2012 Conference on Understanding Interventions

Join us at the 5th annual Conference on Understanding Interventions occurring May 10 to 12 in Baltimore, MD. Our abstract below was selected for a Symposium presentation. The talk is a continuation of our ongoing study.

The Conference on Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Research Careers was established to facilitate dissemination and exchange of hypothesis-based research on interventions and initiatives that broaden participation in science and engineering research careers. The conference is designed to create a dialogue among behavioral/social science and education researchers, evaluators, and faculty in STEM fields who participate in interventions programs.


Observations from a National Survey of Diverse Postdocs

Alberto I. Roca, Ph.D., Executive Director, DiverseScholar, a project of Community Partners

If the purpose of most STEM diversity interventions is to affect the professoriate, then the postdoctoral career stage must be understood. Faculty candidate pools, especially in the STEM disciplines, are composed of postdocs. However, most diversity interventions target the beginning of the training pipeline from K12 up thru the Ph.D. graduate student stage. Thus, there is a significant knowledge gap of what happens during the postdoctoral training stage. Such an analysis is timely given the recent calls to action. The National Academy of Science COSEPUP committee is reviewing the “State of the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers” 10 years after their milestone 2000 study. The National Institute of Health’s “Diversity in Biomedical Research Workforce” advisory group was created following a recent study of ethnic disparity success rates among R01 grant awardees. Finally, a retrospective review 35 years after the landmark Double Bind report “did not reveal a single empirical study about women of color postdoctoral fellows” (Ong, Harvard Educational Review 2011).

Our 2011 Understanding Interventions abstract announced the establishment of a National Database of Diverse Postdocs. In our current presentation we give an update on a survey of this population since our participation rate has doubled from last year. We are canvassing members of the MinorityPostdoc.org email contact database of 1000 diverse postdocs. We will present aggregate data about survey respondent’s ethnicity, age, gender, citizenship status, geographic distribution, length of time as a postdoc, research discipline, and future career plans. We will describe disparities that we observe within the cohort such as an almost 2 to 1 female to male ratio echoing the disappearance of the minority male seen in many education reports. We are performing a career migration analysis to see how minority Ph.D.s choose their training locations within the context of the national distribution of ethnic populations. We are comparing the research intensiveness of a minority postdoc’s doctoral versus postdoctoral training institutions as a measure of a postdoc’s future career competitiveness. We also are beginning to collect some longitudinal data on the career outcomes after postdoctoral training to gauge academic versus non-academic career choices. Finally, we describe the challenges in identifying a comparison control group of non-minority U.S. domestic postdocs that is necessary for making observations about ethnic disparities in postdoctoral experiences.

In summary, our efforts are directed toward uncovering the invisible minority postdoc population. Stakeholders and recruiters could utilize our database for engaging underrepresented minority postdocs especially for faculty diversity interventions. Our communication channels for reaching diverse postdocs include our MinorityPostdoc.org website, monthly email announcements, and new printed periodical, DiverseScholar. In particular, we are actively seeking collaborators from the higher education community for future, rigorous quantitative and qualitative studies using our unique national database of diverse postdocs.

last updated 20-Apr-2012