Title: NSF Geosciences Directorate Support for Postdoctoral Appointees and
Graduate Students: Guidelines for Principal Investigators
Date: 08/02/06

NSF Geosciences Directorate Support for Postdoctoral Appointees and
Graduate Students: Guidelines for Principal Investigators

NSF 06-038

August 2, 2006

Dear Colleague,

The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) seeks to highlight the
importance of providing professional development and mentoring for
postdoctoral appointees, and to remind PIs to include descriptions
of these efforts in the Broader Impacts activities of proposals. The
geosciences community recognizes that the postdoctoral experience is
an important time to develop and refine the professional skills that
will maximize the potential for postdoctoral appointees to succeed
in their fields. In recognition of these shared values and their
benefits for our community, provision of quality mentoring (or
access to the appropriate mentors) and advisement on a continuing
basis to all postdocs and to graduate students supported by NSF
awards should be documented and highlighted as "Broader
Impacts" outcomes in annual and final project reports.

GEO recognizes that many PIs and their institutions already
provide professional development opportunities for their postdocs,
and encourages all awardees - particularly those with no prior
experience as a postdoctoral supervisor - to explore the full range
of activities that contribute to a meaningful postdoctoral
experience. Several recent workshop reports, listed below, have
identified positive ways for PIs and their institutions to prepare
postdocs for their careers. These reports highlight the need to
provide formal training and structured oversight of postdoctoral
career development activities, and include resources on topics such
as broadening access, facilitating transitions into and out of the
postdoctorate, and how to enhance the development and choices of

GEO encourages all awardees, project managers, and their
institutions to provide their postdocs with access to professional
activities that provide formal or informal training in (for
example): proposal preparation; lab and project management; research
ethics; verbal and written communication; teaching; education and
public outreach; negotiating; and time management. In addition,
efforts to reach out and recruit members of underrepresented groups
into postdoctoral positions are specifically encouraged.

PIs may propose these activities to fulfill NSF's Broader
Impacts criterion, and should document these activities in Annual
and Final Reports for the project. Measures of success include, in
addition to publications and research results, documentation of
specific activities related to professional career development and
how these activities contributed to the progress of individuals
capable of functioning as independent professionals. PIs may also
find it useful to track the career pathways of postdocs after the
appointment, in order to document successes that may have resulted
from their professional development efforts. Reports on highly
effective or innovative ways that PIs have contributed to the
professional development of postdocs are of particular interest to

Parallel efforts that foster the professional development of
graduate students, so that they may become successful future
scientists, fulfill the "Broader Impacts" criterion and
also should be documented in reports and proposals to NSF.
Traditionally, PIs have provided the names and thesis titles of
graduate students involved in their research projects in the
"Results from Prior Research Support" section of
proposals, and in Annual and Final Project Reports. Professional
development activities provided to graduate students during projects
may be included in these reports.

Explicit professional support provided to new PhDs and to graduate
students leads to professional satisfaction, productive careers, and
benefits the entire geosciences community. GEO shares these values
and greatly appreciates the contributions of our community in
working to achieve these goals.


Margaret Leinen
Assistant Director
Directorate for Geosciences


Workshop Reports

Postdoctoral Appointments: Policies and Practices, NSF Workshop
Report (March 2005,

Doctors Without Orders: May-June 2005 Special Supplement to American
Scientist, and Professionalizing the PostdoctoralExperience (a
Forum, 2006) both by Geoff Davis, http://postdoc.sigmaxi.org

Recommendations for Postdoctoral Policies and Practices. One
document, among other resources available from the National
Postdoctoral Association (http://www.nationalpostdoc.org).

Other Resources

Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers,
Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, National
Academy Press (http://www.nationalacademies.org/postdocs)

On the Cutting Edge, professional development for geoscience faculty

DIALOG and DISCCRS Resources for early-career development