Science Policy in our New Administration: Challenges Facing Early Career Researchers

In the week before he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, then President-elect Biden took the unprecedented step of elevating the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a cabinet level position. In doing so, Biden demonstrated his commitment to ensuring science is an integral part of his administration and to robustly invest in America’s scientific research enterprise. In a open letter to his chosen nominee, Geneticist Dr. Eric Lander, Biden posed the following questions: “How can we address stresses on academic research labs and promote creative models for federal research support? How can we reimagine and transform STEM education, empowering teachers and deploying technology to enhance the educational experience? How can we ensure the United States will remain a magnet for the best and brightest minds throughout the world?” These questions are at the core of Future of Research’s mission. In order to heed President Biden’s call to action to address the stresses on America’s research institutions and labs, we must give a voice to the individuals who underpin the entire scientific research enterprise: early career researchers (ECRs). ECRs such as graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are critical to addressing each of the issues currently facing the future of the scientific research enterprise: Lack of Effective Mentorship–The cultural climate at institutions that conduct STEM research, and thus the success of the research enterprise, is deeply tied to the quality of mentorship available. ECRs face numerous stressors as part of their jobs, many of which can be addressed by recentering training and mentorship as core to the mission of STEM...

Police Brutality, Racism, and the killing of Black civilians

Dear Future of Research Community, At a time when there is a continued need for as much collective grieving as there is for concrete actions, writing a statement can feel hollow. When so many in the Black community, on a regular basis, decry the systemic, state-sanctioned violence against them, writing a statement today can feel like social media virtue signaling. When so many corporations are writing statements while likewise continuing to employ discriminatory and racist practices, writing a statement can feel empty. When institutions are quick to assert support for the Black community but just as quickly decry the violence against property before decrying the undeniable violence and escalation of police against Black, unarmed civilians, words feel diluted of meaning. Nevertheless, words and language do have power, as much when they ring true as when they are used to manipulate and distract. Therefore, speaking up when others remain visibly silent in the face of injustice is the bare minimum and the first of many important steps in bringing about the radical restoration and transformation so desperately needed in our country. As early career researchers working to dismantle systems of inequity, we know all too well that there is no “right” way to protest. We also know that speaking truth to power is always met with resistance and requests for placation and patience. We wish to make it clear that we fully support all forms of protest from the Black community, and condemn the continued and escalating racist, systemic use of force by the police against those asserting their right to autonomy and safety. The work of Future of Research...
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...
FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists – Join us locally or remotely to help departments focus on mentoring

FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists – Join us locally or remotely to help departments focus on mentoring

If you follow academic discussions on Twitter, you may have caught sight of a discussion recently about grad school experiences prompted by Dr Kathryn Milligan-Myhre at the University of Alaska:   For those of you who had/are now having a difficult time in grad school, what support was/is lacking? If you don’t feel comfortable posting from your handle, PM me, I will post for you. — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 24, 2019 What followed was a long thread of experiences and messages received by Dr. Milligan-Myhre detailing a multitude of problems including stories of power-imbalances, and departmental or institutional inaction. Stories such as these are familiar to us over at Future of Research; it’s part of the motivation behind our efforts. Having fostered this dicussion, Dr. Milligan-Myhre then posed the question to departmental staff and faculty:   Faculty/GS dept people: These stories are heartbreaking, but an accurate picture of grad school for many of our students. Next step: What are YOU going to do to make grad school experiences better for students? https://t.co/DPK8u7GqEj — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 29, 2019 If you’ve been following our work over the last few months, you may be aware that FoR is organizing the Mentoring Future Scientists meeting (primarily in Chicago, but facilitating remote participation through satellite meetings) to bring together graduate students, postdocs, junior faculty and departmental leaders and representatives, to discuss what departments can do to prioritize attention to mentoring.   The importance that departments and institutions attach to supporting good mentorship, and providing mechanisms for accountability and addressing poor mentorship, have become an issue of intense scrutiny for...
Comments on proposed changes to Title IX to reopen on Feb 15th for 24 hours

Comments on proposed changes to Title IX to reopen on Feb 15th for 24 hours

This post is a modified and updated version of a post from January 2019.   The U.S. Department of Education is reopening submission for comments on changes to Title IX (Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance) for one day only on February 15th. We are urging you to contact the and submit comments; to learn more, please read on.   News: The Department of Education is reopening commenting on Title IX on February 15th only. Having already received 104,367 public comments, many from scientists and scientific organizations, comments are being reopened due to technical difficulties experienced on the last day of commenting previously. Read on to find out more, and how to comment on February 15th.   What is Title IX? Title IX protects students and employees of educational institutions from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX has helped women in education in various ways.   What is happening with Title IX right now? At the moment the Secretary of Education is proposing rule changes to Title IX, which you can read in detail here, but a great summary is here at 500 Women Scientists.   Comments may be submitted on February 15th via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED_FRDOC_0001-0830   For more information, please check out the Take Action Tuesday page at...
On our twelfth and final day of #FoRmentors: power structures, power dynamics and anti-racism in systemic changes to mentoring

On our twelfth and final day of #FoRmentors: power structures, power dynamics and anti-racism in systemic changes to mentoring

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!   This is a post by BoD member Dr. Kaliris Salas-Ramirez. This takes us into January, which is National Mentoring Month. We will continue to discuss mentoring and provide updates as our conference planning progresses here.   Mentorship, leadership, institutional policies and systemic change should be something that researchers, as part of institutions, should always be thinking about. Understanding power structures, power dynamics and engaging in bias training that includes learning about racism as a social construct, is critical for bringing about transformative change in the sciences.  As professionals committed to innovation and improving the lives of others, understanding these different aspects of systems will allow us to deepen our mentoring relationships within our laboratories and departments. These play a critical role in the development of scientists at every career level and can elevate the voices of even the most marginalized and oppressed groups to promote equity in the research enterprise. Based on my lived experiences, identities and roles, I have many things to say when it comes to privilege, bias, racism and relationships in the academy. I am a Puerto Rican Neuroscientist that trained at Michigan State University (the first to graduate with a doctorate from an underrepresented group (URG), Black and Latinx, in Neuroscience) and is currently faculty at the CUNY School of Medicine (one of three people of color with PhD’s in the...