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My mathematics department (a research-oriented department at a non-top school in the United States) has recently made a postdoctoral offer to a strong candidate, and I very much hope the candidate comes.

I have learned that the offer doesn't include any money for travel. Since his eventual success on the job market would presumably depend on how widely his work is known (among other factors), I believe that he (and essentially any other postdoc) should travel extensively to conferences. At least, he should have the opportunity to do so.

Some conferences have funding for attendees, but many don't. Unfortunately, none of us have much grant money we could spare for this purpose, and in any case my feeling is that this should come from my university.

Is it typical that postdoctoral offers are made without any travel funding? And if yes, is it typical that candidates are able to successfully negotiate for some funding?

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Which country are you asking about? – Dmitry Savostyanov Mar 2 at 20:21
@DmitrySavostyanov: Good question, thanks for asking. The US. I just now edited my question to mention this. – Anonymous Mar 2 at 20:45
No funding is typical. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 2 at 22:40
One thing to try: since postdocs in math often involve teaching, they are often treated as term-limited faculty positions, and the postdoc gets a faculty job title like "visiting assistant professor". As such, if your institution has a general policy of providing funds for faculty travel, or some sort of (semi-)competitive internal travel grants, it is worth checking if the postdoc could be eligible. – Nate Eldredge Mar 2 at 22:53
Some prestigious external postdoc fellowships include funding for research-related expenses including traveling. But these are typically given by a funding agency, not by the hosting institute. – Bitwise Mar 3 at 2:04

None of my postdoctoral positions had travel funding in them, nor have I heard of anyone getting such funding. There are several factors to mitigate this, not all of which may be available in all situations.

  • The postdoc can learn how to apply for grants and other things, which can provide the necessary funds for travel or other research needs.

  • If he is invited to give talks, then the inviting institution/department/professor will often cover travel expenses and offer a per diem.

  • He is likely coming there to research with specific people. These people, being experienced, established professors who can attract promising postdocs, likely have grant money of their own, some of which could be allocated to the postdoc's travel costs. This is often what pays for the previous point: professors can often use grant funds to cover the costs to bring in speakers.

  • Exceptional postdoc candidates are likely to be offered exceptional postdoc positions, with fancy names like The Harry Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship in Dynamical Systems. These often come with bigger paychecks, making it easier for the postdoc to afford such outside costs.

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I guess I can offer myself as a counterexample: I had a postdoc in math (in the US) that came with travel funding. But the position was funded by a grant which specifically budgeted for that. – Nate Eldredge Mar 2 at 22:51

My postdoc in math at a top-ranked U.S. school did not come with any dedicated travel funding. Some amount of funding was still available through the department, but not much - perhaps one domestic trip per year. This was not advertised as part of the job, it was just something that the department chair could arrange.

The postdoc was not funded by a grant, nor was it one of the "premier" postdocs at the school, which was large enough to have several "levels" of research-oriented postdocs.

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I did two postdocs (in math), and I had some travel money with both of them. One was an NSF postdoc at Columbia. I do not recall if the NSF provided travel money then, though as mentioned in the comments they currently do. In any case, the department provided some travel money to postdocs. The other was in Japan funded by the JSPS which had explicit travel money attached, though it was barely enough for a single conference. Most conferences I wanted to attend as a postdoc provided funding so I don't think I used most of my travel money from Columbia.

The department where I am now (a large state research university in the US, but not a "top department") provides some travel money for our postdocs (and faculty and grad students), which we can also supplement from our own grants. I'm not aware of any conventions that say the department should or should not provide travel money, though I don't think it's typical that travel money is made as a part of an offer.

If your department normally provides some travel money to faculty, it seems reasonable to provide some to postdocs as well (maybe a smaller amount, or under certain conditions). I think it's a reasonable thing for a candidate to ask about before making a decision, but I wouldn't try to negotiate for it to be put into the formal offer (which is usually made by the university/college rather than the department anyway).

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When I had an NSF postdoc it came with 10k (total, not per year) for travel and other expenses. Checking the current solicitation, there's now a 12k lump sum for expenses. – Noah Snyder Mar 3 at 14:36
@NoahSnyder Hmm... maybe I just completely forgot about that. I'll edit my answer. – Kimball Mar 3 at 14:54

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