Let’s drive innovation by re-envisioning postdoctoral research as a fixed term “Tour of Duty”, with embedded offboarding, alumni services, and access to “Veteran’s benefits” for all who participate.

Sunset under clouds above a frozen lake, Wisconsin. IMAGE CREDIT: Laurel Haak
Sunset under clouds above a frozen lake, Wisconsin. IMAGE CREDIT: Laurel Haak

Postdoctoral researchers are a critical component of global innovation capacity. Yet, after more than two decades of sustained advocacy, there remain amorphous and contradictory policies and practices around the postdoctoral experience, leaving many isolated and demoralized. If we are serious about recruiting talented people into research teams to address global challenges, we need to reboot the postdoc as a fixed term Tour of Duty with clear offboarding processes and benefits.

The experience


Humans tend to create dichotomies. Either this or that. Heaven or hell. Chocolate or peanut butter. Moss or rolling stone. Ritual or innovation. But for all of these choices, we do not have to choose one or the other. There is a continuum of options, with multiple factors that should be taken into consideration. Focusing on endpoints limits what we can learn and how we can benefit.

Green moss on a granite boulder. Photo by author. CC-BY license.
Green moss on a granite boulder. Photo by author. CC-BY license.
Photo by Author Laurel L. Haak

In the workplace, whether an office is centralized or distributed is one such dichotomy. Some are embracing the virtual office, while others are throwing in the towel. Workplace surveys show that workers love…


Journal articles are the gold standard for crediting research progress. But, like global trade, tying in to a fixed standard limits wealth distribution and innovation. It is time for the community to adopt a credit model that honors collaboration and drives innovation.

Skeleton keys with attached labels, hanging from a board. Image by Laurel Haak, available under CC-BY license.
Skeleton keys with attached labels, hanging from a board. Image by Laurel Haak, available under CC-BY license.
Photo by Laurel Haak. CC-BY license.

Our goal as researchers is to better understand the world around us. To this end, we observe, form hypotheses, gather information, compare notes, and accept, toss out, or reframe hypotheses, and continue the cycle. The research process is inherently collaborative, with research teams, conferences, and peer review as three key components. However, research progress — and credit —…


A great idea and a website are just the beginning of your journey

Three people in mid-air, jumping off a large rocky outcropping into a lake.
Three people in mid-air, jumping off a large rocky outcropping into a lake.
Photo by Laurel Haak. CC-BY license.

Fear.

It’s a powerful motivator. But not the most productive one.

I am a proponent of the career diving board. Finding what you love to do and then turning on the hose to fill the pool as you jump off the diving board. I am on my fourth (fifth?) career transformation. So far I have not gone “splat”, but we all know that past performance, while an indicator, is no guarantee of future success.

This year has been a whirlwind. Oldest kid getting ready for college. Departing…


A number of studies on working from home have come out recently, many with headlines about how awful the WFH experience has been, particularly for working women with school-age kids and for Black women.

I am a working woman with school-age kids. I have enjoyed building a virtual-born company for the last 8 years. My question: do people dislike working from home in general, or is it working from home specifically during the COVID lockdown that rankles?

Channeling my inner data nerd, I looked at three opinion studies carried out this year in April, May, and July, and dug into…


Legitimizing Indigenous involvement in data governance

I love museums. I can spend hours wandering through exhibits, reading narratives and looking at labels, imagining how an item was created and why, and how it connects to other items. I am always aware that I am dependent upon the information that an institution tells me and know that there is a lot missing or has been left out. Over the years, the exhibits have changed as more information is incorporated, leading to sometimes substantial shifts in my understanding of the world. These paradigm shifts include global patterns of human migration and trade…


I find that it does not get easier. Emotionally at least. The nuts and bolts part: knowing what to do and in what order, that is the easy part.

Leaving a company that I’ve grown up (with). Crystallizing a new idea. Getting myself out there. Honing the pitch, building up the energy to launch, dealing with cash-flow craziness. Again. Kinda sounds like dating, eh?

I am so pleased to have found out about the Small Business Administration SCORE program — an excellent resource for entrepreneurs in the US. How did I not know about this before?

SCORE has been around…

L Haak

I am passionate about trust-building to foster communities. My practice areas are digital infrastructure and identity, decision frameworks, and product strategy

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