Developing new talent to carry out high impact research is of paramount importance to the Computer Science & Engineering research enterprise. An appointment as a postdoctoral researcher is an increasingly common starting point for a research career. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Computer & Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate and the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) recognize the critical importance in having an excellent postdoc training experience to help junior researchers advance their careers.
With NSF’s backing, the CCC is announcing a program to develop, implement and institutionalize the implementation of best practices for supporting postdocs. This program will award grants to institutions or consortia of institutions to implement best practices for strengthening the postdoc experience in computer science and computing-related fields. These supporting programs will enable PhD graduates to transition effectively to research roles in a variety of sectors.
From the Request for Proposals (RFP):
The host institution, as well as the advisor at that institution, should implement best practices for supporting the postdoc and furthering that person’s training on all relevant dimensions. This involves a great deal more than an advisor who merely imparts technical knowledge or even one who acts as a mentor. It involves the institution providing support as well. We expect through the activity funded by this grant to establish a stronger and better culture in the CS&E community.
A proposal for an award under this program should:
- Identify and clearly describe a set of best practices that the proposer has selected for implementation. This may draw from or expand upon the best practices already identified by the CS&E community; a list of a few best practice documents appears below.
- Describe an approach to implementation of those best practices.
- Apply the implementation (approach for) best practices for a significant number of postdocs in one or more CS&E research institutions in a sustainable way.
- Consortia and virtual support approaches are encouraged.
- Any implementation should involve a thoughtful program to teach the postdoc research skills (as needed) such as how to design a research project, manage a research group, author quality technical papers, deliver effective oral communication, pitch a research idea in a short “elevator talk”, write a proposal for funding, effectively find and use scholarly materials, and other career skills.
- Every postdoc needs to be involved in a research community and the institution should provide for postdocs to mingle with and learn from other postdocs, the faculty, and others – at the local institution and in the larger research community.
- Every postdoc needs to have opportunities to practice learned skills and to receive feedback.
- Every postdoc should receive career counseling, and this should involve interactions with researchers who have personal experience with career choices in industry, in federal laboratories, as well as in a university.
- Postdocs need to network with researchers not just at their home institution, but at meetings of their research community
- Define meaningful and observable metrics with which to evaluate the quality of implementations of those practices. Is it possible to achieve a generally accepted set of metrics – and on diverse, hopefully innovative, implementations appropriate to different circumstances in research organizations?
- Measure effectiveness of those implementations and provide data to the community. Implementations developed by awardees should apply broadly across the various sub-disciplines within CS&E. Implementations may differ somewhat in different laboratories, departments and institutions. But they should be readily transferable across multiple institutions.
- On at least an annual basis meet with other PostdocBP Principal Investigators (PIs) to share experiences, metrics and measurement data and to collaborate on a joint (annual) document to inform the CS&E community on what has been learned about implementations of best practices, metrics, and measured data that characterizes grantee activity.
- The intent of the PostdocBP project is to establish practices that are similar across all CS&E research institutions: academic, industrial, and governmental. A desirable outcome is that postdocs can expect similar treatment and excellent experiences from any host institution and mentor.
- Collaboration among awardees, via annual PI meetings or other ad hoc interaction, is intended to align thought and action across as wide a set of CS&E research institutions as possible.
- Describe how the host institution or department assures that every postdoc receives quality experience, and steps in to solve problems, should they arise.
- Assure sustainability; the proposal should describe mechanisms to sustain the postdoc support after termination of the grant. The proposal must describe how – after the grant is over – implementation of best practices will affordably continue at the institutions involved.