Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

NSF: Significant Surge in CS Postdocs in Last Decade

July 7th, 2012 / in pipeline, policy / by Erwin Gianchandani

(This post has been updated; please scroll down for the latest.)

Last December, we blogged about changes in the number of new Ph.D.s in computer science — a slight increase between 2009 and 2010, but the “fastest growth” of all science and engineering disciplines during the 10-year period ending in 2010, according to data from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED).

Well, NSF is now out with more data, this time describing trends among graduate students and postdoctoral fellows — and the numbers are quite striking for computing (details after the jump).

NSF's Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS) [image courtesy NSF].According to the results of its annual Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS), the number of postdocs in computer science alone more than doubled in the last decade, rising from 344 in 2000 to 748 in 2010. The only disciplines that exhibited faster growth were biomedical engineering (370%) and industrial engineering (240%).

And between 2009 and 2010 alone, the percentage increase in postdocs — 25.9 percent (from 594 to 748) — was second only to industrial engineering (49.5%).

These trends mirror the results of the Computing Research Association’s (CRA) annual Taulbee survey, which prompted CRA’s efforts to engage the community in a conversation about this trend. Read more about the Taulbee data and this community-wide conversation here.


Updated Saturday, July 7 at 3:45pm EDT: As a regular reader of this Blog has pointed out, it’s important to note that the numbers of postdoctoral positions in 2009 and 2010 (and continuing through 2013) are (will be) impacted by the Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows) Project, a short-term program funded by NSF and administered by the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) during this period.

Some background: The CIFellows Project has sought to provide recent Ph.D.s in computer science and related fields one- to two-year opportunities in academia and industry, with the goals of (a) forestalling a permanent loss of research talent likely to occur as a consequence of the financial crisis and (b) enabling new Ph.D.s to develop experience, making them more effective researchers and/or teachers in the long term.

A total of 60 CIFellows were funded in fall 2009, and, because economic conditions did not improve rapidly, the program was continued in 2010 and 2011 (47 and 20 new CIFellows, respectively) with additional funding from NSF.

(As it was always intended to be a short-term effort, the CIFellows Project was ramped down in each successive year, and there will be no new CIFellowships awarded in 2012.)

Relating to the discussion above: The CIFellows Project certainly contributed to the rising numbers of postdocs seen in the NSF data above in 2009 and 2010. However, that said, the uptick in CS postdocs appears to have begun prior to the start of the program.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director, and Kenneth Hines, CCC Program Associate)

NSF: Significant Surge in CS Postdocs in Last Decade

Comments are closed.