In 2002, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, esteemed economist Richard Freeman urged postdocs to stay the course and do nothing to rock the boat. After all, society benefits greatly from their many sacrifices:

On behalf of the taxpayers who fund much of the postdoc-conducted research and on behalf of the PIs who are able to undertake more experiments and advance their careers with low-cost postdocs in their labs, I want to thank the postdocs in our country. The United States could hardly ask for a more cost-effective way to advance knowledge and ultimately improve our lives. In a world where former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay (an economics Ph.D.!) paid himself millions of dollars before bankrupting his firm, postdocs deserve a round of huzzahs for creating so much of value and charging so little that they themselves are the ones risking bankruptcy.

"Hip-hip hooray for bargain-basement postdocs!" he wrote. "Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!"

"Thanks for the Great Postdoc Bargain"

Jim Austin is the editor of Science Careers. @SciCareerEditor on Twitter

10.1126/science.caredit.a1400089