Crisis in biomedical science: time for a change? Notes on a talk by Arturo Casadevall

Crisis in biomedical science: time for a change? Notes on a talk by Arturo Casadevall

This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston.   There are “internal problems rooted in the culture of science,” write Arturo Casadevall and Ferric C. Fang in a 2017 post for The Baltimore Sun entitled “Is science in crisis?” Arturo Casadevall, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, highlighted some of these problems in his talk entitled “Crisis in biomedical science: time for a change?” given at the Microbiology & Immunology Department seminar at the University of Louisville on February 2, 2017.     Innovation, science and technology drive economic growth. And yet, many different types of problems exist within the scientific enterprise, and these are both external and internal. Some notable external problems are inadequate funding and workforce imbalances, whereas major internal problems are disproportionate rewards to winners, an obsession with the impact factor, and poor communication with the public. Proposed solutions are political, societal and scientific reforms.     From this list, Dr. Casadevall focused on three major issues with the culture of science during his talk – namely funding science, reproducibility issues and the impact factor distortion.   Science funding is a chronic structural problem, complicated by the inability of reviewers to discriminate the future success of grants between “good enough” grants – scoring 2% vs. 20% for example in study section, making the funding process more like random chance according to Casadevall. This leads to the question of whether we are funding the best work. In a controversial article for the Wall Street Journal published in 2014,...

Future of Research Vancouver meeting on February 20th

The first Future of Research Vancouver meeting will be held on February 20th, 2017, at the SFU Harbour Centre, bringing together early-career researchers from across British Columbia to discuss challenges facing the future of Canadian science.   There have already been 200 registrants – add your name by registering here and follow what’s going on at their website and at the @FOR_Van Twitter handle....
Postdoctoral salaries at Rutgers: an analysis, in the wake of the Fair Labor Standards Act turmoil

Postdoctoral salaries at Rutgers: an analysis, in the wake of the Fair Labor Standards Act turmoil

In the wake of the injunction against updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which affected postdoctoral researchers, a number of institutions initially indicating that they would raise salaries to comply with the new minimum have reversed their plans to do so. One such institution was Rutgers University, in New Jersey. As described in this post and this post from Rutgers Postdoc Association, the institution claimed “the court ruling prohibit[s] implementation at this time of the proposed regulations.” This has not prevented other institutions from raising salaries, including the NIH, which has raised its NRSA postdoc stipend levels despite the injunction against the FLSA updates. Indeed, Rutgers (like many institutions) has previously tied its salary levels for postdocs to the NIH NRSA stipend levels. Postdocs at Rutgers are now being encouraged to sign a petition, asking the institution to resume its plans to raise postdoctoral salaries.   As part of the progression of our FLSA and postdocs resource, we have begun requesting all individual postdoctoral salaries from public institutions, using Freedom of Information requests, to see what postdocs in the U.S. are actually being paid. To help provide data to put the Rutgers Postdoc Association petition into context, here we summarize briefly an analysis of the data we received from Rutgers of all individual postdoctoral salaries as of Dec 1st 2016. The trends and data presented here are consistent amongst a number of datasets we have from various institutions.     There is a four-fold difference between the lowest and highest postdoctoral salaries. There are 542 postdoctoral associates or fellows in the dataset from Rutgers University. The average postdoc salary is $47,620.69. The median postdoc salary...
Life as a young scientist: a personal perspective

Life as a young scientist: a personal perspective

This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston.   Growing up in Romania in a family of scientists was unusual in the 80s and 90s. For my parents, both scientists, doing research without many grant opportunities or lab supplies was grueling. And raising a child on top of that was difficult both financially and timewise. But I never fully understood how they balanced everything until I had to do it all myself.   At a young age, without a suitable place to pursue my interests in science, I jumped at the chance to attend college in America. The transition was surprisingly easy for me, since I already knew English pretty well at the time – and somehow felt like I was always meant to live here. College ended up being both enjoyable and productive. During this time, I fell in love with academic research. As a plus, I also met my future husband, and apparently converted him into becoming a biologist!   During graduate school, I was lucky enough to find a mentor who challenged me as a scientist, and to make some good friends on campus. But studying at a top private university in the U.S. for the first time in my life came with its own pressures. True to form for any scientist, I did my best to organize my life in the lab. I made to-do lists, broke up large tasks into small ones, and set short-term and long-term deadlines. In the long run, I managed to be fairly productive and happy in the lab. But outside of it, balancing research...
The New York City Postdoc Coalition: A New Organization, and their Response to the Muslim Ban

The New York City Postdoc Coalition: A New Organization, and their Response to the Muslim Ban

This post was written by Future of Research board member, Yelena Bernadskaya  The NYC Postdoc Coalition (NYCPC) was formed with the goal of connecting postdoc associations throughout New York City. The group got its start following the 2016 National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) meeting that connected Dr. Yalda Moayedi of Columbia University, Drs. Alison Sanders and Albino Troilo of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Drs. Niki Athanasiadou and Yelena Bernadskaya of NYU. While all institutes had internal postdoc associations they had little contact with one another. After a brief discussion they agreed there was need for an umbrella group run by the postdocs for the postdocs and that joining forces with other institute would take advantage of the unique setting of NYC as a major research hub. The inaugural meeting of NYCPC was held in March 2016 with six universities represented. The NYCPC is now comprised of postdoctoral leaders representing over 4,000 postdoc constituents from Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University, New York University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Rockefeller University, Albert Einstein Medical School, and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The Coalition’s overall mission is to improve the living and working conditions of postdocs and to help share resources, ideas, and support in advocacy efforts.   The immediate benefit of forming the NYCPC was the ability to share information about institutional policies that helped postdocs negotiate within their own universities. Following a brief survey on housing, salaries, and benefits Mount Sinai postdocs were able to use the information to advocate for a new base salary. The coalition also kept abreast of developments regarding...