Declaration of the Queen's University
Post-Doctoral Fellows Association
By Brian Coe & Claire Meehan
Sisyphus was a clever man who twice fooled the gods of underworld and
for many years outwitted death. For this, the gods condemned Sisyphus to
endlessly rolling a giant stone to the top of a mountain, where the stone
would roll back down of its own weight. They knew that for such a clever man
“there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor”.
The transient position known as a Post-Doctoral Fellow (Post-Doc) is a fundamental aspect of an academic career. Professors and Universities couldn't function without this stepping stone. Alas, for many Post-Docs, a good deal of time is lost to menial chores and missed opportunities; cursed, like Sisyphus, to repeating the work that has been done so many times before. Thus we propose the founding of The Queens University Post-Doctoral Fellows Association. We believe this will benefit not only the Post-Doctoral Fellows and the labs in which they work but also Queen's University through interdepartmental communication. Below we propose four main ideas which will form the framework and aims of this association.
A. Social Support Network
The main goal of the Post-Doctoral Fellows Association can be summed up in a single word: “communication”. Post-Docs are spread out in different laboratories, on different floors, in different departments, and in different buildings, many with common fields of research. Thus many of the Post-Docs working in similar fields do not even know each other. It is crucial to address this issue and create an interdepartmental network as this would provide a valuable resource for the Post-Doc community to support itself. Post-Docs share many common experiences, such as moving to a new country. Here the association can offer support to new Post-Docs in terms of help and information with respect to finding housing (especially if they have family), getting SIN cards, health insurance, and the like. These are all things that many Post-Docs have previously had to find out by themselves. Furthermore, Post-Docs join the University at varying times throughout the year and this association would offer a valuable way of introducing new Post-Docs to their new home. We aim to put together a welcome package, with information that the new Post-Doc would need and to try to organise social activities.
B. Dissemination of Information.
There are many aspects of academic life relevant to Post-Docs. Whilst graduate students, lab technicians, and professors have many ways to communicate, Post-Docs do not. As such there is currently no way to disseminate information relevant to Post-Docs from that which is specific to students or faculty. Thus we propose an email newsletter for Post-Docs and a supporting website where Post-Docs can share information such as training opportunities, funding, contact information, and research interests. Recently, collaboration at all levels are being increasing encouraged (especially with regard to grant applications).We believe that given our varied backgrounds and areas of expertise Post-Docs are a valuable source of information and thus the sharing of ideas and experience can only benefit the Post-Docs and, in turn, their laboratories and Queens University.
C. Training and Development of Post-Doctoral Fellows
There is currently no formal training program for postdoctoral fellows at Queen's University. In fact the status of the Post-Doc is unclear. Often acting as faculty when sharing our knowledge and experience with students yet still honing our skills though instruction from faculty. Whether this is as advanced students, or trainee professors no one can seem to decide. As such we are left with no formal training to progress from the student world to that of faculty. We aim to address this by organising short training courses aimed to meet the specific needs of Post-Docs.
D. Representation of Post-Doctoral Fellows.
Up until now there has been no representation for Post-Docs, being the invisible link between faculty and student. Post-Docs have no representation at any formal departmental or university meetings and thus their voices are not being heard at any level. This association aims to provide a voice for Post-Doctoral Fellows within Queen's University and to clarify the resources and benefits available to Post-Docs from the university.
It is important to note that this association seeks recognition and support from not only from Queen's University but also our respective departments as this will make the above aims easier. It should be made clear that this association will NOT be a top-heavy, bloated group that does anything to reduce the salaries of, or employment opportunities for, Post-Doctoral Fellows due to outlandish demands on the university or its departments. Furthermore this will be a voluntary association, thus dues and/or levies, of any kind, shall never be extorted from the members of the association.