In performance reviews, measure the extent to which supervisors demonstrate a commitment to the health and well being of those who report to them.
Although the total number of postdoctoral fellows/associates at Princeton is relatively small, postdocs represent a significant population in certain departments and make important contributions to the research and teaching programs of the University. Many spend more than three years at Princeton. Currently, the University divides entering postdocs into two categories (non-employee visiting research fellows and employee research associates) depending on the source of their funding. Postdocs who have procured fellowships from private foundations or government agencies (about 30%) are appointed as visiting research fellows and receive limited benefits. Postdocs who are paid from research project grants are appointed as research associates and receive full employee benefits.
As employees, research associates from other countries may hold either H1-B or J-1 visas. Because J-1 status is limited to three years, the University normally applies for H1-B status for research associates who are expected to remain at Princeton for more than three years. Because they are not employees, visiting research fellows are only eligible for J-1 status.
Research associates can be appointed as lecturers and be compensated for teaching. While visiting research fellows who have permission from their funding agencies also can be appointed as lecturers and a small number are appointed each year, these appointments require an exception to general University policy. We encourage the University to make it possible for interested and qualified research fellows to teach, thereby allowing them to supplement their income and gain experience that can help them prepare for future academic positions.
Both groups of post-docs express concern about the cost of, and access to, housing and child care.
Research associates receive the full range of employee benefits, including some (pension contributions, supplemental life insurance, long-term disability, educational assistance) that may not be of great importance at this point in their careers, while visiting research fellows receive only health care and basic life insurance. (J1 visa holders face especially costly coverage for dependents.) Despite their limited coverage, visiting research fellows are charged $3,500 for their benefits. The costs of benefits for research associates are covered by the research grants that support them.
Because in many cases visiting research fellows and research associates perform at the same level, we believe they should be eligible for the same benefits. Since the full benefits package currently provided to research associates is costly and probably more extensive than necessary, one option would be to develop a special benefits package (with a reduced benefit rate) tailored specifically to post-docs that would allow all post-docs to receive equal benefits without incurring significant cost to faculty grants. This package would likely include health insurance, the voluntary contribution portion of retirement benefits, access to vision and dental plans, and life insurance coverage. Another option would be to increase University funding