There was a neat post over at Prof-like Substance's blog about NSF funding. He wonders if the Canadian system is all that it is cracked up to be -- awards of $30,000 per year for 5 years. At these rates, a post-doc needs to come with their own funding or else one isn't possible.
I have two reactions.
One, salary support in Canada tends to be more robust. Putting the grant with the post-doctoral fellow gives them flexibility and more power in the relationship (the supervisor needs to give positive benefits to the post-doc to get them to come to a specific lab).
Two, why does every new lab need a post-doc? If the career of a professor spans 30 years and the average post-doc serves for 5 years then we are either expecing a robust growth in the number of scientific positions or we expect most post-docs not to become professors.
Now there could be good reasons to be a post-doctoral fellow that do not involve a career in academia afterwards. But the most common reason is a desire to be mentored towards a career. If the post-doc is a requirment then they are really poorly paid technicians.
Is this a good thing?