Boston Future of Research Symposium

  Last year the First Future of Research symposium resulted in an exciting discussion about the current state of the academic research system. This year’s symposium in Boston will be held on October 22-24, 2015. The working theme for this year’s meeting is “How many grads/postdocs?”, focusing on the labor market surrounding the biomedical workforce. We want to have a discussion on collecting data – what data should be collected, who by, and what for – about the academic workforce. We also want to hear differing opinions on whether/how the structure of the academic workforce should be reformed: are there too many/too few postdocs/grad students/STEM undergraduates? What barriers exist to making these/any reforms at administrative/faculty/funding agency levels? To discuss the issues at hand with the labor market and structure of the biomedical workforce, we will be having a one-hour address from Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University, on an aspect of the debate on the research system which is mostly informed by opinion in our community, but with little expertise on the economic factors at play.  The discussion on what data should be collected e.g. Career outcomes, numbers of postdocs, etc. will inform a national Hack Day/Activism Day with ASBMB on Saturday 24th, where projects will be proposed and attendees can contribute to data collection/design of surveys/design or repositories for data/design of media to raise awareness. You can find information on the Hack Day here.
Survey to set goals for Interactive Workshops: Please help us make this meeting relevant and efficient by completing a quick and anonymous survey. Your responses will help us set goals for the interactive workshops. We are seeking perspectives from scientists and non-scientists, so please feel free to circulate this link widely!
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We are a group of early career researchers in the Boston area who are concerned about the sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise.   Your comments and input are welcome – please contact us at For more about our philosophy, please see our introductory blog post. For more on how we got started, and the output of last year’s symposium, see our About page.   The 2015 Symposium We are planning a symposium on October 22-24, 2015 in Boston. The event will consist of talks,  panel discussions and information gathering sessions focused on issues affecting the future of science. Participants will have the opportunity for in-depth discussion on specific areas of interest including:

  • Data: Why don’t we know how many postdocs there are? How many PhDs and postdocs should there be?
  • Academic data and the labor market
  • Economics of science
  • The effects of academia on diversity in science
  • Career diversity
  • Connecting early career scientists across the US

The goal of each session will be to elucidate opinion on which challenges are most important to address, and to develop recommendations for moving toward an equitable, sustainable research enterprise. Hack Day After the panel discussions, on Saturday October 24th, there will be a “Hack Day”, where participants will gather data, develop data collection tools, and generally come up with practical solutions to address questions identified in the panel discussions on previous days. There will be substantial cash prizes for winning groups kindly provided by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), so the stakes are high (not only for the future of biomedical research) to make sure there is useful output from this meeting! The output After the symposium, we will publish a variety of reports representing the findings, aimed at different target audiences across academia and the public. What form this output will take will largely be determined by the Hack Day projects and their outcomes. What next? This conference will continue  to provide information to young scientists in addition to giving them a voice in defining the future culture and practice of science. Furthermore, we will continue the process of working with policy-makers, administrators, and senior scientists on achieving needed change. We hope that this meeting can serve as an example to all across academia in gathering data on our research system, rather than simply making assumptions about what needs to be changed. Our meeting last year, and the attention it received, makes clear that we have an important role to play in contributing to the conversations – and actions – on improving the future of research.


Sarah Mazzilli (BU) & Gary McDowell (Tufts) – Lead organizers Jessica Polka (HMS), Erica Walsh (Brigham & Women’s), Patricia Goodwin (Brandeis), Kearney Gunsalus (Tufts) – FOR Executive Committee

Alina Chan (HMS), Trish Goodwin (Brandeis), Rebeccah Lijek (HMS), Carrie Niziolek (BU), Jessica Polka (HMS), David Riglar (HMS), Erica Walsh (BWH), Cara Weismann (UMass Med) – Symposium Organizational Committee

Additional volunteers: André Bastos (MIT), Thomas Bowman (Tufts), Ayesha Islam (MASS AWIS), James Kraemer (MIT), Vaibhav Pai (Tufts), Eldi Schoenfeld (MIT), Joseph Zullo (HMS)

Meeting information

program_mockup_2015_Page_1 program_mockup_2015_Page_2

  • some changes to the Hack Day schedule apply, see below for details.



The symposium will be located on the Boston University Campus. Nearby recommended cash parking locations are the Agganis Arena garage and the Granby lot. All parking lots can be viewed here by selecting “Parking Lots” under “Display.”


Plenary Speaker: Paula Stephan, Professor of Economics, Georgia State University, Author of How Economics Shapes Science (copies of the book will be available on sale for $15 at the symposium).


