Is it morally acceptable to hire postdocs?

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Thoughts For Breakfast

I have trained dozens of Postdocs. One of them even got a faculty position.Since I started interviewing for faculty jobs, I had to seriously ponder on how I would run my potential future lab. One question in particular has been bothering me quite a lot. How many postdocs (if any) should I hire? This is what I would like to discuss here today. I will be deliberately provocative, but also probably quite naïve. So please, do share your thoughts and contradict me if you think I am wrong.

There are three principal dimensions to this question. The first dimension is of course the money: if you have money, you hire people; if you don’t, you can’t. Real decisions are made along the other dimensions.

The second dimension is productivity. Research labor comes primarily in two flavors: PhD students and postdocs. (I will discuss permanent researchers below; let’s focus on students and postdocs first.) Postdocs are more productive and more independent, but are also…

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