Postdocs in the U.S. have been earning around $40,000 for
the longest time. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students constitute the
bulk of the academic biomedical research workforce. In May of this year, a new
regulation on overtime pay was proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor which
aimed to raise salaries (Benderley 2016). Because postdocs work more than 40
hours per week, the regulations, now approved, will raise stipends to $47,484
which is the rate for Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards
(NRSAs) but serves as the standard for stipends used by most institutions (Kuo
2016). Institutions are obligated to either raise the pay or can put in punch
card systems (track their pay somehow) and pay postdocs overtime. This overall
9% increase will not be seen right away. According to the new rule, the first
two years of a fellow’s salary will be significantly lower (just 0.8% increase),
but at the third year, the increase would be 4% (Kuo 2016). There are more
caveats. The new rule has exemptions for overtime pay and it does not apply to
teachers including graduate student teaching assistants or tenured/non-tenured
faculty. So those postdoc with teaching responsibilities may fall through the
cracks at receiving this increase in pay. Postdocs heavily dependent on
teaching, such as those in the social sciences and humanities will likely be
unaffected by the stipend increase. Most commentators have been supportive of
increasing postdoctoral salaries. But the question that is on everyone’s mind
is how will this increase impact the biomedical workforce?
Several who have chimed in on this debate have claimed
that the pay hike will not significantly impact the current situation.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.