Postdoctoral Training Program

Possible plans for a Postdoctoral Certificate Program at the University of Toronto and affiliated research hospitals

 Important Update: The University of Toronto launched a training program for postdoctoral fellows on  July 1st 2008. As of right now this program only applies to PDFs on UofT campus and not to PDFs at any of the teaching hospitals. Visit the SGS website for more details.  

A new mandatory $200 fee was announced for University of Toronto Post-Docs. To read more click PDFAppointments2008.pdf.

Postdoctoral fellows have by definition undergone rigorous training in order to achieve a Ph.D. in their specific discipline.  Professional development, while an important and necessary part of career development, can sometimes be neglected in the career path of a graduate student.  This statement of principles on key professional skills for researchers highlights some of the skills that should be developed over the course of a graduate and postdoctoral career.  The American Association of Medical Colleges provides a suggested "Compact between Postdoctoral Appointees and their Mentors", modeled after the "Compact between Resident Physicians and their Teachers", that serves as a good outline of what is expected from postdocs and mentors during a postdoctoral appointment.

To aid in postdoctoral professional development, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology recommends that all postdoctoral fellows pursue the development of an Individual Development Plan with their supervisors. There is ample evidence to demonstrate the advantages of this strategy, as highlighted on the Sigma Xi Survey of Postdoctoral Fellows conducted a few years ago.  The University of Toronto Postdoctoral Association plans to recommend this procedure to all incoming postdoctoral fellows, and plans to work with the University of Toronto Administraton to encourage the incorporation of other personal and career development training into postdoctoral training.

Since June 2009 the University of Toronto has put a training program for PDFs in place for more information visit the SGS website We also gave a presentation at the March 2009 Town Hall meeting. The slides are available here TrainingProgram.pdf .


Individual Development Plan 

  • A presentation (borrowing liberally from the other links mentioned below) is available here describing the benefits to postdocs, mentors, and the research enterprise in general, from the implementation of an individual development plan. 
  • FASEB's suggested format: 
  • Here is a link to a presentation that describes the benefits to postdocs and PI's in implementing the development plan:Linked here
  • and here is another link, to the Sigma Xi National Postdoctoral Survey, which describes the advantages (more productivity, more clear goals) in implementing such a plan: Sigma Xi Survey 
  •  Some of the benefits (from that last link) are mentioned below:
Overall, professional development and structured oversight had the
broadest and largest impact on measures of success. Plans made by
postdocs with their advisors at the outset of their appointments were
associated with substantial benefits: postdocs with a written plan
submitted papers to peer-reviewed journals at a 23% higher rate,
first-authored papers at a 30% higher rate, and grant proposals at a
25% higher rate than those without plans. Postdocs whose plans
specified their advisor's obligations as well as their own reported
significantly higher levels of satisfaction and better advisor
relations. Teaching experiences, exposure to non-academic careers, and
training in proposal writing and project management were also
associated with multiple positive outcomes. There are plausible causal
mechanisms for these correlations and indirect evidence against
non-causal alternative explanations.

Given the potential benefits of plans together with their relative
rarity at present (11% of reported a written plan; 34% had a plan,
written or oral, that detailed their advisor's obligations as well as
their own), an increase in their use has the potential to improve the
postdoctoral experience considerably. If a universal requirement for
written research/career plans were to bring about the same
productivity increase that was observed with existing, voluntary plans
(an outcome that is by no means assured), the resulting increase in
paper production would be the equivalent of having more than 10,000
additional postdocs working in the U.S. There is much to be gained
from a more systematic investigation of the process of scientific
training and research.