Postdocs get an independent voice in new self-government Postdoctoral Association to replace Advisory Council

Postdoctoral researchers at MIT have decided to take matters into their own hands. Postdocs will be represented by the new, autonomous Postdoctoral Association (PDA) instead of the Postdoctoral Advisory Council (PAC), which was organized by the office of the vice president for research. The move gives MIT postdocs an organization more similar to the Undergraduate Association or the Graduate Student Council.

The independent PDA was the result of a year-long effort by members of the PAC, spearheaded by PDA Founding President Paulina S. Hill. The PDA aims to support the over 1100 postdoctoral researchers at MIT, said founding officer Leon M. Bellan.

The PDA was officially formed last month, but the PAC will continue to exist until at least the end of the year.

Postdocs and faculty agree that the change is a necessary one, since there was previously no ground-up association like the GSC or the UA.

“I have a lot of trust in Paulina Hill and the other board members,” wrote PAC member Dr. Anne W. Omta in an email to The Tech. She and other postdocs point to their passive role in the PAC as the main problem with that organization — monthly meetings, generally over lunch, were coordinated by the office of the vice president for research. The new PDA is structured differently, with organizational power held by a board of postdocs.

“The advisory council was a casual group of people that was run out of the office of the Vice President for Research,” said Associate Dean of Science Hazel L. Sive. “It wasn’t really a postdoc-run group.”

And with the PDA in place, policy initiative will come directly from postdocs.

New initiatives

In the few weeks since the official launch of the organization, the PDA has discussed several initiatives.

Some being considered include “integrating postdocs into the MIT Career Fair, enabling them to be part of the MIT Alumni network, and lowering costs for activities that are often free or significantly discounted at similar universities, such as gym membership fees,” according to Bellan.

As a fledgling association representing the postdoctoral population at MIT, the PDA will have to get the word out regarding its existence and goals. Its current representatives are not elected, but are postdocs who volunteered or were recruited. Soon, Omta said, the association intends to move toward elected members so that it “represents a real constituency when advocating postdoc-related issues within the Institute.”

The PDA has asked Sive and Vice President for Research Claude R. Canizares to co-chair a faculty advisory committee. Additionally, faculty are helping the PDA develop a mentoring and training plan for postdocs and advisers, said Sive.

The PDA has five subcommittees: Advocacy, Professional Development, Community Building, Alumni Association, and Information Flow and IT Support.

“The plan for the PDA has been very well-supported, as it will help to foster a sense of community among postdocs across the Institute,” wrote PDA representative Dr. Kate L. Moreau in an email to The Tech.

More information about the MIT PDA can be found at its website,