Be Bold

Be Bold

This is a guest post by FoR Advisory Board member, Dr. Christopher Pickett. On Thursday, the Advisory Council to the Director of the National Institutes of Health discussed the formation of a new working group on sexual harassment in NIH-funded labs. Well after the start of the nationwide #MeToo reckoning, the landmark National Academies study on sexual harassment in academia, biomedical leaders being recognized for their work on harassment issues in labs, the formation of a new working group on the issue is, to put it mildly, underwhelming. More than two years ago, NIH leadership clearly stated the agency would “identify the steps necessary to end [sexual harassment] in all NIH-supported research workplaces and scientific meetings.” They were going to “gather as much data as possible to more fully understand the nature and extent of sexual harassment among scientists,” and to “work with governmental, academic and private-sector colleagues” and “determine what levers are already available to influential stakeholders” to mitigate harassment. NIH leadership promised that action would happen within “weeks to months.” Where are the data collected? Where is the evidence of partnerships or the public identification of levers the agency can use to stop harassment in NIH-funded labs? The lack of any clear follow up to this article and the continual dodges and deflections on harassment issues by members of NIH leadership are a significant part of the frustration and rage the community feels with the NIH on this issue. The other part of this frustration is the sense that we know what will happen with the new working group: There will be a good showing of public...
NIH to discuss Next Generation of Researchers, and Sexual Harassment, today (Dec 13th)

NIH to discuss Next Generation of Researchers, and Sexual Harassment, today (Dec 13th)

Today in the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) meeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NIH will report out the results from the Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group (mandated by Congress, responding to the National Academies recommendations in the “Breaking Through” Report). This will happen at 2 pm Eastern. The NIH will also discuss their plans regarding sexual harassment, responding to another National Academies report from 3.45 pm to 4.45 pm Eastern. The agenda is here, and you can watch live here. They will also be archived. FoR ED Gary McDowell will live-tweet the session on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative on Twitter from @FORsymp (follow #NGRI), and the sessions addressing sexual harassment from @MeTooSTEM (follow #MeTooSTEM). Both will also use the hashtag #NIHACD....

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...