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.

“The Explosive Growth of Postdocs in Computer Science”

February 4th, 2013 / in Uncategorized / by Shar Steed

In “The Explosive Growth of Postdocs in Computer Science,” a VIEWPOINT article in Communications of the ACM, CCC Council member Anita Jones analyzes trends that have accompanied the increase of CS postdocs in recent years.

“The dramatic increase in postdocs changes the overall balance in the number of participants of different kinds in the academic research enterprise, that is the number of tenure-track faculty, graduate students, research faculty, teaching faculty, and postdocs. What effect does that have on other members of the enterprise?


When a recently graduated Ph.D. moves to a new research project, that person brings fresh ideas and even different assumptions about research. It is possible that a rapidly flowing pipeline of postdocs moving through a research organization introduces new knowledge, broader interdisciplinary knowledge, more vitality, and a propensity to challenge assumptions—all in a way that students and the permanent faculty do not.

The Computing Research Association has adopted a set of “best practices” for postdocs, the result of work done by Anita Jones and Erwin Gianchandani under the auspices of CRA’s Computing Community Consortium. The “best practices” white paper sets serious expectations for three constituencies relating to the postdoctoral experience:

  • The Ph.D. student considering a postdoc position must educate himself or herself about what a postdoc is, think through the pros and cons of accepting a postdoctoral position at each of the potential sites available, and have a clear understanding of his or her interests and what the advisor and host organization should provide.
  • The advisor needs to be proactive and thoughtful in nurturing the postdoc.  The white paper describes the minimum required for the advisor to earn the title of “mentor”; this designation has to be earned by the postdoc advisor.
  • And the host organization (in some combination of the department and the larger institution) needs to provide a variety of services to the postdoc.
“The Explosive Growth of Postdocs in Computer Science”

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