BREAKING NEWS: Fair Pay for Postdocs?

Mad Scientist oster icoFair Pay for Postdocs

In an amazing post on the Huntington Post,  Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Thomas E. Perez U.S. Secretary of Labor have stated that post doctoral fellows, that is PhDs and MDs training to do research, MUST now receive a HUGE increase in pay!
Postdocs, often called “senior fellows,”  have finished their degrees but are not yet at the point where they have shown they can work independently.   “Postdochood”  ,,, the period of work under an established investigator (called a Principal Investigator) can last as long as six years.
During this period the average annual pay for a postdoc is estimated to be about $45,000, but this varies greatly by region and funding source. Some post docs, especially volunteers from overseas, may get no pay at all.  Unpaid postdocs are actually quite common overseas,especially in Asia where service as a post doc is formally required to get academic jobs.   There is no rule against such volunteers n the US.
Collins and Perez base their proposal on the Department of Labor’s recently announced revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) .  These revisions, as just announced by President Obama, will make more than 4 million currently exempt U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay, unless their salaries are raised.

As seen by Messers Collins and Perez, the  estimated postdocs qualify as workers.   Current law entitles all workers in the United States to overtime pay, unless they are exempted because they are paid on fixed, preset salaries; are engaged in executive, administrative, or professional duties; and are paid at least $23,660 per year. The figure of $23,660 was set in 2004 and has not kept up with inflation. Under the new rule, which was informed by 270,000 public comments, the threshold will be increased to $47,476 effective December 1, 2016.

Given a typical 60 hour work week for a postdoc, this number i(with overtime) s still $7.000 below  Seattle’s new minimum wage .. meaning postdocs at the UW would have to be paid as much as dish washers and grounds keepers.

Many biomedical postdocs are supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), either through standard research grants , individual traoinng grants earned by the postdoc, or institutional m grants.  In the  first three years after receiving a final doctorate, trainees currently receive awards of $43,692; $45,444; and $47,268 — all below the newly issued overtime threshold.  However, under the new FLSA overtime threshold, universities, teaching hospitals, and other institutions that employ postdocs will have to choose either to  track their fellows’ hours and pay overtime, or raise their salaries to levels above the threshold and thereby qualify them for exemption. Since no lab investigator job can be dine in 40 hours,  the only option is to increase salaries above the threshold.

Collins states that the NIH will increase the awards for postdoctoral NRSA recipients to levels above the threshold. This opens three major questions:

1. Where dos the money come from?  Will the NIH increase the awards to existing grants or will existing grants lose positions?
2. How does the law effect  postdocs supported from other funding sources ?  Will NIH readjust salaries,  including salaries paid from  NIH or NSF research grants ? Will NIH ans NSF add funds to existing  research grants?
3. If postdocs are now workers, does that mean the UW needs special exemptions for foreign post docs, proving they are not taking American jobs?

based on post by Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.Thomas E. Perez, J.D., is the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Robert Langtry #

    What is a ‘Principle Investigator’? Is it an investigator with principles? In which case I’m sure they would be happy to pay the higher wage.

  2. theaveeditor #

    The PI is the head of the lab. Postdocs are paid out of research funds are paid ftom the grant. Adding pay to the posydoc means money ocmes form some ofhte rpart of the grant, typically supplies.

  3. Robert Langtry #

    Don’t you understand the difference between ‘principle’ and ‘principal’?

  4. theaveeditor #

    Eye type badly and spel wurst.

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