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I noticed during my application process for post-doc jobs that several say "1-2 year appointment" or "possible renewal for second year". I understand from this answer that it is in everyone's benefit to not be "stuck" in a postdoc situation for too many years for fear of starving oneself.

My question is, if not mentioned, what is the general criteria for a renewal of postdoc appointment to a second year (or perhaps to a third)? Most of the applications I have put in to labs/univs. are not clear at all on renewal criteria. Is it based on need? performance? Mutual understanding? Does anyone have examples on some of these situations?

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    Have you asked your postdoctoral advisor(s) about their evaluation criteria? I would think that it varies from person to person.
    – Irwin
    Feb 26, 2014 at 23:18
  • My feeling is that unless there are funding issues, there would be some resistance to firing a postdoc unless there were real problems: the startup cost/time for a new postdoc can be high.
    – Suresh
    Feb 26, 2014 at 23:40
  • @Suresh Your answer does make sense considering that some of the post-docs offered have a long-ish (~2 month long) security clearance type situation.
    – dearN
    Feb 26, 2014 at 23:45
  • Maybe I'll convert to an answer.
    – Suresh
    Feb 27, 2014 at 0:15

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My feeling is that unless there are funding issues, there would be some resistance to firing a postdoc unless there were real problems: the startup cost/time for a new postdoc can be high.

Having posted ads like these myself before, I can say that one non-funding-based reason to mention a 1-2 year postdoc is to allow for a hedge in case the hired person turns out to be really bad. In that case, you have the option of doing a first-year review and dismissing the person (i.e the default bit is set to NO and some activation energy is required to make it a YES)

In the reverse case of a two-year postdoc, the default bit is now YES and significant activation energy is required to make it a NO. If not done right, this could even lead to charges of unfair dismissal and so on.

So since there's a glut of postdocs and a short supply of positions, the "buyers" have some power to shape the position to suit their needs.

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