In some answer to a question, regarding the stressful life the asker is having in his research environment, somebody wrote in the line of, "Postdocs are free agents, they are not livestock".

As I understand so far, perhaps he wanted to mean that postdocs have the liberty of moving from one research facility to another if the circumstances are not in his favor. Postdocs are not simply "domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber, and labor".

Is my understanding correct? Perhaps you would like to supplement a bit more to make the idea clearer.

  • You understanding of the quotation is correct. However, one of the things your dictionary told you is that livestock is an uncountable noun. Do you know what an uncountable noun is, and how it differs from a countable noun? Click on the edited link to see the changes that were made. – P. E. Dant Jul 20 '17 at 3:09
  • @P.E.Dant Since that was a quote, perhaps it would have been more appropriate to append "sic" instead. – Lawrence Jul 20 '17 at 3:34
  • @Masroor The contrast was possibly along the lines of a protest because they wanted to pursue their own research directions instead of just being part of the 'herd' of postdocs doing the department's systematised research program. However, you're better off asking the relevant postdoc directly. – Lawrence Jul 20 '17 at 3:36
  • @Lawrence Since the OP evidently consulted a dictionary (from which he reproduced a definition) he must also have seen the notation uncountable on the same page; yet no mention of this is included in the question, although it is arguably more important (and certainly more elementary) than understanding the figure of speech about postdocs. – P. E. Dant Jul 20 '17 at 3:47
  • @P.E.Dant Then why do Oxford, Cambridge and Longman dictionaries write the example sentences without the 's'? Please see, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/livestock. Click on More example sentences. You get 20+ examples. Also, please see, dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/livestock. Please see, ldoceonline.com/dictionary/livestock. – Masroor Jul 20 '17 at 8:01

Yes, you are correct in inferring the meaning. Post-docs are people that have agency to change jobs, they are not owned by their institution.

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