This post was written by FoR BoD member Dr. Adriana Bankston.
International scientists make up a large portion of the U.S. biomedical workforce. While conducting research in the U.S., however, they are faced with many obstacles, many of which are related to visa and fellowship restrictions. In addition, another challenge can be advocating for science during public events. We have previously discussed some of these aspects in a blog post on public advocacy, a workshop at the 2017 ASCB meeting, and a talk at the University of Southern California. With these efforts, Future of Research aims to gather information about the challenges faced by this population and suggest potential ways to overcome them. In addition, we encourage other groups to have conversations around this crucial topic which can greatly affect the biomedical enterprise as a whole.
A session at the 2018 NPA meeting (summarized in this Twitter thread) sought to more deeply address multiple types of barriers encountered by international scholars in the U.S. These include cultural, funding and immigration challenges. This information was also presented in a recent myPostdoc Monthly webinar from the NPA. Below, we detail some of the major conclusions from this session.
Cultural challenges can come in the form of both cultural adjustment (such as feeling homesick during the U.S. holiday season) and cultural intelligence (including xenophobia, language differences and work style differences in various countries). These factors can lead to an unwelcoming environment for international scholars in the U.S. To overcome these challenges, both the community and individuals themselves need to contribute to celebrating these differences. This section was presented by Sina Safayi, DVM, PhD, Assistant Director of Career Development, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, UTHealth Graduate School.
Funding challenges discussed were related to whether or not to write a grant, and knowledge about eligibility for grants. Responses received from the audience (from this tweet) on why to write a grant revolved around their ability to learn, develop their research and careers, as well as be recognized for their work. Some reasons for not writing a grant (from this tweet) include lack of training and support, as well as feeling discouraged to do so. A few suggested resources for funding included private foundations and disease-related foundations. Useful tips for writing proposals were starting early and writing a clear proposal that is both logical and innovative. This section was presented by Philip Clifford, PhD, Associate Dean for Research and Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Resources for addressing immigration questions included the international office and career office, in addition to the postdoc office at the university. It is also important for researchers to know the policies around immigration at their university, and look for alternatives (such as self-sponsored green cards). Another useful piece of advice for international researchers was to always be as prepared and educated as possible about available options. This section was presented by Brendan Delaney, PhD, Immigration Attorney at Frank & Delaney Immigration Law, LLC, and Member of the NPA’s Advisory Board.
International scholars are invaluable to the biomedical enterprise, and yet still face many challenges while performing research in the U.S. The community, as well as individuals, must act in changing perceptions around this population and aim to celebrate the contributions they bring to research in this country. Future of Research supports this goal, and we look forward to being a part of larger discussions to improve the scientific environment for all U.S. researchers. For further information, please consult the NPA’s International Programs and Resources as well as resources from the Frank & Delaney Immigration Law Firm.