percentage of tenured scientists to a minimum, they also like to retain a “scientific turnover” by employing new people from other institutes. Thus, postdocs usually have to change their employment after a few years unless they are able to finance their own position by third-party funding.

PhD students are often well supported in terms of career development by graduate schools and programs. However, there is almost no support available for postdocs, despite the fact that they are in the most critical time of their career. Besides the obvious need for high-impact publications, they are also supposed to build a scientific network, teach courses and learn how to apply for third-party funding.

Therefore, the postdocs of the Research Center Borstel have launched this Postdoc Initiative with the goal to provide their fellows the training and guidance they need to successfully advance in their career. Furthermore, these trainings are focused not only on careers in academic science, but also specifically on alternative professions, e.g. in industry.

 

Structure and activities of the Postdoc Initiative

The Postdoc Initiative is organized as an open council, meaning all the trainings, courses and supportings is managed by postdocs for postdocs. Everybody who wants to contribute is invited to participate in the biweekly meetings.

Since its establishment in autumn 2015, the Postdoc Initiative created a central website in the intranet of the Research Center Borstel, which provides information on future events, helpful documents, and a platform for general discussions and networks. Further, an email account (Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!) has been set up for receiving support, questions, and suggestions. The network thus generated will collect and centralize the interests of the postdocs and presented it in regular faculty meetings. In addition, we created an external homepage and a LinkedIn group to increase our external visibility and to connect with other postdoc unions.

One of the most important tasks of the Postdoc Initiative is to support and prepare fellow postdocs for their future career. Thus, we offer soft skill courses and career development trainings on relevant topics, such as vocational orientation or social communication, at a regular basis. As kick-off seminar, the head of the Postdoc Development Center of the Imperial College London, Dr. Liz Elvidge, introduced her program and gave a curriculum vitae training session. Another highlight initiated is a personal coaching program with a professional trainer that implies tailored coaching for selected candidates, supporting their specific vocational activity over a period of one year.

 

Financial organization

Currently, the entire program is financed by the Research Center Borstel, due to the friendly support of the director Prof. Dr. Stefan Ehlers. Since the number of participants for each course is limited as well as the availability of the courses per se, the participants will be selected by the first-come, first-served principle. In order to enable a larger number of postdocs a participation in the career development trainings, we endeavor to raise additional external funding.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the Postdoc Initiative of the Research Center Borstel takes the important task to support and qualify its fellows in their professional development after graduation. The initiative already successfully established an interactive postdoc network and a training schedule that is very much appreciated and used by postdoctoral scientists in Borstel. In future, we will pursue and strengthen our efforts to support postdocs in their personal career.