A new study commenced work at the start of 2017: the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative,” directed by the Board on Higher Education and Workforce at the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine.
The study originated in a bill introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and has been mandated by Congress in both the 2016 Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. The study is aimed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), members of Congress, institutional administrators and faculty, industry, foundations and professional associations: specifically, to the Office of the Director at NIH, the Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.
The project scope is (taken from the National Academies Current Projects page):
“An ad hoc committee overseen by the Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW), in collaboration with COSEMPUP, BOSE, and HMD, will conduct a study that 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. The study will examine evidence-based programs and policies that can reduce barriers to, and create more opportunities for, successful transitions to independent research careers. It will also examine factors that influence the stability and sustainability of the early stages of independent research careers.
The study will include:
• An evaluation of the barriers that prospective researchers encounter as they transition to independent research careers. Such barriers may include inadequate career guidance and support, insufficient access to fellowships and traineeships that may provide broad exposure to research experiences, inability to compete successfully for initial research grant awards, and postdoctoral experiences that limit options for pursuing 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.
The committee will issue a report with recommendations for federal and institutional policies to improve the transition into careers for the next generation of researchers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, including the full range of health sciences supported by the NIH. The report’s main focus will be on addressing hurdles to and the transition points into independent research careers.”
The committee’s first meeting was held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C., January 8-9 2017. It began with a presentation from Dr. Michael Lauer of the NIH on trends of investigators at different career stages in terms of grant success over time:
The committee membership includes Future of Research President Dr. Jessica Polka and Executive Director Dr. Gary McDowell, and together with Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, the three early-career representatives on the committee organized a panel for the first public meeting to follow Dr. Lauer’s talk, to highlight recent data on issues facing the committee.
The panel, moderated by Dr. Gwyneth Card, a group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Center, began with a presentation by Dr. Rory Goodwin, a physician scientist at Johns Hopkins, on issues facing physician scientists:
This was followed by labor economist Dr. Misty Heggeness from the U.S. Census Bureau discussing recent analyses of Census data on the size and shape of the biomedical workforce:
The final presentation was given by Dr. Kenneth Gibbs Jr., Program Director in the Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), discussing data on “Career Development of Biomedical PhDs: Cross-cutting Trends & Demographic Differences“:
The next meeting of the committee is currently expected to take place in Washington D.C., April 2-3.
The final report of this committee is due for release in June 2018.
National Academies page on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative
Slides by Dr. Michael Lauer, NIH
- NIH discusses curbing lab size to fund more midcareer scientists
- Hard work, little reward: Nature readers reveal working hours and research challenges
- How Economics Shapes Science by Paula Stephan
- A History of New and Early Stage Investigator Policies and Data
- Alberts et al., PNAS 2014 “Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws“
- Kimble et al., eLife 2015 “Strategies from UW-Madison for rescuing biomedical research in the US“
- Early-career researchers need fewer burdens and more support
- Orwoll, NEJM 2016 “Passing the Baton — Harnessing the Full Value of Older Scientists“
- Charette et al., PLoS One 2016 “Shifting Demographics among Research Project Grant Awardees at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)“
- Sinatra et al., Science 2016 “Quantifying the evolution of individual scientific impact“
- Valantine et al., CBE Life Science Ed 2016 “From the NIH: A Systems Approach to Increasing the Diversity of the Biomedical Research Workforce“
- Levitt, BMC Medical Education 2010 “Careers of an elite cohort of U.S. basic life science postdoctoral fellows and the influence of their mentor’s citation record“
Slides by Dr. Rory Goodwin, Johns Hopkins
Slides by Dr. Misty Heggeness, U.S. Census Bureau
- Heggeness et al., Nature 2017 “The new face of US science“
- Heggeness et al., Self-Journal of Science 2016 “Preparing for the 21st Century Biomedical Research Job Market: Using Census Data to Inform Policy and Career Decision-Making“
- Heggeness et al., Cell Stem Cell 2016 “Policy Implications of Aging in the NIH-Funded Workforce“
- Heggeness et al., Academic Medicine 2016 “Measuring Diversity of the National Institutes of Health–Funded Workforce“
Slides by Dr. Kenneth Gibbs Jr., NIGMS
- Griffin et al., Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 2015 ““Respect me for my Science”: A Bourdieuian analysis of women scientists’ interactions with faculty and socialization into science“
- Gibbs Jr., et al., eLife 2016 “Decoupling of the minority PhD talent pool and assistant professor hiring in medical school basic science departments in the US“
- Gibbs Jr., et al., CBE Life Sciences Ed 2015 “Career Development among American Biomedical Postdocs“
- Gibbs Jr., et al., PLoS One 2014 “Biomedical Science Ph.D. Career Interest Patterns by Race/Ethnicity and Gender“
- Gibbs Jr., and Griffin, CBE Life Sciences Ed 2013 “What do I want to be with my PhD? The roles of personal values and structural dynamics in shaping the career interests of recent biomedical science PhD graduates“