Future of Research Statement on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Report, “The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through”

Future of Research Statement on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Report, “The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through”

Future of Research has issued a statement on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, “The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through. You can find the text of the statement below, and a downloadable PDF version of the statement here.   *****   Future of Research endorses the recommendations in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, “The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through,” released on April 12, 2018. This report addresses the factors influencing transitions of trainees in biomedical and behavioral sciences into independent research careers. It offers recommendations to reform systemic issues that reduce the efficiency of these transitions, and thus affect the productivity and scientific discoveries of researchers in the United States. This report, mandated by Congress under the 21st Century Cures Act, was envisioned by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME).   Though the issues that plague the biomedical research system have long been discussed within the scientific community, the key stakeholders (such as federal agencies, private funders, and universities) have frequently abdicated their responsibility for the system. The “Breaking Through” report addresses this issue head-on. The report argues that greater transparency, accountability and shared responsibility are needed to improve the biomedical enterprise.   Many of these suggestions have been made before, and while some changes and interventions have been made, others have not been heeded and have not resolved a key issue: that this enterprise depends on a large amount of cheap, and mostly foreign, labor in the guise of training. We recognize that no stakeholder seems willing to take responsibility...
Postdoc salaries at the National Institutes of Health in 2016 and 2017, and advocating for NRSA stipend raises

Postdoc salaries at the National Institutes of Health in 2016 and 2017, and advocating for NRSA stipend raises

As part of our effort to make individual postdoc salaries in the U.S. more transparent, we have been carrying out Freedom of Information requests at public institutions to have a standard, albeit blunt, instrument for gathering data on postdoctoral researchers. You can find more information and data on our requests to public universities for data as of Dec 1st 2016 here; but as we continue with this project, we have recently gathered data from the National Institutes of Health for salaries for their intramural postdocs (i.e. those postdocs who work at NIH Institute laboratories).   Using Freedom of Information requests, we have gathered data for postdocs at all institutes at the NIH as of Dec 1st 2016 and Dec 1st 2017, principally in Intramural Research Training Awards (IRTA, for US Citizens and permanent residents) and Visiting Fellowships (VF, for those typically on non-immigrant visas).   The request asked for: “An excel spreadsheet which provides: The total number of postdoctoral researchers at the institute, appointed to postdoctoral intramural training awards IRTAs or as Visiting Fellows, with their job titles on both 12/1/ 2016 and 12/1/17. The annual salaries on both 12/1/16, and 12/1/17; or monthly compensation received for the payroll month of December 2016 and December 2017, of each of the postdoctoral researchers in the institute appointed to postdoctoral intramural training awards IRTAs or as Visiting Fellows.”   Here we provide a very brief overview of the data that we have gathered, which we are continuing to interrogate. A more thorough analysis will follow in due course.   Number of Postdocs The NIH’s page on Postdoctoral Programs at NIH states: “Altogether, the NIH is...
FoR Statement on the “Coalition for Next Generation Life Science”

FoR Statement on the “Coalition for Next Generation Life Science”

You can find a PDF copy of the statement below here.   Information on the biomedical labor market is necessary both for the formulation of policies that ensure its sustainable future as well as for informing individual career decisions.   Despite repeated calls (beginning at least as early as 1969) information on the career outcomes of life sciences graduate students and postdocs has remained poor or altogether unavailable. This has recently been discussed in an effort coordinated by Rescuing Biomedical Research and spearheaded by existing efforts to track career outcomes of PhDs, particularly NIH’s BEST Consortium. These efforts are currently focused on graduate programs and PhD outcomes, and do not currently encompass data collection on postdocs.   Today’s announcement in Science that a coalition of universities pledges to release information on all of their biomedical graduate students AND postdocs represents an unprecedented watershed moment. Previous efforts have been driven by prominent advisory committees, individuals, or other groups, but in this case, strong leadership is coming from within universities themselves.   The information to be released includes:   Admissions and matriculation data of Ph.D. students Median time to degree and completion data for Ph.D. programs Demographics of Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars by gender, underrepresented minority status, and citizenship Median time in postdoctoral status at the institution Career outcomes for Ph.D. and postdoctoral alumni, classified by job sector and career type   FoR congratulates UCSF, Johns Hopkins, University of Wisconsin, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Cornell University, Duke University, MIT, and University of Michigan. for leading this movement. We urge other universities to join...
Investigating Postdoc Salaries: University of Washington

