the experience of working in a research lab outside one's comfort zone is beneficial to the individual and the individual's home institution

While browsing NIP’s facebook wall 3 weeks ago, I saw a DOST Administrative order (AO) about the guidelines for the implementation of its postdoctoral research program. This to me is significant in the sense that this program  does not only prove that the concept of  ‘postdoc’ is now in the consciousness of the government but also says that the government is willing to invest in it. Just a few years ago this is not possible as I know someone who wants to hire a postdoc in his group but had difficulty convincing the DOST on its concept.

Let’s look at the program based on three criteria: 1) the amount of the fellowship; 2) the return service requirements; and 3) the ease of the scheme.

How much?

The postdoc under the program can have a maximum of 1.5M PhP funding support.  This includes pre-travel allowance, one round trip airfare, a relocation allowance and health insurance.  It is almost comparable to the Humboldt at 2250 EUR/month [1], the Newton at 24 000 GBH/annum [2], and JSPS  at 364 000 JPY /month [3].  ALMOST because all of these fellowships would have more benefits like a separate settling allowance, health insurance, round trip airfare, etc, and in the case of the Newton a yearly grant (upto 10 years) of follow up grant after your return to the country.  But 1.5M shouldn’t be a problem for the postdoc to live adequately. Plus he will still receive a monthly salary from his home institution.

What about return service?

The postdoc needs to render 2 years  service for a year (or a fraction of a year but greater than 6 months) of fellowship, and a year for 6 months (or a fraction of six months) of fellowship. Not really bad because most likely the postdoc has a semi-permanent position in the university. The home institution must guarantee a position for two years after the fellowship. Technically, the guarantee will be for 3 years – 1 year concurrent with the fellowship (since the postdoc will still be paid his salary and allowances), and 2 years return service.

I think this provision in the program will be frowned by the National Institute of Physics because it puts the institute into a difficult spot – guaranteeing a position and paying the postdoc (which would mean 1 less teacher at the institute).  To other universities, the more difficult part would be paying salary to the postdoc, which is like granting a leave with pay.

Honestly for young tenured members of the faculty with PhDs, this is a great opportunity for both the individual and the home institution.  The return of investment of the institution will actually be fast. A newly-arrived postdoc will have tons of experiences and ideas that will translate into more research topics and a revitalized research laboratory.

And the scheme?

There is a list of application requirements but like in any fellowship grant,  the postdoc must have a proposal that is approved by the home institution and falls in the expertise of the host institution.  This I think is the most important requirement. This takes around 3 months to a year to finalize.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to be a postdoc of the DOST?

Here is a copy of the Administrative Order by the way.

[1] Humboldt Foundation Fellowship website last accessed Nov. 7, 2010.
[2] Newtown International Fellowship website last accessed Nov. 7, 2010.
[3] JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship website last accessed Nov. 7, 2010.