Future of Research's Origins

The first Future of Research conference was held in Boston in October of 2014.

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We published the proceedings and outcomes of our first FOR meeting in 2014.
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The postdoctoral experience and ways to effect change in science from a series of recent talks and workshops

A reflective piece by Dr. Adriana Bankston   I’ve had a long standing interest in how current problems in science affect early career scientists, in particular the postdoctoral population. In spring 2018, I was invited to several universities to talk about some of these issues and hear from trainees about their academic experiences: University of Southern California (USC) (on postdocs and international researchers); Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Scripps Science Policy Discussion Group – studying policy for science); and University of California San Diego (UCSD) (Science Policy, Advocacy, and Communication (SciPAC) Group – advocating for an improved scientific enterprise). Below, I combined information obtained from these talks and workshops into general themes and conclusions.   Note #1: Although some of these ideas were only debated at particular universities, they are larger systemic issues we have previously encountered across other U.S. institutions.   Note #2: The responses below are recorded from the opinions of trainees from various universities, and do not necessarily represent the views of Future of Research as an organization.   WHAT DO POSTDOCS EXPERIENCE IN ACADEMIA TODAY?   Loneliness: Some direct quotes were that “postdocs work too much [feel guilty not doing so], are sad, and [are] not making friends.” Postdocs generally don’t know who other postdocs are in their building, and international postdocs feel very lonely [due to the large size of the campus].   Inadequate training: Postdocs and graduate students aren’t being trained adequately for their level – for example, PIs train postdocs like graduate students and vice versa. Also, mentors seem to be more flexible with the schedule of graduate students [in terms of going...

Please fill out and share the early career researcher Peer Review Survey to tell us about your peer review experiences

We are launching our #ECRPeerReview effort – focused on ensuring the recognition of peer review efforts by early career researchers. Please help us start by filling out, and sharing, this survey: https://tinyurl.com/ECRs-in-peer-review    Peer review is viewed as central to the evaluation of research, and in the case of peer review of manuscripts for journal publication, an activity that is seen as part of the service of a researcher. Graduate students, as those training in how to carry out research, should therefore clearly be participating in, and receiving training in, constructive peer review. Postdocs are researchers in a position of mentored independence – working on their own projects and research plans, and learning how to manage a research group from an independent principal investigator. As such, postdocs are already intellectually capable of being fully involved in the peer review process. But, how involved are these early career researchers (ECRs) in journal peer review? A recent survey 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...

Contact your Senators to request they ask the NIH Director why the NIH continues to give grants to scientists found guilty of sexual harassment

On Thursday, August 23, at 10 AM EDT the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing entitled “Prioritizing Cures: Science and Stewardship at the National Institutes of Health”. The hearing will be webcast here. Last week Senate HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray sent a letter to Dr. Francis Collins, who will be testifying at the meeting, posing a number of questions about how NIH handles sexual harassment among funded investigators. They draw attention to the NIH’s role in this problem, ask for evidence of the NIH’s actions to date, and request policy change. Francis Collins, Hannah Valentine and Michael Lauer wrote a letter to Nature in 2016 about the need for policy changes.   We are asking you to join those who have a started a campaign to contact elected representatives on the HELP Committee. A graduate student at Yale, Sarah Smaga, has produced a call script for the HELP Committee Meeting including the names and telephone numbers of Senators on the committee which you can access here. The call asks for specific policies to ensure that those found guilty of sexual harassment are not able to receive NIH funding, enabling them to put more trainees and their careers at risk.   Two members of the committee are particularly focused on prospects of early career researchers: Susan Collins of Maine and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led a bipartisan effort focused on trainees that resulted in the Next Generation Researchers Initiative at NIH being mandated under the 21st Century Cures Act. It seeks to improve prospects for early career researchers, paying attention to recommendations from a study at the...

Welcome to our new members of the Board of Directors!

We are excited to announce the return of Board members Dr. Jessica Polka, Dr. David Riglar, Dr. Cara Weismann and Dr. Carrie Niziolek to serve another term on the Board of Directors, in addition to our six new members!   We would like to thank Dr. Kearney Gunsalus, Dr. Yelena Bernadskaya, Dr. Erica Walsh-Michel, Dr. Sarah Mazzilli and Dr. Patricia Goodwin for their service on the board since its creation.   Our new Board members, who are taking their places, are:            ...

Future of Research response to NIGMS RFI on postdoctoral transitions to diversify research faculty

  This RFI closes July 20th – please read below if you are still in time to comment – and comment here   The National Institute of General Medical Sciences recently issued a Request For Information (RFI) seeking input on strategies to enhance postdoctoral career transitions, with an aim to promoting faculty diversity. You can read more about it in this Blog post, “Give Input on Strategies to Enhance Postdoctoral Career Transitions to Promote Faculty Diversity”; you can find the full RFI here and comments are submitted here.   As described in the Request For Information:   “Specific topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:   The barriers scientists from underrepresented groups face as they progress from postdoctoral training into faculty positions at research-intensive institutions, and potential strategies to overcome these barriers. The qualities and perspectives that scientists from underrepresented groups bring to the research enterprise, and how these can be drawn upon to encourage and promote career transitions into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions. Approaches key stakeholders (e.g., faculty advisors, institutions, scientific societies, etc.) can use to promote the successful career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions, and how these can be coordinated and sustained to maximize impact. Current strategies that have been successful in promoting the transition of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into independent, tenure-track faculty positions. Any other comments or recommendations for NIGMS to consider with respect to programs to enhance career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions.”   Below and here as a PDF on our press page you can...