Today at ASCB Meeting: Helping the Next Generation of Researchers: Navigating the Challenges and Answering the Call for Change

Today at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)/European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Meeting, the session “Helping the Next Generation of Researchers: Navigating the Challenges and Answering the Call for Change” will discuss the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, with copies of the National Academies “Breaking Through” report available. The session will run 2:00pm – 2:50pm PST in Theater 4. Dr. Sue Biggins (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), Dr. MariaElena Zavala (California State University, Northridge) and Dr. Christopher Pickett (Rescuing Biomedical Research) will be discussing various aspects: Dr. Christopher Pickett will describe the current landscape of issues facing the next generation of researchers, and the context for the National Academies report, “Breaking Through”. Dr. Sue Biggins will discuss issues with peer review, particularly in study sections, that affect early career researchers. Dr. MariaElena Zavala will discuss “Training Beyond the Bench: Becoming Independent”, including what may be missing in the typical postdoc experience....
New publication: Assessing the landscape of postdoc salaries in 2016

New publication: Assessing the landscape of postdoc salaries in 2016

A plot of the National Institutes of Health’s National Research Service Awards Year 0 stipend by Financial Year. Also includes a comparison of salaries with their approximate value in 2017, using the Personal Consumer Expenditure Index.   In 2016, the very earliest days of Future of Research’s existence as a nonprofit were dominated by the announcement of updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and in particular how that would effectively raise postdoc salaries to $47,476 on December 1st 2016.   The birth – and death – of this update to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and how it was being implemented at institutions, occupied much of our attention, and is summarized in our publication Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act. But even though the update was ultimately not implemented, the academic research system largely went ahead with changes to institutional policies to raise recommended postdoc salaries.   We were however aware of the issue that institutions vary significantly in their ability to count, and presumably, identify postdocs. This led us to ask a number of questions:   If institutions are unable to count their postdocs, and presumably are not overseeing them, do all postdocs receive the salaries set out in an institution’s policy? How strong is the relationship between the National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award stipends (which affect only 15% of graduate students and postdocs funded by NIH, which is not the only funder of postdocs) and what postdocs are getting paid? Are there any factors affecting salary, such as location, gender, or job title?   We therefore began...
Putting mentoring at the heart of academia #FoRmentors #GivingTuesday

Putting mentoring at the heart of academia #FoRmentors #GivingTuesday

Image by Lipofsky: Future of Research members at our first summit in Boston in 2014   Academia is reaching a critical turning point, where effective and positive mentoring is more necessary than ever before. A slew of recommendations, reports and surveys are showing that recognition for good mentoring and appropriate responses to poor mentoring (or even egregious behavior) are currently not up to par with the standards of excellence required to sustain the research enterprise. Most importantly,  early career researchers are recognizing this deficit, and demanding change. Failure to effect this change will cause the research enterprise to lose or squander talent.   There are a number of striking problems that can be traced back to a lack of mentoring focus by departments, institutions and funding agencies:   ⅓ of those who start biology PhDs in the U.S. do not complete them. Sexual harassment in U.S. academia is at a rate second only to the military. For foreign postdocs, precarious visa situations are being exploited to make them work more, for less. There are postdocs facing barriers to taking their own research projects with them when they leave a lab under someone else’s “mentorship”. Retention of underrepresented populations in research is hindered by a focus on diversity in numbers, rather than on generating more inclusive and welcoming environments with culturally-appropriate mentoring.   However, there is also increasing recognition of the need to center mentoring in the research enterprise: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) are currently carrying out a study, with a report due next Fall, on The Science of Mentoring in STEMM; The NASEM sexual...
This #GivingTuesday, let’s put mentoring at the heart of academia!

This #GivingTuesday, let’s put mentoring at the heart of academia!

Future of Research is bringing mentoring back to the heart of academia.   Mentoring the next generation of scientists is critical to the future of research. Unfortunately, academia has lost its focus on the development and wellbeing of young scientists. This has led to problems including: Mental health problems at crisis levels, Sexual harassment in academia at levels second in the U.S. only to the military, and Creating barriers to scholarly independence and academic freedom As an organization built by and for young scientists, we can see the profound effects this culture has on our up and coming scientific talent first hand. Poor mentoring and egregious behavior can be a selection factor in who stays in research regardless of ability, and can particularly affect those from populations underrepresented in academia. Future of Research is committed to making a better and more successful academic environment for everybody. We are developing a framework for mentoring evaluation, to introduce accountability and to act as an incentive for institutions to pay more attention to the environments they are providing for their academics. We have a proposal to kickstart discussion on how to succeed in this mission. Key roadblocks to inspiring and ethical mentoring which we seek to overcome with this project are: Awareness of mentoring best practices; Incentives for positive mentoring; and Accountability for egregious behavior. We are building a consortium of partner organizations and are also looking for “early adopter” institutional partners to pilot a possible evaluation mechanism. Our goal is for these initial steps to culminate in a Mentoring Summit at University of Chicago in June 2019.   How can you...
Thanks to our donors and volunteers on National Philanthropy Day

