I’m on the side of Andrew Lovinger in viewing that postdocs are not students (C&EN, Feb. 20, page 4). I am a postdoc in a federal lab, but I seem to have an experience similar to other non-postdoc contractors.
Those who hire postdocs must say it’s an educational, and hence student-like, experience for one simple reason: It makes the postdocs cheaper. If there is no educational benefit, there is no FICA exemption. With the option between one Ph.D. researcher (including Social Security and Medicare taxes, benefits, etc., beyond the salary) or two postdocs (only a stipend) for the same cost, which would you choose?
In short, I don’t believe postdocs are students, but for tax purposes, it is advantageous for our sponsoring institutions to classify us as such.