Other confirmed speakers:

  • Jonathan Dinman, Professor of Microbiology University of Maryland, College Park
  • Eve Marder, Professor of Biology (Brandeis)
  • Michael Teitelbaum, Senior Research Associate, Harvard Law School
  • Melanie Sinche, Senior Research Associate in the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School.
    • Founding Director of the FAS Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at Harvard University, held the same position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health in building the Career Services Center for over 9,000 intramural trainees.


Thursday October 22, 2015 (4-7 PM)

COM Auditorium (COM101), Boston University

3.30 PM: Registration

4.00 PM: Welcome & Introductions

4.30 PM: Panel 1: Defining the Postdoc: A Grassroots Perspective

See blogpost here

Moderators: Rebeccah Lijek (HMS) & David Riglar (HMS, @driglar)

Abigail Anderson (NYU, NYU PoIntS, @NYUpostdocs)

Kyle Dolan (U Chicago, FORChicago, @KyleDolan7)

Kristin Krukenberg (Shire, FORSymp 2014, @k_kruken)

Julie Moncaster (BU, National Postdoctoral Association (NPA, @nationalpostdoc), @JulietAdvocSci)

Tobias Otto (Boston Postdoctoral Association (BPDA))

5.45 PM: Panel 2: Defining the Postdoc: An Institutional Perspective

See blogpost here

Moderators: Rebeccah Lijek (HMS) & David Riglar (HMS, @driglar)

Cynthia Fuhrmann (UMass Med School Center for Biomedical Career Development (@GSBSCareer, @CnFuhrmann)

James Gould (HMS Postdoctoral Office, @HMSpostdoc)

Sarah Hokanson (BU Postdoctoral Office)

Daniel Jay (Tufts Postdoctoral Office)

Dana Bresee Keeth (MIT Postdoctoral Office)



7:00 PM: Networking Reception with Mass AWIS (@MASSAWIS):

FOR pubnight[1]

Friday October 23, 2015 (9 AM- 6 PM)

Jacob Sleeper Auditorium (CGS 129), Boston University

8.30 AM: Coffee and Registration

9.00 AM: Keynote: Paula Stephan (Georgia State): The Economics of the Postdoctoral Position

10.00 AM: Panel 3: Academic Data and the Labor Market

See blogpost here

Moderator: Gary McDowell (Tufts, @BiophysicalFrog)

Jonathan Dinman (U Maryland)

Eve Marder (Brandeis)

Melanie Sinche (Jackson Labs)

Paula Stephan (Georgia State)

Michael Teitelbaum (Harvard Law)

11.30 AM: Panel 4: Career Paths

See blogpost here

Moderators: Erica Walsh (BWH, @waleric1) & Cara Weismann (UMass)

Sarah Cardozo Duncan (Career Strategist)

Tyler Ford (Addgene, @Addgene, @TyFordFever)

Misty Heggeness (NIH, @NIH)

Chris Pickett (ASBMB, @ASBMB, @ChrisPickett5)

Brian Plosky (Cell Press, @molecularcell@BrianPlosky)

1.00 PM: Lunch

Move to COM Auditorium (COM101), Boston

2.00 PM: Panel 5: Early Career Researchers in Publishing

See blogpost here

Sponsored by Elsevier

Elsevier logo

Moderators: Sarah Mazzilli (BU, @DrSMazz) & Karen Carniol (Cell)

Heather Fleming (Broad Institute, @broadinstitute)

Kinga Hosszu (Faculty of 1000, @F1000@KingaNYC)

Meredith LeMasurier (Nature Neuroscience, @NatureNeuro)

Josh Nicholson (The Winnower, @theWinnower)

Debbie Sweet (Cell Press, @CellStemCell, @CellPressNews@biologyfan)

Marian Walhout (UMass Med)

3.30 PM: Panel 6: Diversity

See blogpost here

Moderator: Jessica Polka (HMS, @jessicapolka)

Moon Duchin (Tufts)

Rafael Luna (HMS)

Joan Reede (HMS)

Alberto Roca (, @MinorityPostdoc)

Jessica Tytell (MASS AWIS, @MASSAWIS, @JessTytell)

5.00 PM: Closing Remarks

Saturday October 24, 2015 (9 am – 11 pm)


Hack Day with ASBMB

9:00 AM EST: Startlogo_new

1:00 PM EST: Lunch provided in Boston location

7:00 PM EST: Dinner provided in Boston location

11:00 PM EST: Project submission deadline

We thank our sponsors for their generous support! If your organization is interested in supporting this meeting, please get in touch at!   BU     addgene   massawis   logo_new   GPALogo

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