Co-reviewing good, Ghostwriting bad: The role of early career researchers in peer review at journals

Co-reviewing good, Ghostwriting bad: The role of early career researchers in peer review at journals

Last year at an ASAPbio meeting on peer review, one discussion centered around the role of early career researchers (ECRs) in peer review, and particularly how frequently ECRs contribute to peer review behind the scenes. This was fueled by a survey in eLife, a journal publishing life sciences research, indicating that 92% of those surveyed had undertaken reviewing activities, but more than half had done so without the assistance of their advisor. Dr. Gary McDowell (FoR Executive Director) and Dr. Rebeccah Lijek (former FoR BoD member and faculty member at Mount Holyoke College) led workshops discussing the reasons for, and questions about, the likely unrecognized involvement of ECRs in the peer review process. Those conversations inspired a year-long project to collect data on how frequently ECRs contribute to peer review when they are not the invited reviewer (“co-review”), and how commonly ECRs co-review without being acknowledged to the journal editorial staff (“ghostwrite”). Results and recommendations have now been published as a preprint here at bioRxiv. You can also read an article about the preprint in Physics Today. 1,952 publications in the peer-reviewed literature were evaluated though an exhaustive search and no previous studies about ECRs ghostwriting peer review reports were found. 498 researchers were then surveyed about their experiences with, and opinions about, co-reviewing and ghostwriting as ECRs. This found: 3/4 of those surveyed have co-reviewed and most find it to be a beneficial (95% agree) and ethical (73% agree) form of training in peer review; co-reviewing is the second most commonly reported form of training in peer review besides receiving reviews on one’s own papers; 1/2 of those surveyed have...
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...
On our tenth day of #FoRmentors, some reading:”Transforming mentorship in STEM by training scientists to be better leaders”

On our tenth day of #FoRmentors, some reading:”Transforming mentorship in STEM by training scientists to be better leaders”

This is part of a series of blog posts explaining our push for centering mentoring in academia. We are organizing a meeting in Chicago in June 2019 to take action – you can learn more about the effort here. Donate to our mentoring effort!   Today we wanted to share some reading, “Transforming mentorship in STEM by training scientists to be better leaders” – and the blogpost by the authors explaining the paper in Small Pond Science – for those who have not yet seen it.   The authors provide survey data pointing to both the need and desire for better mentoring, and suggests best practices, including resources and a model implemented at the University of Colorado Boulder.   Donate to our mentoring effort!...

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...
Response to Columbia University’s email to faculty regarding postdoctoral researcher unionization

Response to Columbia University’s email to faculty regarding postdoctoral researcher unionization

We are about to release our FAQs on unionization for graduate students and postdocs, which attempts to provide the data and evidence around unionization, and fact-check information. As an example, Columbia University recently sent the following talking points to their faculty, which are fact-checked by a member of our Board of Directors below. By Jack Nicoludis, PhD   Columbia University postdoctoral researchers will vote on whether they want the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers – United Auto Workers (CPW-UAW) to represent them in negotiations over pay, benefits and working conditions for postdocs on October 2 and 3, 2018. Columbia University has come out against the unionization attempt, stating that postdoctoral researchers are “merely trainees who, despite having a PhD degree, still require significant education.” University administrators have sent emails to different university stakeholders – including faculty – on why unionization may not be in the best interest of the university. They have provided faculty with “talking points” to help them discuss unionization with their postdoctoral researchers. (The full email can be found on a Twitter thread by Columbia University Sociology Professor Shamus Khan.) We have found these talking points biased against unionization in ways that are neither informed by data on the effects of unionization or take into account the democratic process by which a contract is ratified. To counteract this misinformation, we have attempted to provide unbiased analysis of these talking points to provide a counterpoint to these messages from Columbia’s administration from the point of view postdocs.       Individual working conditions would likely be governed by a contract, and not negotiated outside of it. This first point raises an...