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Supporting postdoctoral fellows

 

Challenge
SFU hosts a relatively small number of postdoctoral fellows (postdocs) for our number of faculty members. Existing postdocs sometimes feel like they “fall between the cracks” at SFU. They are neither faculty members nor students, and they have identified that many systems at SFU do not cope well with their in-between status.


Action
Working with the provost, the dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies, SFU Human Resources, and the Postdoctoral Association we will identify the concerns of postdocs and—within a year—provide a central managed point for support of postdocs. We will work with SFU Advancement & Alumni Engagement to create an institutional postdoc program. Our purpose is to improve the recruitment and retention of postdocs which will improve the support for research at SFU.

For information on our progress please see the updates section of this page.

VPRI portfolio lead: Valorie Crooks, Associate Vice-President, Research, pro tem
Faculty lead: Naomi Krogman, Dean, Faculty of Environment

Project goals

1. Build on the current level of admin support that postdocs are receiving.

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2. Raise the profile and awareness of postdocs at SFU

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3. Explore ways to improve funding support for postdocs

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4. Prioritize and address the postdoc challenges that have been raised

a. More support for external postdocs

Allow postdocs who are paid by funds external to the university (not held by a university faculty member) to become university employees with access to benefits and other services available to employees (e.g. library, fitness centre, SFU email, labs, etc.)

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b. Teaching options for postdocs
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c. Conflict resolution options

Offer alternate options to current process in R50.03.

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d. Improved professional development opportunities
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a. Low salary levels for the cost of living in Vancouver (possibly establish a minimum salary level)
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b. Standardization of contract language

Provide postdoc supervisors and PDA with a sample postdoc contract that can guide employment negotiation between supervisor and postdoc; consider establishing a minimum salary level for postdocs

c. Improved access to campus resources (e.g., fitness centre, research commons, SFU medical clinic)
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d. Processes need to be clear and simplified (e.g. longer-term appointments)
e. Better support for departments/PIs when hiring and onboarding a postdoc
f. Improved orientation resources for new postdocs
a. Improve postdoc benefit plan
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b. Housing options for incoming postdocs

Allow postdocs to participate in existing housing programs (e.g., family housing) on campus; to provide short term (1 month) space while incoming postdocs are looking for longer term housing.

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Working group 

The postdoc support working group was established in May 2023. This working group includes representation from the Postdoctoral Association, Graduate Studies, the Vice-President Research and Innovation (VPRI) portfolio, Human Resources, and faculty members.

Name Role Unit
Valorie Crooks, Chair Associate Vice-President, Research (AVPR), pro tem VPRI
Shelley Gair Executive Director VPRI
Varundeep Chahal Strategic Projects Manager VPRI
Clare Zheng Coordinator, Postdoctoral Affairs VPRI
Numaira Obaid Postdoc Association member Postdoctoral Association
Mary O'Brien Dean and Vice-Provost Graduate Studies
Deena Coburn Director, Graduate Studies Graduate Studies
Elsa Plican Director, HR Research Personnel & HR Information Systems Human Resources
Mike Richards Faculty member, Professor, Department of Archaeology Faculty of Environment
Luciana Rad Director, Administration & Strategic Planning Faculty of Health Sciences
Last updated: April 3, 2024