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...
The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine report “Breaking Through” public debut on April 12th

The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine report “Breaking Through” public debut on April 12th

On April 12th, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report “Breaking Through” will be released and publicly discussed in DC and over livestream at 1.30pm EST. FoR President Jessica Polka and ED Gary McDowell, and FoR advisory board member Paula Stephan, were all on the committee. The study was Congressionally mandated under the 21st Century Cures Act.   Register here for the meeting and webcast.   The study, which “examines the policy and programmatic steps that the nation can undertake to ensure the successful launch and sustainment of careers among the next generation of researchers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, including the full range of health sciences supported by the NIH” includes: • An evaluation of the barriers that prospective researchers encounter as they transition to independent research careers; • An evaluation of the impact of federal policies and budgets, including federal agency policies and procedures regarding research grant awards, on opportunities for prospective researchers to successfully transition into independent research careers and to secure their all-important first and second major research grants; • An evaluation of the extent to which employers (industry, government agencies and labs, academic institutions, and others) can facilitate smooth transitions for early career researchers into independent research careers.   You can see additional information about the study, including released responses to the call for public information, and the reports on the systems in Canada, China, the EU, the UK and Singapore here.   In addition, Gary McDowell will be giving the postdoc seminar at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI on April 12th at noon, where the contents of the report will also be discussed....
Changes to funding policies proposed to help young NIH-funded scientists

Changes to funding policies proposed to help young NIH-funded scientists

The increasing age of principal investigators funded on R01-type* mechanisms by the NIH. (A) Age distribution of PIs in 1980 and 2016. (B) % PIs plotted against year.    In a preprint deposited in PeerJ Preprints in January, members of Rescuing Biomedical Research discuss shifting demographic trends in the ages of those being funded on major NIH funding mechanisms. The authors point out that: “Despite a large increase in the NIH budget since the early 1980s, there has been more than a five-fold decrease in the number of investigators aged 36 or less who hold R01-type grants…Expressed in terms of NIH dollars, the proportion of all NIH grant funding awarded to scientists under the age of 36 has dropped from 5.6 percent in 1980 to 1.3 percent in 2012.” In addition, they discuss the perception that in order to successfully have a grant proposal funded, early career investigators are seeking to write proposals in a window of riskiness – not too risky that it won’t be funded, but just risky enough that it isn’t seen as incremental. They lay the blame for this at the feet of study sections perceived to be conservative, and too focused on translational research rather than research addressed at more fundamental questions with less obvious direct application to medical problems. The authors highlight the strategy undertaken by the European Research Council Starting Grants program as part of a tiered system of funding announcements. They champion the division of proposals into tiers where researchers are competing against peers of a similar career stage. Likewise they highlight the recent evaluation of the New Innovator Awards (DP2) funded 2007-09,...
Join us TODAY (October 31st) 1pm EST for a Tweetchat about NIH’s new Next Generation Researchers Initiative

Join us TODAY (October 31st) 1pm EST for a Tweetchat about NIH’s new Next Generation Researchers Initiative

Don’t forget to follow along with our Tweetchat as FoR Board Member and NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group Member Juan Pablo Ruiz (@HappyStemCell) tells us about the NGRI.   Don’t forget after the chat to go to our urgent call for action to send your thoughts to the NIH about the NGRI proposal....
Urgent ACTION: Contact the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group with your comments

Urgent ACTION: Contact the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group with your comments

The National Institutes of Health currently have a working group discussing what action to take under a Congressional mandate to address the production of the next generation of biomedical researchers. The Advisory Council to the Director’s Working Group, which is described in further detail here, is charged with advising NIH leadership on the development of an NIH-wide policy. You can also find the working group’s charter here.   This follows on from the recent discussion of the Grant Support Index (GSI), which was abruptly introduced and abruptly dropped as an idea to cap the amount of NIH support a researcher can receive, roughly equivalent to three major research project grants. Board member Adriana Bankston summarized her thoughts and recent discussions on the funding cap in this post.     What does the NGRI look like in comparison? A number of concerns have been raised, and there was a discussion held recently by the eLife Community as part of their #ECRWednesday series. Key concerns that have arisen are that without a cap mechanism, money will just be taken away from smaller mid-career or late-career labs; that because this is not a centralized NIH initiative (like the GSI was) but will instead be at the discretion of individual institutes, there will be a lack of transparency that could compound racial and gender funding disparities that NIH already has; and there is no consideration of what happens to investigators once they move from early to mid-career stage, and so we just may end up with more people shutting down labs rather than sustaining the generation through all career stages. You can find some...