Thanks to our donors and volunteers on National Philanthropy Day

November 15th is National Philanthropy Day®, set up to recognize the philanthropic contributions, and those who make them, to improve communities and efforts to effect change.   We are extremely grateful to those who donate their time, effort and resources to further our mission of championing, engaging and empowering early career researchers.   As a nonprofit organization, Future of Research is dependent on the support of the community to keep its efforts going. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have donated to our cause so far:   Champion level ($500-$999): Anonymous Dan Simionescu* Vlad Simionescu *recurring monthly donor   Corporate Sponsors: Donors through Employee Giving/Matching Programs: Microsoft (through Benevity)   We are also extremely grateful to have received major support from the Open Philanthropy Project:       Tuesday 27th November is Giving Tuesday – please mark your calendars and stay tuned for news on our fundraising goal for a new project! Remember, anything that you can donate sends us a message that you support our efforts and want us to continue improving transparency, and pushing for change, for the next generation of researchers.   You can make one-off, or recurring monthly donations to us with PayPal: You can also support us through Amazon Smile here.     Your employer may encourage donations, and provide matching, through Benevity – check to see if your organization is part of the network....
Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Adriana Bankston for work to ensure FoR’s success

Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Adriana Bankston for work to ensure FoR’s success

Future of Research is extremely grateful to Dr. Adriana Bankston, who today will complete a 6-month temporary contract as our Associate Director for Fundraising and Strategic Initiatives.   Dr. Bankston has been involved with Future of Research for some time, firstly on a volunteer basis, collecting data to monitor the compliance of institutions with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was published in F1000Research in 2016 and updated in 2017 following the injunction. She was elected to the Future of Research Board of Directors in July 2017, where she continued working on the postdoc salary project, leading to the publication of a preprint on Assessing the Landscape of U.S. Postdoctoral Salaries together with members of the data collection workstream. In addition, Adriana collaborated on an effort led by Dr. Christopher Pickett, Director of Rescuing Biomedical Research, on a publication assessing the ability of the GSS to predict postdoc population trends. Adriana has given numerous talks and workshops related to both the postdoc salary project and other projects for Future of Research, with the goal of promoting and developing future directions for the organization. To this end, she was a member of the organizing committee for the 2017 Future of Research meeting on Expanding Leadership Roles for Early Career Researchers, which will be developed in the future.   While Adriana finishes her current term of employment with us today, she will continue to be involved on our team of volunteers. We are grateful for the great work Adriana has done in setting us up for fundraising and strategic planning. Adriana  has so far brought us over $1,500 in small...
Future of Research endorses call for Science magazine to retract, and apologize for, “Harassment Charges: Injustice Done?”

Future of Research endorses call for Science magazine to retract, and apologize for, “Harassment Charges: Injustice Done?”

On August 17th, 2018, Science magazine published the letter “Harassment Charges: Injustice Done?” in which colleagues wrote in to defend Francisco Ayala, an academic formerly at UC Irvine who resigned after findings of sexual harassment at that institution.   The letter decries the negative effects on Ayala of the consequences of the investigation, and implies that the reputation of a scientist should somehow excuse scientific misconduct such as sexual harassment. In publishing the letter, which does not provide evidence to substantiate its claims, Science legitimizes attempts to discredit victims of sexual harassment, blaming them for the consequences of their accusations and findings made against harassers. Emboldened by the platform that publication of the letter in Science has given them, we hear that Ayala’s colleagues are now contacting local newspapers attempting to discredit his accusers.   A letter to Science has been drafted by representatives of the #MeTooSTEM movement, calling for retraction of the letter, and an apology to Alaya’s accusers.  There is a petition urging support for this letter, which we endorse, and you can sign here. The text of the letter follows below.   Science has issued a statement that it will not publish letters of this nature again. However it has neither retracted, nor apologized for, the original letter. We add to the call from #MeTooSTEM, and the calls of other organizations such as 500 Women Scientists to urge Science to retract the letter, and to apologize to Ayala’s victims for its publication. You can join us in signing the petition here.   Text of the letter: “The letter “Harassment charges: Injustice done?” by Moya et al. (8/17/18) defends Francisco Ayala, recasting him...
Journal policies around peer review: TRANSPOSE project under way at #TriangleSci

