February Postdoc Council Digest
A summary of Senate committees and Postdoc Council deliberations relevant to postdocs at Pitt.
•Developing a fund for Open Access (OA) publishing since a higher cost is asked by higher impact factor journals. Social Science Research Network (SSRN) may be a good example to emulate.
Faculty Affairs, Ashley
•Discussion on cheating in online courses. No evidence that it is any greater than with in-person classes. Need to re-design courses and evaluations to lower the stakes of individual exams.
•Issues with Canvas discussed, specifically column displays and incorrect grade calculation. Reach out to the teaching support center directly for this.
•Pitt contracted with CMU’s proctoring service for children of faculty members engaging in online schooling.
•Provost office is looking to provide more security and longer contracts for faculty librarians and set clear promotion criteria.
•New faculty survey related to COVID-19 to facilitate decision-making.
•New director for diversity and development appointed.
•Updates to PittWorx ongoing, faculty are unaware of the unnecessary need to submit timecards. Lots of error pages too.
•COVID-19 screening for faculty and staff to be more available as students return. Date for next semester is still unknown. Pitt will most likely be a vaccine distributor.
Bylaws & Procedures, Sushobhan
•Committee did not meet.
Tenure & Academic Freedom, Chloe
•Committee did not meet.
Athletics & Recreation, Mariarosaria
Committee did not meet.
Benefits & Welfare, Cristina
•Discussion on early retirement.
•Employees who have accounts but didn’t use childcare last year will receive a rollover.
•There is a complaint about lack of empathy for faculty working remotely while raising children – statement coming soon to address that. Similar recommendations may be considered for postdocs by UPPDA.
•Consideration of mental health issues and performance related to the above. Working on including this in teaching evaluations.
•Working on the Benefit plan renewal.
Budget Policies, Jenny
Highlights on postdoc compensation (including salaries and benefits):
•Postdoc policies benchmarked against 60 higher education institutions. Classifications are extremely heterogeneous, but Pitt is seeking recommendations for introducing equity between postdoc scholars and associates. Note that associates are now hired through the Talent Center as of Jan 1, 2021.
•Of the 60 schools, 48 match the minimum salary to NIH – Pitt is not one of them.
•Parents leave as Pitt is about average.
•Most schools have a term limit of 5 years, whereas Pitt uses 2-4 years. This was originally done since some postdocs were spending 6+ years in their positions, but there may be a need to revisit that. However, it varies by discipline: most postdocs leave in 2-4 years but some areas like biomedical research expect 4-5 years. The term limit also complicates J1 visa applications for international postdocs.
•Most schools have no policies on annual raises, though it is not clear if that is implicit in tying it to NIH minimum. Pitt has no such policy and is left to negotiation, which is particularly difficult for international postdocs on visas (who are the majority at Pitt). UPPDA representative pushed for a formal policy.
•No schools offer matching retirement to postdocs. Pitt is one of the few that does offer educational benefits.
Overall positive meeting.
Community Relations, Mariarosaria
•The event entitled "Community engaged scholarship forum: advancing community resilience" will be held virtually on March 2, 2021 to engage with the community. More info regarding the event can be found at the link cesf.pitt.edu.
•Work in progress on the revision of the committee's "Mission statement about Race, diversity and equity", that will be released next month.
Computing & IT, Doug
•Migration from Box to OneDrive continues. Pitt IT just migrated themselves with no major issues. Something that labs need to consider is that cloud storage must be HIPAA compliant, which is one reason we use OneDrive.
•Resources for remote learning are still being rolled out.
•Local Pittsburgh project: MetaMesh. Wireless broadband internet service to underserved communities in the area. CMU has been actively involved, Pitt is joining in.
•Migration from Prism to PittWorx for employee timecards.
•Former Chief Information Security officer retired and been replaced.
Educational Policies, Tenzin
•Anyone with Internet connectivity issues can and should reach out to Pitt IT to create a hotspot for themselves.
•New students and postdocs generally do not feel a part of Pitt. The UPPDA representative encouraged the committee to be broad and include postdocs in their discussions.
•Self-care days are coinciding with faculty assigning major tasks or exams, so the purpose of these days needs to be clarified.
•Students with religious observation needs should bring it up with instructors early, and instructors must in turn be lenient.
•Vice Provost John Wallace and Lorie Johnson-Osho, Director of Faculty Diversity and Development led a discussion of Pitt initiatives to provide mentoring to women and minority faculty and plans to help increase diversity within the Pitt faculty. The focus has been primarily at the transition from early investigator to faculty, with some limited discussion about postdocs.
•Research America report on additional funding for faculty and PI who have been impacted by COVID-19. This is extremely important to postdocs because the current pool of open faculty slots has dropped by 75%.
•Plans for showing “Picture a Scientist” movie. They are still in discussion to see if they can invite the movie creator to be involved in a Q&A online. They are also still determining the logistics to reach as many people as possible.
•New IP policy expected to include language allowing inventors at the university to maintain control of their invention.
•New policy on Conflict of Commitment and External Activities planned to clarify outside activities that may conflict with normal working responsibilities.
Plant Utilization & Planning, Bruce
•Over the past year, the focus has been on maintenance, enforcing COVID-19 policies, new landscaping at the WPU and Bigelow Blvd, snow clearance, and membership of Bee Campus USA.
•Pitt Generates and distributes its own chilled water and steam for heating.
•Pitt commits to becoming carbon neutral by 2037 (i.e. 250th anniversary). Two strategies include looking at ways to optimize energy use in research labs (just 6 buildings make up 40% of Pitt’s total energy use), and using more clean/renewable energy (currently at 13%).
•Considering replacing lights with LEDs and implementing presence sensors around fume hoods (need feedback from researchers).
•COVID-19 impact: Difficult to estimate. Fewer cars due to work from home, but more energy for ventilation.
Doug is helping us add IT resources to new UPPDA website; we welcome any feedback on additional resources that would be helpful to add.