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Postdocs of Cambridge Society


PdOC Department Network

A Guide to Establishing a Local Postdoc Committee


This guide offers advice on the general principles of setting up a group for efficient engagement and integration of postdocs into the university. The PdOC Society aims to bring the postdoc community together on both a social and intellectual level and improve postdoc representation with the University. PdOC Society is not involved in organizing activities at the local level.

What is a Departmental Postdoc Committee and benefits of having it?

A Departmental Postdoc Committee is a group of postdocs working together to represent the views of postdocs on a range of issues.  The issues will relate directly to the experiences and professional development of postdocs within the context of their Department or University Partner Institution.  This group is also very likely to organise networking events for postdocs within the department.

A Postdoc Committee can
●    bring together the postdoc and research community in your department
●    give a ‘voice’ to the postdocs
●    facilitate communication between postdocs and department
●    inform the postdoc community about opportunities for personal and professional development
●    enrich the postdoc experience across the department and the wider University
●    engage with the wider University structure

How will your postdoc committee feed into the decision-making processes of the University? 

In addition to feeding into the Committees within your own Department, it is planned that a representative (e.g. the chair) from each Department Postdoc Committee will meet annually.  This representative group will be chaired by the PdOC Society and will report to the OPDA Management Committee.

Who is a local Postdoc representative?

It is advisable to have only one representative (or two in exceptional cases, with a deputy) for the local postdoc committee. This individual serves as the primary point of contact to avoid confusion and prevent messages from being bounced between people. This ensures a smooth communication process, fostering effective engagement and integration of postdocs into the university, as you know the University is a complex organisation consisting of over 100 departments, a single rep facilitates streamlined communication. While local reps aren’t under the university’s purview, they feed into the decision-making processes of the University, especially through PdOC Society interface. A list of established postdoc groups and their local representative’s contact is at the end of this guide.

Before you start, consider the following
●    What is your personal drive behind setting up the group?  What do you hope this Committee will achieve? (over what timescale?).  
●    Find out how decisions are made in your department.  What is the committee structure in your department?
●    How are postdocs currently represented in your department?  Which committees contain a postdoc?  This will vary from Department to Department and might NOT be widely publicised in your department.  Ask around.
●    Can you identify a postdoc ‘Champion’ at the senior management level and in Departmental administration in your department?  This will be someone who can advise you on how the department works and how you can be most effective, and who is sympathetic towards postdoc issues.
●    Find out who is responsible for ‘Researcher Development’ (used to be called Transferrable Skills or Roberts Funding).  This could be based in the Graduate Office for the Department.  Your department has access to ‘Researcher Development’ funding for training and skills development of its researchers, including postdocs.

If you are interested in being a local postdoc representative, please contact PdOC Society so we can add you as a contact person to the database and enhance your engagement with the wider university. Before reaching out to PdOC, please read this page carefully and nominate yourself only if there is no existing local representative in your department or institute (Kindly check the list below).

Kindly note that PdOC committee is run by volunteers with demanding postdoc positions, however, please reach out:
●    If you are interested in being a new local postdoc rep, also send us a list of tentative activities you would like to implement within your department during that year
●    If you would like to be a representative at the departmental level and there are multiple institutes within your department, ensure you have consulted institute-level postdoc reps and have consensus from them before contacting PdOC
●    Keep us updated on the termly postdoc activities that happened in your department for us to best support you and promote your events

Practical first steps for forming a local postdoc committee

  1. Get a group of enthusiastic, organised postdocs together.  This often happens in an adhoc fashion in the first instance.  Ask your research office and/or departmental administrator to suggest names.  Don’t just stick to your own social/academic circle. Try to include postdocs from all areas of your department e.g. postdocs from different buildings, different research groups, different career stages.

  2. Identify a postdoc ‘Champion’ at the senior management level and in Departmental administration in your department?  This will be someone who can advise you on how the department works and how you can be most effective, and who is sympathetic towards postdoc issues.  Invite them to sit on your postdoc committee.  They will be an invaluable source of information and help you navigate the admin processes of your department.

  3. Define the objectives and the terms of reference for your Postdoc Committee.  It’s worth spending time on this at the start.  Gather opinions from as many different people as possible.  Who are the postdocs in your Department?  What are their needs? What kinds of events/resources would be useful?  What can a volunteer committee realistically deliver?

  4. Decide on a structure/mechanism to manage the Committee.  Will individuals within the Committee have specific roles (e.g., ‘communication, ‘organising events’), or will all members have the same general role with specific responsibilities for particular events?  Who else can help?  Is there a permanent member of staff who could advise the Committee?  They will have a wealth of knowledge about the Department to share.

  5. Communication.  Establish a mechanism of spreading information to the postdocs in your Department.  This will probably involve creating a postdoc mailing list which may already exist.  Develop a relationship with the administrative staff in your department to access email lists of postdocs. Based upon experience of recently established Postdoc Committees, existing lists many be severely out of date, so be sure you have an accurate mailing list and someone to maintain it.

  6. Organise your first ‘event’!   It can be very simple and don’t expect every postdoc in your department to turn up.  The initial aim is to bring the postdoc community together e.g. arrange an open meeting for all postdocs (over lunch works!) invite your Head of Department to address the group.

  7. Survey your postdocs to find out what they want to do?  This could be done at your first event and followed up by email to maximise engagement.  Once you have a clearer picture of the needs of your postdoc community you can develop and refine your objectives and activities.  

  8. Lobby your Head of Department and/or ‘Champion’ to increase postdoc representation on Departmental Committees.  The Committee structure varies from Department from Department.  Find out which Committees already have postdoc representation and which Committees should have postdoc representation.  

  9. Finally, you’ve just got started but how are you planning to sustain the group?  How can you attract in new faces with fresh ideas and enthusiasm each year?  Have a limited time period for each role within the Committee e.g. a new chair is chosen every 2 years etc.

  10. Focus on defining ‘action points’ and progressing them: don’t just talk!  Good to find a mix of short-term achievable ‘low-hanging fruit’ and long-term ‘visionary’ goals.

What about funding?

Your Postdoc Committee will need to seek funding for both the functioning of the Committee and also to deliver any events for postdocs. There is also a University Researcher Development Fund to support the learning and development of researchers for both your current research role and for your future career.  Please check with your department/institute and/or School.

Potential challenges and possible solutions

Challenge Possible Solution

Lack of engagement of postdocs

- ownership of the group should be with the representative and the committee, the postdocs e.g. a postdoc chairs the group, arranges the meeting etc.
- networking & social activities will be the glue to hold the group together.
- get out there and talk to as many postdocs as possible e.g. departmental seminars, research away days, in the tea room!
- survey the needs of the postdoc cohort

Time management of postdocs

You are busy.  Probably a full-time researcher.   
- have clearly defined roles in your committee structure.  
- prepare for each meeting.  This will save time and be more productive in the long run!
- professional and timely communication - try not to have large group discussions via email.

Effectiveness of the group
Is it really listened to?


Find a senior academic in your department who will be a ‘champion’ for the group. They could
- attend meetings and provide advice/guidance
- liaise with others in the Department
- help you work out what is realistic within the context of your Department.

Need further help?

Apart from PdOC, there are a number of people who might be able to help including the Postdoc Academy, Career Service, or your local Human Resources team.

You can also find a list of established local postdoc committees and their local representative’s contact here (last updated: Jan 2024): Departmental Postdoc Committees

This list is updated regularly; however, we may not have the most up-to-date information. If you come across any representative contacts that are old, kindly let us know.