Please help us in responding to an NIH request for information on inclusion at institutions

Please help us in responding to an NIH request for information on inclusion at institutions

The Board of Directors at Future of Research has been preparing a response to the Request for Information (RFI): Institutional Accountability to Promote Inclusive Excellence (Notice Number: NOT-RM-19-001) issued recently by the National Institutes of Health, and due by June 14th 2019. However we are looking for additional input from those wishing to help us with their thoughts and critiques.   We are looking for help not only in the form of others submitting comments, but also in helping to craft our response. In promoting the call for responses, we experienced a great deal of frustration from the community – which we share – about the constant discussion about such issues without any concrete actions. We’d like to try to give voice to those frustrations, and channel it into some concrete push for action, if possible.   Therefore we have placed out draft response to questions below; we plan to do more work on preparing a final response for next week. We would be extremely grateful for any criticism you have – you can comments on this post, on social media, or email info@futureofresearch.org, and we are happy to give voice to frustrations you have, particularly if you would not feel comfortable making such comments yourself. Ultimately we hope to provide information that compels NIH to ultimately take action, and particularly to recognize the power that it has to compel institutions to do so.   In summary, NIH is looking for the following information: “Information Requested NIH seeks input from key extramural community stakeholders, including academic institutional leadership, biomedical faculty, and interested members of the public on strategies to...
Postdoc Salaries: New salary threshold for overtime proposed for Fair Labor Standards Act

Postdoc Salaries: New salary threshold for overtime proposed for Fair Labor Standards Act

The data above is from our paper “Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act” showing how institutions were expecting to change salaries after the last FLSA update was blocked.   The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes standards such as minimum wage and overtime pay for employees in both the public and private sectors in the United States. Through the FLSA a minimum wage and overtime pay (for working more than 40 hours per week) at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate are guaranteed (United States Department of Labor, 2016a). On December 1, 2016, the FLSA was due to be updated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). One key change proposed was an increase in the annual salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay from the 2004 level of $23,660 to $47,476. The other key change was indexing the salary level so that it would be updated automatically every 3 years pegged to the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region. On December 1st, 2016, the threshold at which salaried workers receive overtime payment for working more than 40 hours per week was due to increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, under updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This was delayed by an injunction granted November 22nd (see here for more information) and was declared invalid as of August 31st by the same court. The Department of Labor has now proposed a new set of updates to formally retract and replace the 2016 proposal. The proposals: would likely come into effect January 1st 2020 would raise the threshold for overtime exemption from...
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...
National Postdoc Appreciation Week 2018 is this week!

National Postdoc Appreciation Week 2018 is this week!

Today marks the beginning of the ninth annual celebration of National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW): September 17-21, 2018. You can find out more about events taking place for NPAW at the National Postdoc Association’s website here and you can follow #NPAW2018 to find out more about postdocs online.   Future of Research members are taking part in events for #NPAW2018 across the country on Monday and Tuesday – we hope to see some of you in person or online! We will be sharing our resources for postdocs, and discussing the state of the postdoc position, throughout the week:   Dr. Adriana Bankston is at the University of Southern California: “Monday, September 17 Components of a Successful Postdoc with Dr. Adriana Bankston (Future of Research) 9:00 a.m. -10:20 a.m. UPC Waite Phillips Hall (WPH) room 207 (2nd floor) Baked goods and coffee will be provided. Postdoctoral researchers are critical to the future of science. Fair pay, opportunities for meaningful leadership positions, and access to positive mentoring are critical factors of a successful postdoc experience. These factors are also likely to influence the decisions of postdocs on which institutions they will choose for conducting independent research, as well as whether to remain in academe or pursue other career paths. Read more.”   Dr. Gary McDowell is at Washington University in St. Louis: “Monday, September 17 Advocacy Workshop with Future of Research and the WashU Postdoc Society Executive Council 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Medical Campus What are the issues and barriers postdocs face at WashU? How can individual postdocs fix problems? What role does the WashU Postdoc Society have in affecting change? Gary McDowell, Ph.D., executive director of The Future...
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...