Make your voice heard in two National Academies studies on the future of the scientific enterprise

Make your voice heard in two National Academies studies on the future of the scientific enterprise

    Two studies, currently underway at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, are soliciting public input as part of their process. This is a chance to send in your thoughts on STEM graduate education (Masters and PhDs), and how to create the next generation of independent scientists (with a large focus on postdocs).     Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century This Committee is responding to the concern that the current system is inadequately educating graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to prepare them for productive careers in the 21st century. The National Academies has charged this Committee with considering the questions of how well the current graduate education system is equipping students for current and anticipated future needs and what changes should be made to increase its effectiveness.   The Committee on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century invites public input here on its Discussion Document and Call for Community Input through September 22, 2017.     The Next Generation Researchers Initiative This committee of the National Academies is examining 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 NIH.   You can read the Dear Colleague Letter, visit the Web Portal for public input, and view the summary Response to Prior Recommendations document. The web portal is at www.nas.edu/NextGenDCL and is open for comment until October 1....
Registration open for Ethical and Inspiring Mentorship in STEMM: FoR College Park September 21st 2017

Registration open for Ethical and Inspiring Mentorship in STEMM: FoR College Park September 21st 2017

Among the many roles that scientists play, mentoring younger scientists is one which researchers are rarely trained for. In the current STEM research environment, where lack of funding is but one of the systemic issues faced by young scientists, the roles, responsibilities, and career trajectories are changing. Organizations such as Future of Research and Rescuing Biomedical Research have been formed in recent years to address systemic issues facing academic research. Others, such as the National Mentoring Research Network, have arisen to address the training needs of those who wish to remain in academia but receive no formal training in how to supervise and mentor students. Still, there are gaps in the cultural awareness and value of being an inspiring leader, promoting a positive work environment, and in having happy, mentally fit employees. Where other industries recognize these benefits, academic culture lags.   On September 21st 2017, Future of Research will join the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in the Graduate School at the University of Maryland to host a day long mentoring conference in conjunction with National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week. This conference is co-sponsored with Labmosphere and will focus on ethical, effective, and inspiring Mentoring in STEM. The meeting will be held at the UMD College Park campus. The symposium has four primary goals: to recognize and discuss the issues surrounding mention in STEM fields; to discuss effective mentorship and advocacy techniques at all levels: PhD, Postdoc, Faculty; to provide a platform to connect like-minded young scientists who wish to effect change at their own institutions at the grassroots level; and to inspire participants to practice effective mentorship practices and promote...
NSF’s Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering doesn’t indicate trends in postdoc numbers

NSF’s Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering doesn’t indicate trends in postdoc numbers

This is a post by Executive Director Gary McDowell.   In a preprint posted on bioRxiv, Chris Pickett (of Rescuing Biomedical Research), Adriana Bankston (a policy activist at FoR) and myself argue that the NSF’s Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, known as the GSS, is not suitable to be used as an indicator of the number of biological sciences postdocs in the U.S., despite its current role as the standard reference in discussions of postdoc numbers.   This paper began in a response to Garrison et al., 2016, “Biomedical science postdocs: an end to the era of expansion,” which argued that biomedical science postdoc numbers had declined from 2010, presumed to be due to people choosing to leave biomedicine. As I have discussed before, placing a straight line along the data in the paper’s Figure 1 from 1979 to 2008 shows a clear linear increase in the number of postdocs, and that the data deviates from 2008-2013 away from this line and, importantly, above it, before returning to the line in 2013*.   Therefore, it first appeared to us not that there had been a decline in the number of postdocs beginning in 2010, but a bubble from 2008 to 2010 that corrected from 2010 to 2013. Indeed, anecdotally, many of my peers were extremely confused by the original premise of the paper – that people have been leaving academia in their droves against the continuing growth of the number of PhDs awarded, since 2010. However, proposing that postdocs stayed on for longer while the economy recovered from 2008 to 2010 yielded far more productive...
Rethinking Graduate Education for the 21st Century: a Talk by Dr. Alan Leshner at the 2017 GCC meeting

Rethinking Graduate Education for the 21st Century: a Talk by Dr. Alan Leshner at the 2017 GCC meeting

  This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston.     The mission of the Graduate Career Consortium (GCC) is to help members provide career and professional development for doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars at GCC member institutions. I recently attended the 2017 GCC meeting, held at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. The theme was “Innovation and Insight,” reflecting the continued growth of both GCC membership, and the professional development of individual GCC members.     One of the plenary sessions was given by Dr. Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer, Emeritus, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the former Executive Publisher of the Science family of journals. Dr. Leshner is also Chair of the Committee on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. This Committee was described in more detail in a previous blog post related to a session on this topic at the 2017 AAAS meeting.   Dr. Leshner’s talk was entitled “Rethinking Graduate Education for the 21st Century,” which was a popular thread on Twitter. Dr. Leshner discussed how graduate education needs to change, given that a high percentage of PhD graduates do not pursue academic careers:   He pointed out that the world is different now than it was 100 years ago, in that the STEM workforce is growing, and the number of PhDs produced is also growing. However, the settings in which graduate students pursue research have changed, and the nature of science itself has changed in the last 100 years:    ...
Bringing Scholarly Communication into the 21st Century: a Workshop at the 2017 AAAS Meeting

Bringing Scholarly Communication into the 21st Century: a Workshop at the 2017 AAAS Meeting

This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston.   Preprints are on the rise in many different types of sciences, including life sciences. My first extensive exposure to preprints was while co-moderating the ASAPbio subgroup session at the 2016 ASCB meeting, co-organized by Prachee Avasthi, Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Jessica Polka, Director of Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (ASAPbio). ASAPbio is a scientist-driven initiative to promote the productive use of preprints in life sciences, and includes discussions of various topics such as preprint citation and recognition for grant funding and promotion purposes. Several funding agencies, including the NIH, now encourage interim research products, thereby highlighting the value of preprints to allow accelerated distribution of scientific information.   At the 2017 AAAS meeting, preprints and open access were discussed in a session entitled “Bringing Scholarly Communication into the 21st Century.” Main themes in this session were the virtue of preprints and also problems that might arise around them, including the broader idea of the digital publication age and open access publishing practices. Speakers in this session were Wendy Hall (University of Southampton), Neal Young (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) and Jessica Polka (Harvard Medical School). Other people participating in this session were: Stuart Taylor, The Royal Society (organizer), Philip Campbell, Nature (moderator) and Michael Taylor, University of Bristol (discussant).   Wendy Hall: The Why of Open Access Wendy Hall discussed the transition from the print to the digital age of publication, and the benefits of publishing in an open access manner. She stated that initially the Royal...