Welcome to the Postdoctoral Researcher site in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland. Postdoctoral Researchers are a diverse group of research intensive academics, working on their own research and/or on larger research projects, spanning all domains of psychology. The research intensive role, disparate topics, and typically shorter-term contracts mean they have a unique set of needs and concerns, but not always the social contacts and networks to find out.
This website is to help those interested in pursuing postdoctoral research in Psychology at UQ, along with those who are interested in finding out more about opportunities for postdoctoral research in Psychology at UQ. Here you will find a bit more about who we are, what we do, and answers to some of the common questions and concerns facing Postdoctoral Researchers, both current and prospective. We hope you find it useful.
The funds that you may receive strongly depend on your position and how this position is funded; e.g., whether you’re employed by a staff member or come with your own grant money (ARC / NHMRC grants). Generally, the Finance office at the School of Psychology will be able to answer your questions. Here is a short overview of funds that may be available to you:
1) Strategic Funds
The School of Psychology usually pays Postdoctoral Researchers who supervise Honours Students $750 per student every year into your strategic account, which is managed by the School’s Finance Office. Whether or not you’ll find any money in your strategic account depends on whether you supervise any Honours Students and have agreed to mark Honours theses; usually, Postdoctoral Researchers supervise up to 2 Honours Students and mark up to 7 theses per year and will get $1,500 in strategic funding for that. Strategic funds can be used for multiple purposes, including payments of research participants, RAs, travel, and much more. If you want to know whether you can get more strategic funds (e.g., by supervising more students), ask the Head of School. If you have a question relating to spending the money or carrying it forward to the next year, ask the Finance Office. Postdoctoral Researchers who are paid on a grant should first discuss with your supervisor whether it is good idea to supervise Honours Students or not.
2) Conference Funds
All Postdoctoral Researchers are provided with generous conference funds, up to $3,000 for an international conference every three years, and up to $1,000 per year for conference attendance to a national conference. Among the travel costs you can be reimbursed for are airline flights, accommodation, and meals and incidentals.
3) Printing Quota/Stationery
If you have work-related letters to send, you can do this via reception, or by popping your letter into the outgoing mail box in the mailing room. Envelopes and stamps can be bought using your stationery account (ask Reception). Also, at the start of each year, you’ll be given 2,000 pages printing quota that you can use for printing or copying stuff. If you run out of your printing quota, you can top it up for cash at reception.
A comprehensive list of grant schemes can be found at the Research & Innovation website http://www.uq.edu.au/research/research-management/. Your chances of getting one of those grants depend, among other things, on your publication record and research background. Before applying to one of those, carefully read the eligibility criteria and, if unsure, ask previous successful candidates for advice. There is also a School of Psychology readership scheme for external grants that can provide useful feedback. For external grants it is usually a good idea to team up with a more senior researcher with a good track record. Most colleagues will also be happy to share their application with you so that you have a good example of a successful grant application. You can also request successful grants using the UQR&I Grants Library Access Form at http://www.uq.edu.au/research/forms/render.php?form=grants-library/request.
Here are the most important grants for Postdoctoral Researchers (in order from least competitive to most competitive):
1) Start-up Funds
Start-up funds may be negotiated when a Postdoctoral Researcher takes up a post in the School of Psychology. However, funding is only likely to be granted for small amounts (under $5,000) and to researchers who do not have access to additional funding through their supervisor.
2) UQ Early Career Grant
This is an internal one-year UQ grant scheme specific for early career researchers. The general aims of the scheme are: 1) To encourage research by new members of staff, 2) to provide limited seed funding as a means of generating external research support; and 3) to support, on a competitive basis, high quality research projects of modest financial cost from early career researchers. An Early Career Researcher (ECR) is someone who is currently within his/her first eight years of academic or other research-related employment, allowing for uninterrupted, stable research development, following completion of postgraduate research training. Within the School of Psychology you can only apply for a maximum of $20,000. See http://www.uq.edu.au/research/research-management/uq-early-career-researcher-ecr-grants-scheme for more details. All Postdoctoral Researchers with a three-year contract can apply.
