There is very little information available on how much postdocs are actually paid in the U.S., beyond data on institutional salary policies gathered by the National Postdoctoral Association. Following on from recent discussions about postdoc salaries changing as a result of proposed updates to U.S. Federal labor law, we have gathered data from a selection of institutions through Freedom of Information Requests, asking only for titles and salaries of postdocs, to see if we can identify actual postdoctoral salaries. The aggregate data, and more information, can be found at out “Investigating Postdoc Salaries” Resource. Every day, we will be releasing a discussion of each individual institution or system from which we received data. Today is a different case, of a private institution that volunteered information, rather than a public institution where data was collected by FOIA request: Boston University.
Cost for FOIA Request: N/A; private, therefore not “FOIAable”
Additional notes: This data was provided through a personal connection to our advisory board member, Sarah Hokanson of Boston University, and so is different in nature to all of the other data we will be presenting i.e. by going through those who work directly on postdoctoral issues, rather than through FOIA channels.
Sarah Hokanson provided the following information about the data in our aggregate dataset:
“Boston University is pleased to voluntarily contribute the data of our 297 full-time (100%, 12 month appointment) employee postdocs. Not included in this dataset are 1) 64 non-employee postdocs 2) 9 part-time postdocs 3) 4 postdocs paid from multiple sources (combination stipend/salary) [Editor’s note: the 2015 NSF data suggests there were 421 science, engineering, health postdocs at BU; the numbers provided here add up to 374 postdocs total, but an effort to clarify titles/who postdocs at BU has occurred inbetween].
The non-employees were redacted because we only track centrally stipends paid from BU sponsored awards. Postdocs receiving stipends directly from a source of funding external to BU (e.g. foreign sources) are not currently tracked centrally. We are looking to improve this as we standardize data collected at the time of postdoctoral appointments. Part-time postdocs were redacted because they are a small sample size. To clarify their salaries relative to full time salaries, we would need to release details of their employment that could make individuals identifiable. The four postdocs paid from multiple sources were not included because only their salary data is centrally tracked (all paid externally) – we are working to integrate their data centrally so that their total compensation is reflected, but that process is ongoing.
Please note that Boston University is moving to a model where all postdocs will have the same title – I have provided current titles as of December 1, but these titles will all update to postdoctoral scholar later this year.”
The standardization effort at BU was highlighted as an example model to follow in the recent publication with the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) in eLife, “What’s in a name?” calling for greater harmonization of postdoc titles and equitable treatment of all postdocs at an institution.
The salary policy at BU is a minimum salary of $47,500. The implementation plan and salary threshold are laid out here.
Around a third of all postdocs at BU were at the salary minimum of $47,500 on Dec 1st 2016; this mirrors a larger trend across institutions about where postdocs tend to cluster. It would be interesting to also know across institutions what proportion of these postdocs are in terms of years of postdoctoral experience.
We are grateful to BU for releasing the data for us to compare with others.