The Leibniz PostDoc Survey

As many of you might already know, the Leibniz PostDoc Survey is currently open for participation and we urge all of you current (and incoming) postdoctoral researchers at all Leibniz Institutes to fill the online form, which you got via our email listserv, if you haven’t already. In this short blog post we want to give you a little background on how the survey came about, our motivation to do it, and what we are hoping to achieve with it.

Why: Postdoctoral researchers (a.k.a. postdocs) make up an integral part of the scientific workforce in universities and research institutes around the world, and this is also true for the majority of research institutes under the roof of the Leibniz Association in Germany. Due to inherent constraints like high mobility and short-term contracts, postdocs are often less connected and organized within their institutions and countries compared to doctoral students, technical and administrative staff or tenured scientists. To improve this situation, the Leibniz PostDoc Network as an initiative of postdocs from various Leibniz Institutes was founded in 2017. While the group of postdocs is distinct from others with regard to, for example, career stage and positions, they are a heterogeneous group with diverse personal backgrounds, interests, career plans, and training needs. While there are a couple of recent studies from other countries (e.g. in the US [1,2]) and at least one institution in Germany [3] shining light on the situation of postdocs, as well as data from surveys among the doctoral students at Leibniz Institutes [4, 5], there are no systematically collected data on the working situation, career plans and needs for training opportunities of postdocs within the Leibniz Association.

What: Over the last two years, a dedicated group of natural and social scientists who are active in the Leibniz PostDoc Network (The Leibniz PostDoc Survey working group, see below for a list of all members) has prepared a survey to assess demographics, employment histories as well as future career plans and training needs for all postdocs in the Leibniz Association. Some of the questions in this survey are included to specifically address the situation of postdocs with an international background at Leibniz Institutes.

Target audience: The survey is aimed at all postdoctoral researchers working at Leibniz Institutes. While there is no universally agreed upon definition of a postdoctoral researcher, a common understanding is that they have completed their PhD but do not yet hold a professorship or already hold a postdoctoral position at their institute but are about to complete their PhD (e.g., because they did not yet defend or publish their thesis).

Goals: As the definition of the postdoc phase is somewhat fuzzy and this group is quite heterogeneous with regard to their backgrounds, working conditions, and career goals, the first objective of this survey is to gain an understanding of who the postdocs at the Leibniz Institutes are and what their needs are for their future career development. This is especially relevant for the Leibniz PostDoc Network, as we want to get a clearer picture of the people we are representing and to be able to promote appropriate support measures within the Leibniz PostDoc Network and the Leibniz Association.

Moreover, the survey will help us to assess how certain measures of the Leibniz Association are implemented on the institute level, such as which parts of the Leibniz career guidelines are now common practice for the postdocs. As Leibniz PostDoc Network, the obtained data will also help us to identify key challenges the postdocs are facing and, moving forward, also to formulate recommendations on how to address some of these challenges. In a more general outlook, the analyses of the results from the survey will likely complement recent attempts to learn more about the demographics and career paths of postdocs, thus enabling comparisons between the situation of postdocs in the Leibniz Association and those at universities in Germany [3], between postdocs in Germany and the US [1,2], and doctoral and postdoctoral researchers within the  Leibniz Association [4, 5].

The Leibniz PostDoc Survey working group consists of: Gundula Zoch (LIfBi), Johannes Breuer (GESIS), Gitta Heinz (DRFZ), Tamara Heck (DIPF), Verónica Díez Díaz (MfN), and Lydia Repke (GESIS).


[1] McConnell et al (2018): United States National Postdoc Survey results and the interaction of gender, career choice and mentor impact. eLife

[2] Grinstein & Treister (2018): The unhappy postdoc: a survey based study. F1000 Research

[3] Wagner-Baier et al (2012). Analysen und Empfehlungen zur Situation von Postdoktorandinnen und Postdoktoranden an deutschen Universitäten und insbesondere an der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. Report der Graduierten-Akademie, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena.

[4] Arcudi, A., Cumurovic, A., Gotter, C., Graeber, D., Joly, P., Ott, V., … Yenikent, S. (2019). Doctoral Researchers in the Leibniz Association: Final Report of the 2017 Leibniz PhD Survey.

[5] Beadle, B., Do, S., El Youssoufi, D., Felder, D., Gorenflos López, J., Jahn, A., … Weltin, M. (2020). Being a Doctoral Researcher in the Leibniz Association: 2019 Leibniz PhD Network Survey Report.

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