Perspectives on the Future of STEM Graduate Education: an Open Forum  at the 2017 AAAS Meeting

Perspectives on the Future of STEM Graduate Education: an Open Forum at the 2017 AAAS Meeting

  This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston.   The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to advance science for the benefit of all people. The annual AAAS meeting is an exciting place for discussions on how science policy benefits society. Influencing science policy can be achieved by multiple avenues, including getting the voices of junior scientists in the conversation.   The background: During the 2017 AAAS meeting, Future of Research members attended the Open Forum: Perspectives on the Future of STEM Graduate Education, a session led by Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of AAAS and Chair of the Committee on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century at the National Academy of Sciences. This ad hoc committee is under the auspices of the Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW) and the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP), and liaising with the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) and Teacher Advisory Council (TAC). The committee will lead a study of STEM graduate-level education in the U.S., directed by Layne Scherer, revisiting and updating a similar COSEPUP study completed 20 years ago, which was named Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers. The products of the new study, including feedback from this open forum, will be used in service of producing an Academies report to enhance STEM graduate education.   The context: The introduction to the open forum given by Dr. Alan Leshner highlighted that the world is changing both within and outside the scientific enterprise. Today, over 60% of new...
Future of Research partners with March for Science

Future of Research partners with March for Science

Future of Research (FoR) is pleased to announce that we are officially partnering with March for Science, the organization driving marches for science at hundreds of locations around the world on April 22.               In addition to being officially partnered with the main organization and the march in DC, so far we are also currently partnered with the satellite March for Science – Minnesota.       We encourage our followers to get involved with local marches, and hope to help with local events including hosting some activities in coordination with others involved with the march.   You can read more about the mission of March for Science here, and about their principles and goals here.   If you want to get involved with us and the marches, please feel free to reach out to Gary McDowell at info[at]futureofresearch.org – we have board members in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC and New York and are happy to try to coordinate with you at these and other locations if we can.   A statement from the Executive Director: FoR is passionate about a number of the issues the March for Science is looking to address, including how a more diverse scientific enterprise can benefit science and society. As a group that tries firmly to base policy recommendations in evidence, and pass data and evidence openly to junior researchers about the scientific system itself, we are concerned with the evidence being dismissed by those across the political spectrum, and also within science itself.   Science is political, and a march for science is also political. Marching...
The temporary suspension of H-1B premium processing and academia

The temporary suspension of H-1B premium processing and academia

DISCLAIMER: This is not legal advice but information that we understand to be the case regarding H-1B visas and the 6-month suspension of premium processing beginning April 3. Anyone possibly affected by this should contact their institution for legal advice. We will update this as necessary as more information comes in, please contact info@futureofresearch.org if you have insights or information. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have issued a suspension of premium processing for H-1B visas for 6 months, beginning April 3. The H-1B is a temporary visa to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. There are certain conditions on the number of visas and salary requirements for for-profit employers, but academia and non-profit organizations enjoy more relaxed rules, including exemption from a cap on numbers and lower salary requirements, under the “American Competitiveness in the 21st Century” Act. Postdocs and staff scientists are often hired on H-1B visas, in many cases exhausting the option of the J-1 temporary visitor visa. The statement issued by USCIS states explicitly that “The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt” and so it appears that with premium processing no longer an option, H-1B visas in academia could take 6-9 months to be issued from point of application. It is not possible to work before the visa is issued and so this could delay the transition of foreign grad students on J or F or other temporary visas to H-1B visas if they are starting a postdoc; it could also delay the hiring of postdocs currently abroad looking to start a postdoc position in the U.S.; and it could also delay...
New England Future Faculty Workshop for Women in STEM Fields (NE-FFW)

New England Future Faculty Workshop for Women in STEM Fields (NE-FFW)

For the attention of women in STEM who are postdoctoral scholars and PhD students – we have received this call for applications to this workshop:   “We would like to invite women in STEM who are postdoctoral scholars and PhD students to participate in the New England Future Faculty Workshop for Women in STEM Fields (NE-FFW) on the Northeastern University campus in Boston, Massachusetts on August 10, 2017.  The NE-FFW is designed specifically for women in STEM fields who are late-stage PhD students and postdoctoral scholars and interested in an academic career.   The NE-FFW is focused on the academic job search.  The format of the one-day workshop includes faculty-led interactive discussions and peer-to-peer interactions.  Workshop topics include:  Finding Your Institutional Fit, Standing Out in the Interview, Reviewing CVs, Developing a Research Statement, Negotiating the Job Offer, and more.  To learn more about the New England Future Faculty Workshop for Women in STEM Fields, go to: http://www.northeastern.edu/advance/recruitment/future-faculty-workshop/   To participate in the NE-FFW, there are several steps interested people need to take: Apply by May 26th online here. Submit a 300 word statement about why they want to participate Submit their CV Accepted applicants will be notified by June 5th Confirm their participation by paying a $25 registration fee by July 1, 2017and uploading a research statement   This unique opportunity is one they will not want to miss.   Warm regards, NE-FWW Planning Committee   Northeastern University: Penny Beuning, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Jan Rinehart, Executive Director ADVANCE Office of Faculty Development Kathleen Kenney, Assistant Director ADVANCE Office of Faculty Development Hillary Hadley, Postdoctoral Research Associate,...
What Career Awareness and Development Resources Are There for Junior Scientists? A Workshop at the 2016 ASCB meeting

What Career Awareness and Development Resources Are There for Junior Scientists? A Workshop at the 2016 ASCB meeting

This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston.   Introduction Career development for junior scientists remains one of the most important issues in the biomedical research enterprise. Since the perceived notion is that the role of junior scientists is to drive science forward by working at the bench, training them for career success may not be a top priority. However, recent statistics state that only 10% of trainees go on to have a faculty position (Table 3–18 in (National Science Foundation, 2014)). Therefore, training graduate students and postdocs for success in non-research careers beyond the bench must be a major focus of the enterprise. While many U.S. institutions have developed very useful career development programming in this regard, the career training landscape for junior scientists is still inconsistent across the country and may also be lacking important components to help academics transition into non-research careers.   Improving career training for junior scientists can only be achieved if we know what they need from the system. Traditionally, although this is beginning to change, junior scientists haven’t had a strong voice in the matter. At Future of Research, we want to help junior scientists transition into their desired career paths, while giving them a voice in the process. In our workshops, we asked trainees about which career resources they are currently using/finding useful, and what resources they would like to have for career success. We plan to use this information to create a resource on our website, which we hope will be useful towards improving career training for junior scientists.      Previous career workshops In...
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...