3) ARC Discovery Grant
This scheme is for non-medical research funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). The Discovery Projects scheme provides funding for research projects that can be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams. This scheme is highly competitive and it is usually a good idea for Postdoctoral Researchers to team up with a more senior researcher with a good track record. See http://www.arc.gov.au/ncgp/dp/dp_default.htm for more details.
4) NHMRC Project Grant
This scheme is for medical research funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Its goal is to support individuals and small teams of researchers undertaking biomedical, public health and health services research in Australian universities, medical schools, hospitals and other research institutions. This scheme is also highly competitive and it is usually a good idea for Postdoctoral Researchers to team up with a more senior researcher with a good track record. See http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/apply-funding/project-grants for more details.
Normally you don’t have to teach as a Postdoctoral Researcher but again this will depend on your position. In general, Research Fellows are strongly encouraged to contribute to undergraduate, Honours, or postgraduate teaching up to approximately .5 courses per year. There are multiple ways in which you can become active in teaching: First, you could teach a course. Second, you can hold a one-off lecture in one of the lecture series, or third, you can teach a seminar within the framework of Residual Teaching. If you want to get extra teaching experience you should talk with your supervisor and the Head of School. Extra research money can be obtained if you are willing to teach.
There are multiple ways you can become a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Psychology. See the research and innovation division for details: http://www.uq.edu.au/research/research-management/. Below are the most important schemes:
1) Being paid by a grant.
This means that a senior investigator has received a successful grant or fellowship in which money is being provided to hire a Postdoctoral Researcher. These jobs are usually advertised in the wider scientific community and qualified people from all over the world can apply. You can also write an ARC Discovery Grant or NHMRC Project grant together with a senior researcher in which you are the named Postdoctoral Researcher. If the grant is successful, salary will be available for you for a three-year period.
2) UQ Postdoctoral Research fellowship
These are three-year fellowships provided by the University. The Fellowship comes with a salary and $20,000 research money over a three year period. See http://www.uq.edu.au/research/research-management/uq-postdoctoral-research-fellowships for more details. An applicant must not have had more than five years full-time professional research experience or equivalent part-time experience since the award of a PhD.
3) UQ Postdoctoral Research fellowship for women
These are three-year Fellowships provided by the University and are open to women with a PhD or equivalent qualification, whose academic careers have been interrupted, delayed or otherwise constrained by family or other responsibilities. This includes applicants who are precluded from applying for postdoctoral research fellowships in locations elsewhere. Some Fellowships will be available for full-time research over a period of three years while others will be available for half-time research over a period of three years. The research must be conducted at The University of Queensland in any of its disciplines.
The UQ Postdoctoral Research Fellowships for Women support the University’s research strategy to introduce special initiatives to advance women in research. The purpose of the Fellowships is to assist eligible women to re-establish their academic research careers after a career break or interruption. See http://www.uq.edu.au/research/research-management/uq-postdoctoral-research-fellowships-for-women for more details.
4) ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Fellowship
These are three-year non-medical Fellowships provided by the national government. The Fellowship comes with a salary + $40,000 research money every year. See: http://www.arc.gov.au/ncgp/decra.htm for more information. An applicant must not have had more than five years full-time professional research experience or equivalent part-time experience since the award of a PhD (nine years for applicants with significant career interruptions).
5) NHMRC Early Career Fellowship
These are four-year health and medical Fellowships provided by the national government. For these Fellowships you need to be a permanent resident or citizen of Australia. See: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/types-funding/-z-list-funding-types/early-career-fellowships for more information. An applicant must not have had more than two years full-time professional research experience or equivalent part-time experience since the award of a PhD. This period is counted from the date of the letter advising candidates their thesis has been passed.
6) Bring your own money.
If you are planning to apply for an overseas Postdoctoral Fellowship to work at the School of Psychology at UQ you should first contact a potential supervisor in the School of Psychology to see if you can work together on a project.
Note that all Postdoctoral Researcher positions are very competitive and before applying you should ask advice from a senior researcher in the School of Psychology.
Generally speaking, access to resources can vary a lot between different Postdoctoral Researchers and can depend for example on their academic level (A, B, C…), own funding source, supervisor’s funding sources and assets, etc. The best thing is to clarify access to essential resources before you come to UQ.
