Julie Gould hears how COVID-19 is jeopardising the postdoc career path.

Earlier this year, Michael Moore was due to start a permanent faculty position in Michigan, a move to his “dream job” that would have brought him and his family of five children closer to where their grandparents live.

Moore, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis, contacted his prospective employer after hearing that job offers were being put on hold at many places as a result of the pandemic. He was later told that, as a result of continued funding uncertainty, all new hires were cancelled.

Pearl Ryder, a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts, and founder of the Future PI Slack channel, tells Gould that Moore's situation is sadly not unusual. She adds: “The group that has been most harmed by this pandemic are the youngest members of our profession, the graduate students who were hoping to move on to a postdoc … and the postdocs who were hoping to move on to new positions, but those new positions no longer exist.”

Can any positives be drawn from the pandemic? A kinder and more open research culture, perhaps? Shirley Tilghman, president emerita of Princeton University, New Jersey, thinks so.