Journal policies around peer review: TRANSPOSE project under way at #TriangleSci

As part of our effort to increase transparency about the role of early career researchers in peer review, we are trying to collect data on the policies that journals have implemented with respect to involvement of early career researchers. Particularly we are looking at how transparent co-reviewer policies are, and whether expectations around co-reviewing are made clear.   We are part of a collaborative project, TRANsparency in Scholarly Publishing for Open Scholarship Evolution or TRANSPOSE, currently working on gathering this and other data about scholarly publishing as part of the Scholarly Communication Institute 2018 Meeting in Chapel Hill, NC, where the theme is “Overcoming Risk“. One of the risks identified in our project is the risk ECRs face when it comes to ensuring their scholarly contribution is recognized.   You can find more information below, but follow along on Twitter with #TriangleSci for our updates – today’s work is populating the database with a subset of journals in the life, health and chemical sciences to have some data to work with.   If you want to find out more, please read below or check out the TRANSPOSE site – and stay tuned!   What is TRANSPOSE? TRANSPOSE (TRANsparency in Scholarly Publishing for Open Scholarship Evolution) is a grassroots project to crowdsource journal policies on peer review and preprints. The project is a collaborative effort across a number of different organizations dedicated to making publishing more transparent. Future of Research is particularly interested in the component you can search below – which journals allow co-reviewers to be named!   Why TRANSPOSE? Journal policies on peer review and preprints are variable and complex. Existing databases (such as SHERPA/RoMEO and Publons) contain some,...
Response to Columbia University’s email to faculty regarding postdoctoral researcher unionization

Response to Columbia University’s email to faculty regarding postdoctoral researcher unionization

We are about to release our FAQs on unionization for graduate students and postdocs, which attempts to provide the data and evidence around unionization, and fact-check information. As an example, Columbia University recently sent the following talking points to their faculty, which are fact-checked by a member of our Board of Directors below. By Jack Nicoludis, PhD   Columbia University postdoctoral researchers will vote on whether they want the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers – United Auto Workers (CPW-UAW) to represent them in negotiations over pay, benefits and working conditions for postdocs on October 2 and 3, 2018. Columbia University has come out against the unionization attempt, stating that postdoctoral researchers are “merely trainees who, despite having a PhD degree, still require significant education.” University administrators have sent emails to different university stakeholders – including faculty – on why unionization may not be in the best interest of the university. They have provided faculty with “talking points” to help them discuss unionization with their postdoctoral researchers. (The full email can be found on a Twitter thread by Columbia University Sociology Professor Shamus Khan.) We have found these talking points biased against unionization in ways that are neither informed by data on the effects of unionization or take into account the democratic process by which a contract is ratified. To counteract this misinformation, we have attempted to provide unbiased analysis of these talking points to provide a counterpoint to these messages from Columbia’s administration from the point of view postdocs.       Individual working conditions would likely be governed by a contract, and not negotiated outside of it. This first point raises an...
Our #ECRPeerReview survey closes soon! Please share your peer review experiences with us

Our #ECRPeerReview survey closes soon! Please share your peer review experiences with us

  Please help us by filling out, and sharing, this survey: https://tinyurl.com/ECRs-in-peer-review    Our survey of the experiences of researchers in peer review, particularly focused on whether early career researchers can (and should) get recognition for co-reviewing with the invited reviewer (for example, their Principal Investigator) is drawing to a close, and so we are asking once more for help with completing and sharing our survey. Our survey was prompted by data from a recent survey by the Early Career Advisory Group in eLife, a journal publishing life sciences research, indicated that 92% of those surveyed had undertaken reviewing activities. But more than half, and 37% of graduate students, had done so without the assistance of their advisor:   This statistic may come as a surprise to some but, anecdotally, discussions with ECRs (particularly in the life sciences) point to a number of incidences of “ghostwriting” of peer review reports: that is, carrying out peer review of a manuscript, writing the report, and submitting it to a supervisor, who submits the report (or some version of it) under their own name, and without the name of the co-reviewer.   This led us to ask: just how often does this “ghostwriting” occur? Why does it happen? Is it unique to the life sciences? What can we do to ensure the recognition of scholarly work by ECRs?   We are working on understanding more about, and resolving, this issue, and to do so we need your help, beginning with gathering more data on the subject through:   https://tinyurl.com/ECRs-in-peer-review    Please help us by filling out, and sharing, this survey!   Updates will be on our peer review...