As a Postdoctoral Researcher with the School of Psychology, you’ll usually get a workplace with a computer and desk in a shared office. Shared offices can contain just two people or multiple people. Most offices contain a telephone but usually no printer/fax, which are located in various locations on each floor (access via staff card, which is encoded for this purpose at reception). If you need a table, lamp or chair, the Facilities Manager may be able to help you out. For any issues surrounding your computer (including printing) contact the IT office on the 4th floor. For Health and Safety issues you may contact the Facilities Manager, or, if it’s a serious problem, the School Manager. Rooms are allocated by the School Manager and Head of School, so if you want a change, it’s best to contact them.
The School of Psychology has a number of shared labs that are mostly equipped with computers for behavioural testing. You can book the space online at http://www.psy.uq.edu.au/research/bookings/. There are also 2 eye-tracking labs, one EEG lab and one TMS lab in the School of Psychology. To find out which of these facilities are shared facilities, you’ll have to find them and contact the person who’s currently responsible for them. The Centre for Advanced Imaging also hosts a 3T MRI scanner but you will need to have the necessary funding and approvals if you want to use this one (http://www.cai.uq.edu.au/human-imaging for more details).
3) Meeting Rooms
If you are in a shared office and need to meet with colleagues, students or RAs, you can use one of the meeting rooms specifically provided for this purpose. The meeting rooms are mostly located on the second floor and bookings can be made through reception. Access to the meeting rooms is provided by reception via your staff card.
4) Research Assistants
RAs are very expensive and therefore a full-time RA is a somewhat rare commodity. Unless you or your supervisor have sufficient funding for an RA, better be prepared to do the RA work yourself. You could ask the secretary to the Head of School whether any students have expressed an interest to do voluntary work, or you can advertise on your personal webpage (hosted on the School of Psychology website). The best way to get volunteer RAs is to teach and get exposure at the undergraduate level. Also familiarize yourself with the opportunities for undergraduate research. Undergraduate students can get course credit for participating in two courses during their degree – PSYC2991 and PSYC2992 – in which they get research experience with a member of staff. High performing (Dean’s Scholar) students are invited to apply for summer and winter scholarships in which they are paid a stipend by the Faculty to gain research experience. Contact the Deputy Head of Teaching and Learning, Aarti Iyer (firstname.lastname@example.org) to have your name put on the list of potential supervisors.
5) Testing of Participants
Testing of human participants is subject to regulations. At a minimum, you’ll have to apply for ethical approval and wait for your study to be approved before you can start testing (approx. 6-8 weeks). Ethical approval is usually limited to three-years (but can be extended quite easily) and restricted to the study that you applied for (meaning you’ll need to fill out another ethics application if you want to test something else). If you’ve never filled out an ethics application yourself, better get an example of a successful ethics application and ask your supervisor to check it before you hand it in – there are hidden rules there, and it will annoy the Ethics Committee if you don’t comply with them (and they’ll bounce your application back). All staff are eligible for 200 participant hours per year, although the last four weeks of each semester is a “quota-free” period that doesn’t count towards your participant hours. To get access to your hours you will need to complete a SONA application form available on the forms and policies webpage (http://www.psy.uq.edu.au/formsandpolicies/index.html?page=1240).
As a beginning Postdoctoral Researcher with a PhD you usually start at Academic level A06 which corresponds to $74,254.69 per year + 17% super (in 2014) but depending on your level of experience and your type of funding you can negotiate a higher level.
See http://www.uq.edu.au/current-staff/index.html?page=206241&pid=11893 for more details on University salary levels.
As mentioned in the funding section, Postdoctoral Researchers will usually be asked to supervise two Honours Students and to mark 7-8 Honours theses per year or 15 theses every 2 years (for which you’ll probably get $1,500 in strategic funding). You can also act as a primary or secondary supervisor for PhD students; usually, your contribution is however capped at 50% supervision and post-docs are expected to share supervisory load with a member of permanent staff, as people on short-term contracts (< 5 years) are perceived to be more likely to leave the university. If you want to supervise PhD students you should talk with potential students and list it on your webpage. Some research groups sent out lists of potential supervisor to Honours Students so talk with the people responsible if you want to be on the list.
Postdoctoral Researchers have generally equal rights as full-time staff and can also vote during Academic Committee Meetings.
