Ultimately, your responsibility as a Postdoctoral Scholar or Fellow is to not be a postdoc anymore!  In other words, your primary goal should be to achieve the training, experience, and professional networking you need to move on to a permanent position that suits your career goals. You are expected to carry out your research plans and fulfill the goals you established with your mentor(s); to communicate regularly with your mentor; and to notify the faculty mentor of any change in your research plans. Postdoctoral Fellows funded through institutional training grants or fellowships may have additional responsibilities identified by the funding source.

Sometimes it can be tricky to understand and navigate a good balance between your own professional development while learning and training within your mentor’s research program. To achieve this balance it is absolutely essential for you and your mentor to have very clear communications. Especially important components of the early communications are to establish understanding about 1) your rights and responsibilities in analyzing and publishing the data you produce, both as author and co-author; 2) can you participate in grant writing, especially as a lead author?; 3) what expectations does the mentor have for your control over budgets and spending? 4) are there any policies and expectations for you to present your work at professional meetings, and if so who will pay expenses?  At all times you should remember that you are a professional and it is as much your responsibility as it is your supervisor’s responsibility to establish and maintain these clear communications. Also remember that you are a trainee, not an employee, so it is reasonable to expect that your mentor will provide you with opportunities to engage in all aspects of being a professional researcher. 

An important tool for establishing clear communications and expectations is the Individual Development Plan, or IDP.  By the end of your first quarter as a postdoc, you and your mentor should work together to create an IDP created especially for you.  After it is signed by both you and your mentor, it should be submitted to the OPP. And before the end of the first and second years of your appointment your mentor will need to conduct an annual review that assesses your progress and development as defined by that plan and submit it to the OPP before you can be reappointed for another year.

You should realize that senior researchers vary in their ability to be great mentors, and it is normal for a mentee to be frustrated at times.  Buf if there are ever any questions about boundaries, expectations, or ethical behaviors you should contact the Office of Postdoctoral Programs or the University Ombuds.  Also remember that successful professionals need to cultivate a variety of mentors. You should cultivate informal as well as formal mentors.