Partnering with postdocs: a library model for supporting postdoctoral researchers and educating the academic research community

Karen H. Gau, Pamela Dillon, Teraya Donaldson, Stacey Elizabeth Wahl, Carrie L. Iwema


Background: A mutually beneficial need exists between postdoctoral scholars (postdocs) who want to grow their science communication, networking, and teaching skills and those in the general health sciences research community who want to learn more about specialized topics. Recognizing this need, interdepartmental teams at two public universities began offering postdocs a teaching opportunity at their health sciences libraries, which serve as discipline-neutral learning spaces for researchers.

Case Presentation: At the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), postdocs are invited to submit talk proposals on “how to do something” related to the health sciences. Selected postdoc speakers conduct one-hour talks, get science communication and teaching support, have their talks uploaded to YouTube, and receive feedback from attendees.

Conclusions: Postdoc participants appreciated being able to participate in this program, and attendees strongly indicated that the talks are of value. At VCU, surveys of the 25 talks from 2015–2018 showed that 91% of attendees believed they had a better understanding of the topic because of their attendance, and 85% planned to use the knowledge they gained. More than a year after their talks, several postdocs across both institutions informed the coordinators that they were subsequently contacted for advice or further discussion, with 2 postdocs stating that it helped them with job opportunities. This model can be easily adapted at other health sciences libraries to benefit their academic communities.


Postdocs; Postdoctoral; Science Communication; Networking; Teaching; Instruction; Program Development; Libraries; Translational

Full Text:



Bravo NR, Olsen KL. NIH-NSF definition of a postdoctoral scholar. January 29, 2007 [Internet]. Letter to: Reed A, ed. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation; 2007 [cited 11 Nov 2019]. .

Sauermann H, Roach M. Why pursue the postdoc path? complex, diverse rationales require nuanced policies. Science. 2016 May 6;352(6286):663–5.

Bonetta L. Find out what scientists believe makes for a successful postdoctoral experience: responses collected from our annual postdoc survey [Internet]. Science. Aug 2008. (Available from: . [cited 13 May 2020].)

Kahn S, Ginther DK. The impact of postdoctoral training on early careers in biomedicine. Nat Biotechnol. 2017 Jan 10;35(1):90–4. DOI:

National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine. The landscape for the next generation of researchers. In: The next generation of biomedical and behavioral sciences researchers: breaking through. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2018.

Blackford S. Harnessing the power of communities: career networking strategies for bioscience PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2018 Apr 1;365(8). DOI:

McDowell GS, Gunsalus KT, MacKellar DC, Mazzilli SA, Pai VP, Goodwin PR, Walsh EM, Robinson-Mosher A, Bowman TA, Kraemer J, Erb ML, Schoenfeld E, Shokri L, Jackson JD, Islam A, Mattozzi MD, Krukenberg KA, Polka JK. Shaping the future of research: a perspective from junior scientists. F1000Research. 2014 Nov 28;3:291.

Börner K, Scrivner O, Gallant M, Ma S, Liu X, Chewning K, Wu L, Evans JA. Skill discrepancies between research, education, and jobs reveal the critical need to supply soft skills for the data economy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Dec 11;115(50):12630–7. DOI:

Kimpe B. Employing tactics to get a job in industry: career advice for PhDs [Internet]. Medium; 2016 [cited 11 Nov 2019]. .

Bankston A, McDowell GS. Changing the culture of science communication training for junior scientists. J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2018 Jan 26;19(1):ii. DOI:

National Postdoctoral Association. NPA core competencies [Internet]. The Association [cited 31 Jan 2020]. .

Johnson H, Simms S. Concept, conversion, cultivation, and consequence: the four Cs of successful collaboration. In: Doherty B, ed. Space and organizational considerations in academic library partnerships and collaborations. Hershey, PA: IGI Global; 2016. p. 280.

Nitecki D. The future of academic library space assessment. In: Montgomery SE, ed. Assessing library space for learning. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield; 2017. p. 219.

Young L, Clark SB, Machado CK, Hinton EG, Norris MR. Medical libraries supporting interprofessional education. In: Edwards M, ed. Interprofessional education and medical libraries: partnering for success. Medical Library Association Books Series. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield; 2016. p. 117–40.

Blevins A, Inman M. Curriculum-based library instruction: from cultivating faculty relationships to assessment. Medical Library Association Books Series. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield; 2014.

Moniz R, Henry J, Eshleman J. Fundamentals for the academic liaison. Chicago, IL: Neal-Schuman; 2014.

Barr-Walker J. Creating an outreach program for postdoctoral scholars. Sci Technol Libr. 2013 Apr 1;32(2):137–44. DOI:

Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh. HSLS strategic plan, 2019–2023 [Internet]. The System [cited 13 Nov 2019]. .

Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. Strategic framework, mission, and values [Internet]. The Libraries; 2019 [cited 13 May 2020]. .

Ebert-May D, Derting TL, Henkel TP, Middlemis Maher J, Momsen JL, Arnold B, Passmore HA. Breaking the cycle: future faculty begin teaching with learner-centered strategies after professional development. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2015 Summer;14(2):1–12. DOI:

Rybarczyk BJ, Lerea L, Whittington D, Dykstra L. Analysis of postdoctoral training outcomes that broaden participation in science careers. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2016 Sep 1;15(3):1–11. DOI:

Jacob KJ, Roskams-Edris D, Illes J. Innovations in training: toward mitigating “eternal post-docdum” in stem cell research. Stem Cell Rev Reports. 2015 Dec 1;11(6):798–803.

Pitt Health Sciences Library System. How-To Talks by Postdocs: series info [Internet]. The System [cited 15 May 2020]. .

Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. How-to Talks by Postdocs: about [Internet]. The Libraries [cited 15 May 2020]. .

Pitt Health Sciences Library System. “How To” talks by post docs [Internet]. The System [cited 14 Nov 2019]. .

Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. How-to talks by postdocs [Internet]. The Libraries [cited 14 Nov 2019]. .

Yadav A, Seals C. Taking the next step: supporting postdocs to develop an independent path in academia. Int J STEM Educ. 2019 Dec 9;6(1):15. DOI:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Karen H. Gau, Pamela Dillon, Teraya Donaldson, Stacey Elizabeth Wahl, Carrie L. Iwema

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.