The CI Fellows program has just been announced for this year. This program provides funding for postdocs (who have graduated from US universities) in computer science. The program requires applicants to select up to 3 potential ‘mentors’, and one of these potential mentors is then assigned as part of the funding award.
This is, of course, a fantastic thing, and kudos go to the steering committee who must have put in a lot of work to make this happen again.
On the other hand, the late announcement of the program is really frustrating, and I wonder how many people the program will really ‘help’. (Let me stress that I in no way ‘blame’ anyone on the steering committee — I assume this must have simply been outside their control. Complaints about the late announcement, by both potential postdocs and potential mentors, are also not new.) Some thoughts and observations along these lines:
- There is nothing to prevent people who have already lined up a postdoc position from applying for the fellowship (listing as their mentor the person who has already guaranteed their position). The CI Fellows program acknowledges this, and suggests that even if someone who already has a position receives an award, this will free up money for someone else. Maybe, but given the late date by which decisions on the program will be made, it seems to me it will be too late at that point to offer the position to someone else.
- An easy way to address the above would be to lower the salary. I don’t know what the ‘average’ CS postdoc salary is in academia, but I believe it is lower than the $70K the CI Fellows program is offering. A salary closer to (or even lower than) the average would discourage people who already have offers from applying.
- More generally, the stronger students are (presumably) more likely to get an award, but aren’t they the ones most likely to have secured a position by now? And, if not, does this mean that getting the CI fellowship is somehow a ‘stigma’ (since it indicates that you did not have an offer by that point in the process)?
- Given the late date by which awards will be made, I wonder how many people are going to be comfortable gambling their future by applying to this program. E.g., if a student has no postdoc offer but has an offer, say, from google, should they really turn down the google offer and apply for this fellowship in the hopes that they get it? And what if they don’t?
I have no answer to the above, but I would be interested to hear opinions from any CI Fellows from last year about their experiences, or from people considering applying to the program this year.