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:


Slide from Dr. Michael Lauer’s talk showing funding rates over time by career stage – slides available here



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:


Slide from Dr. Rory Goodwin’s talk discussing physician scientists – slides available here


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:


Slide from Dr. Misty Heggeness’ talk discussing recent data on the biomedical workforce – slides available here


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“:


Slide from Dr. Kenneth Gibbs Jr’s’ talk discussing career development and interest across different demographics of the biomedical workforce – slides available here


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

Slides by Dr. Rory Goodwin, Johns Hopkins

Slides by Dr. Misty Heggeness, U.S. Census Bureau

Slides by Dr. Kenneth Gibbs Jr., NIGMS