Peter Coveney, a chemist and computational scientist at University College London, is ready to hire a postdoctoral researcher with experience in high-level computing. The problem: he’s struggling to attract a single qualified applicant. Earlier this year, he had to re-advertise for the position after two previous rounds of recruiting failed to produce any qualified candidates. He’s worried that if he can’t bring in someone soon, projects will be left undone and his long personal history of grants and publications could see a slowdown. “I’m extremely concerned about the long run,” he says. “At the moment I’m not running on empty, but I might be before long.”Madeline Lancaster, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, UK, can relate to that. In July, she received a total of 36 applications for a postdoctoral position in her laboratory, many fewer than the couple of hundred that she originally expected. “I had been nervous that I wouldn’t be able to go through all of the applications,” she says. Those 36 didn’t lead to a single appointment. “I still have not filled the position,” she says. “There seems to be lots of competition for strong candidates.”
I don't really know what to say about this situation*, other than I am sympathetic towards assistant professors who struggle to find postdocs to get their programs off the ground. That said, I still feel the way I did a while back - this isn't a bad thing for PhD graduates, especially life scientists. If private industry is making the market more competitive for PhD scientists, this will do a lot to increase the lot of all working scientists.
*Also, good economic times won't last forever. We'll see where we are in 5 years.