Investigating Postdoc Salaries: University of Washington

There is very little information available on how much postdocs are actually paid in the U.S., beyond data on institutional salary policies gathered by the National Postdoctoral Association. Following on from recent discussions about postdoc salaries changing as a result of proposed updates to U.S. Federal labor law, we have gathered data from a selection of institutions through Freedom of Information Requests, asking only for titles and salaries of postdocs, to see if we can identify actual postdoctoral salaries. The aggregate data, and more information, can be found at out “Investigating Postdoc Salaries” Resource. Every day, we will be releasing a discussion of each individual institution or system from which we received data. Today: the University of Washington.   Cost for FOIA Request: $0 Additional notes: Names also supplied   We wanted to begin our month on a positive note: that institutions can provide accurate salary information, for what we believe to be all postdoctoral researchers at the institution, through public reporting channels.   The amount data received from the University of Washington approximates the number of postdocs reported in the National Science Foundation’s data. While of course both are dependent on the institution, these data likely came from different parts of the institution, and so the data is at least highly internally consistent, suggesting a well-functioning administrative setup.   The salaries reported also do not encounter the common problem of reporting only what is paid through Human Resources at the institution, rather than what is paid to the postdoc. For example, at many institutions, if postdoc are paid directly on a fellowship, and no salary passes through the...
Come in person or watch the webcast for: “Bold Visions for the Future of Science” and “Perspectives on Postdoctoral Researchers”

Come in person or watch the webcast for: “Bold Visions for the Future of Science” and “Perspectives on Postdoctoral Researchers”

  For more information, see our Action of the Month   Two studies, currently underway at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, are soliciting public input as part of their process, and they need to hear from you. You can join in in person/watch live THIS THURSDAY 14th September, 1:30-5:15pm Pacific Time.   From the NASEM Board on Higher Education and Workforce: Thursday, September 14, 2017 1:30 pm – 5:15 pm PDT University of California, San Francisco Genentech Hall Auditorium* 600 16th Street San Francisco, CA *Please note that meeting space is limited. A webcast will also be available. This public session of the fourth meeting for the Next Generation Researchers Initiative will feature distinguished scientists, physicians, industry leaders, and scholars who will discuss the barriers and opportunities facing the next generation of independent researchers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Particular emphasis will be on hearing postdoctoral perspectives and envisioning the future of research. This meeting will feature and be moderated by: Chair Alan Leshner, PhD, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Chair Ron Daniels, President, the Johns Hopkins University   Register Here for the In-Person Meeting Register Here for the Webcast   Draft Agenda: 1:30 p.m. – 1:35 p.m. Opening Remarks by Host Keith Yamamoto 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Panel I: Bold Visions for the Future of Science Panelists will share their vision on how changes to today’s system of graduate education and early research careers can ensure a future research enterprise that fosters innovation, promotes equity and inclusion, and advances U.S. national interests. Chair Alan Leshner, PhD, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of...
NSF’s Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering doesn’t indicate trends in postdoc numbers

NSF’s Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering doesn’t indicate trends in postdoc numbers

This is a post by Executive Director Gary McDowell.   In a preprint posted on bioRxiv, Chris Pickett (of Rescuing Biomedical Research), Adriana Bankston (a policy activist at FoR) and myself argue that the NSF’s Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, known as the GSS, is not suitable to be used as an indicator of the number of biological sciences postdocs in the U.S., despite its current role as the standard reference in discussions of postdoc numbers.   This paper began in a response to Garrison et al., 2016, “Biomedical science postdocs: an end to the era of expansion,” which argued that biomedical science postdoc numbers had declined from 2010, presumed to be due to people choosing to leave biomedicine. As I have discussed before, placing a straight line along the data in the paper’s Figure 1 from 1979 to 2008 shows a clear linear increase in the number of postdocs, and that the data deviates from 2008-2013 away from this line and, importantly, above it, before returning to the line in 2013*.   Therefore, it first appeared to us not that there had been a decline in the number of postdocs beginning in 2010, but a bubble from 2008 to 2010 that corrected from 2010 to 2013. Indeed, anecdotally, many of my peers were extremely confused by the original premise of the paper – that people have been leaving academia in their droves against the continuing growth of the number of PhDs awarded, since 2010. However, proposing that postdocs stayed on for longer while the economy recovered from 2008 to 2010 yielded far more productive...