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Subject: Recommended Deadline for Acceptance of Postdoctoral Offers

J. Craig Wheeler, President

I am concerned that the recommendation of the American Astronomical Society concerning the earliest date on which decisions on postdoctoral offers should be required, February 15, is being ignored by several leading organizations within our community.

The Employment Committee recently revisited the logic and reasoning behind this long-standing recommendation of the Society. The report of the subcommittee is attached below. The AAS Council renewed its support of this recommendation by reaffirming the Council Resolution "On the Postdoctoral Application and Selection Process" at its January 2006 meeting in Washington, DC. The text of the resolution follows:

"The AAS Council is concerned about the procedures in the postdoctoral application and selection process. The postdoctoral experience now includes almost all recipients of the Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics. In recent years, deadlines for application and selection of postdoctoral appointments have advanced in the year and there is strong competition for new graduates. To insure an orderly and fair postdoctoral appointment procedure, the AAS Council recommends that the deadline for decisions on postdoctoral offers will not be required earlier than February 15th of a given year."

This recommendation, the result of careful, formal consideration by the Society, is in the best interests of our community, especially the early-career members who are seeking postdoctoral positions. I strongly encourage all institutions, large and small, to adhere to this recommendation now and in the future.


Report of the Employment Subcommittee on the postdoctoral application and selection process:

A subcommittee of the AAS Employment Committee was formed in 2005 to discuss the application deadlines for post-doctoral fellowship. Fred Rasio chaired the subcommittee. Membership included EC members, representatives from the Great Observatories, and Jill Knapp (Princeton) who initially raised the issue for discussion. The committee was disbanded at the end of 2005 and a brief summary of the findings is included below:

1. Post-doctoral Application Dates

The application dates for post-doctoral fellowships are now as early as October in the year preceding when the fellowships start. The EC explored whether these dates could be moved, in conjunction with moving the AAS mandated earliest required acceptance date (Feb. 15). In polling the community we did not get a strong indication these dates should be shifted substantially. There is no obvious set of better dates. The Great Observatories have discussed having similar proposal submission dates. It is our understanding that for the 2007 fellowships, Chandra, Spitzer and Hubble will all have deadlines at the beginning of November.

2. Adhering to the AAS mid-February acceptance date

The main issue that arose in canvassing the community about post-doctoral applications was not the proposal due dates but instead applicants being pressured to accept prize fellowships prior to the mandated February 15 deadline. There were also complaints about awards only being made verbally until they had been accepted. The AAS sent a letter to the institution named in the majority of complaints and members of the employment committee talked to the people in positions able to correct this. The EC feels strongly that institutions must adhere to the Feb. 15 deadline for requiring acceptance of offers and must be careful about any wording that appears to require acceptance prior to that date, even though that may not be the intention of the awarding institution. We believe this issue is resolved but will continue to monitor feedback from the community. The coordinators of the fellowship programs at Spitzer, Hubble and Chandra have discussed this issue and all want to ensure the best support for the young scientists that are offered the Great Observatory fellowships.


Mailed US members from 28 December 2007

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