Postdoctoral Researchers can attend the Academic Committee if they want to but they don’t have to. In general, Research Fellows are expected to serve on one School committee per year. Contact the Head of School or Postdoctoral Coordinator to ask about available committee positions.
For details you should contact the HR department from the School of Psychology. By default, the university (HR department) will offer Postdoctoral Researchers from overseas a business class visa that is valid for the duration that they are employed (but ends on the day the contract ends at which point you’re forced to leave the country). However, if your contract extends three years, you can ask the university to act as a sponsor for a permanent visa. As soon as an application for a permanent visa has been lodged, you are also entitled to Medicare, whereas you’ll need private health insurance cover when you are on a business class visa. All visa issues are handled by Human Resources and may be subject to change, so best contact them. Depending on the nature of your contract, you may also get reimbursed for relocation costs.
Every year you will automatically (assuming you don’t get a negative performance appraisal) increase one step in your scale position within your level. For example if you start on level A06, next year you will be A07 (again see http://www.uq.edu.au/current-staff/index.html?page=206241&pid=11893 for more details on University salary levels). Once you reach the top of your level (e.g., A08) you will stay at this level until you get promotion to the next level. Postdoctoral Researchers can apply for promotion as everyone else. Barring unusual circumstances, the earliest you can apply for promotion is two years after you last applied for promotion (or two years after you started work at UQ), but more commonly people wait for at least three years before applying for promotion again. If the promotion committee decides against promoting you, you’ll have to wait for two years before you can apply again (barring unusual circumstances). If you’re unsure whether you should apply for promotion or not, you can ask your supervisor, if you have one, your UQ assessor, or a senior colleague.
Performance Appraisal: Post-docs usually have regular performance assessments: The School assigns each post-doc a senior colleague as an assessor; often this is your supervisor. Before the appraisal date, you’ll have to fill out an academic portfolio form and an achievements and objectives form that provides an overview of your achievements for the assessor. Ideally, the assessor will make recommendations how you can improve your career prospects and will tell you whether you should apply for promotion or not. For research-only academics, the publication record, number of awards and successful grant applications are usually the most heavily weighted performance indicators. Apart from that, the involvement in supervision/teaching or other admin work, e.g., committee work, will also be considered. If you’re unsure about what is expected of you, the School has perhaps most clearly formulated its expectations in the description of different levels, which are part of the promotion documents.
If your DECRA or NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship has ended there are a few opportunities to stick around:
1) ARC Future Fellowships.
Note that it is as yet unclear whether the scheme will be continued in 2014. This external scheme is to promote research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia. The aim of Future Fellowships is to attract and retain the best and brightest mid-career researchers. At present many highly qualified mid-career researchers choose to work overseas to further their careers due to lack of opportunities in Australia. The Future Fellowships scheme addresses this problem and will significantly boost Australia’s research and innovation capacity in areas of national importance. Over a five-year period (2009 -2013), Future Fellowships will offer four-year fellowships of up to $143,000 a year to 1,000 outstanding Australian and international researchers in the middle of their career. In addition, the ARC will provide Administering Organisations with funding of up to $50,000 per annum which may be used for infrastructure, equipment, travel and relocation costs directly related to the Future Fellow’s research. Future Fellowships will encourage proposals from researchers working in areas of national priority. Preference will be given to those researchers who can demonstrate a capacity to build collaboration across industry and/or research institutions and/or with other disciplines. Interested applicants will be asked to provide a short CV and expression of interest to the Research Committee, who will rank order candidates and invite them to apply. Find more information on the scheme at http://www.arc.gov.au/ncgp/futurefel/future_default.htm.
2) NHMRC Career Development Fellowships.
The purpose of the Career Development Fellowships (CDF) scheme is to further develop Australian health and medical early to mid-career researchers. It aims to enable investigators to establish themselves as independent, self-directed researchers; expand capacity for biomedical, clinical, public health and health service delivery research, and for evidence-based policy development in Australian health systems; and encourage the translation of research outcomes into practice. Applicants at CDF Level 1 will normally have at least 2 and less than 7 years post-doctoral experience and applicants at CDF Level 2 will normally have at least 7 and less than 12 years post-doctoral experience. See http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/apply-funding/career-development-fellowships for more details.
3) Permanent positions are difficult to get and they will be announced if a position comes available. Anybody in the world can apply for the position.