FoR article “Changing the Culture of Science Communication Training for Junior Scientists” in Special Science Communication Issue of JMBE

FoR article “Changing the Culture of Science Communication Training for Junior Scientists” in Special Science Communication Issue of JMBE

The American Society for Microbiology’s Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education has just released a special issue on Science Communication. FoR Board member Adriana Bankston and ED Gary McDowell have a publication included: “Changing the Culture of Science Communication Training for Junior Scientists“. As stated in the editorial:   “While reviewing manuscripts for this issue, we were drawn to papers that made us think differently about these important issues. We were drawn, too, to papers that pushed traditional academic boundaries. Papers that especially piqued our interest were Aune et al. (Using Nonfiction Narratives in an English Course to Teach the Nature of Science and Its Importance to Communicating about Science), Taylor and Dewsbury (On the Problem and Promise of Metaphor Use in Science and Science Communication), Todd et al. (Fostering Conversation about Synthetic Biology between Publics and Scientists: A Comparison of Approaches and Outcomes), and Bankston and McDowell (Changing the Culture of Science Communication Training for Junior Scientists). These papers caused us to think more intentionally about three aspects of science communication. First, we are reminded that the language that we use in the classroom and in our presentations and writings matters. Second, these papers tie in very nicely with the inclusive pedagogy conversation that is ongoing at many institutions and make us consider how information is conveyed to and from diverse audiences. Third, these papers show the value and necessity of interdisciplinary training. There is great value in sharing expertise across academic departments, and numerous opportunities exist for teaching science communication skills in collaboration with other academic sectors.”   Please feel free to comment below and tell us what you think, or...
The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine report “Breaking Through” public debut on April 12th

The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine report “Breaking Through” public debut on April 12th

On April 12th, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report “Breaking Through” will be released and publicly discussed in DC and over livestream at 1.30pm EST. FoR President Jessica Polka and ED Gary McDowell, and FoR advisory board member Paula Stephan, were all on the committee. The study was Congressionally mandated under the 21st Century Cures Act.   Register here for the meeting and webcast.   The study, which “examines 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 the NIH” includes: • An evaluation of the barriers that prospective researchers encounter as they transition to independent research careers; • An evaluation of the impact of federal policies and budgets, including federal agency policies and procedures regarding research grant awards, on opportunities for prospective researchers to successfully transition into independent research careers and to secure their all-important first and second major research grants; • An evaluation of the extent to which employers (industry, government agencies and labs, academic institutions, and others) can facilitate smooth transitions for early career researchers into independent research careers.   You can see additional information about the study, including released responses to the call for public information, and the reports on the systems in Canada, China, the EU, the UK and Singapore here.   In addition, Gary McDowell will be giving the postdoc seminar at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI on April 12th at noon, where the contents of the report will also be discussed....
2016 Postdoc salaries – final dataset from University of Wisconsin Madison

2016 Postdoc salaries – final dataset from University of Wisconsin Madison

There is very little information available on how much postdocs are actually paid in the U.S., beyond data on institutional salary policies gathered by the National Postdoctoral Association. Following on from recent discussions about postdoc salaries changing as a result of proposed updates to U.S. Federal labor law, we have gathered data from a selection of institutions through Freedom of Information Requests, asking only for titles and salaries of postdocs, to see if we can identify actual postdoctoral salaries. The aggregate data, and more information, can be found at out “Investigating Postdoc Salaries” Resource. Here we release the belated but final dataset: University of Wisconsin Madison.   Cost for FOIA Request: $0 Additional notes: Includes names and departments.   The sharp-eyed amongst you have noticed that one institution has been missing from our dataset of postdoc salaries at public institutions with more than 300 postdocs – the University of Wisconsin Madison. While data was originally released, there was confusion over what exactly was being requested – more precisely, the eternal issue with identifying postdocs – but thanks to the physical presence of our board member Dr. Carrie Niziolek at UW Madison, we were able to resolve the issue and have now received 2016 data.   We received data for 760 postdocs, and UW Madison reported 765 postdocs to the NSF in 2015, giving us high confidence that we have all the data requested. The salary for postdocs is set at $47,476 – this policy was set around the time of Dec 1st 2016, which the data we requested are from.   Postdocs are on three titles at UW Madison – Postdoctoral Fellow,...
Changes to funding policies proposed to help young NIH-funded scientists

Changes to funding policies proposed to help young NIH-funded scientists

The increasing age of principal investigators funded on R01-type* mechanisms by the NIH. (A) Age distribution of PIs in 1980 and 2016. (B) % PIs plotted against year.    In a preprint deposited in PeerJ Preprints in January, members of Rescuing Biomedical Research discuss shifting demographic trends in the ages of those being funded on major NIH funding mechanisms. The authors point out that: “Despite a large increase in the NIH budget since the early 1980s, there has been more than a five-fold decrease in the number of investigators aged 36 or less who hold R01-type grants…Expressed in terms of NIH dollars, the proportion of all NIH grant funding awarded to scientists under the age of 36 has dropped from 5.6 percent in 1980 to 1.3 percent in 2012.” In addition, they discuss the perception that in order to successfully have a grant proposal funded, early career investigators are seeking to write proposals in a window of riskiness – not too risky that it won’t be funded, but just risky enough that it isn’t seen as incremental. They lay the blame for this at the feet of study sections perceived to be conservative, and too focused on translational research rather than research addressed at more fundamental questions with less obvious direct application to medical problems. The authors highlight the strategy undertaken by the European Research Council Starting Grants program as part of a tiered system of funding announcements. They champion the division of proposals into tiers where researchers are competing against peers of a similar career stage. Likewise they highlight the recent evaluation of the New Innovator Awards (DP2) funded 2007-09,...
Postdocsalaries.com: Self-reporting postdoc salaries to increase transparency

Postdocsalaries.com: Self-reporting postdoc salaries to increase transparency

You may have been following along with our ongoing postdoc salary efforts, such as our page and preprint reporting postdoc salary data*. If so, one of the limitations you will have noticed is that we are only able to get data from public institutions in a standard manner through Freedom of Information Act requests; and even then, we often receive not total salaries, but what is paid through the institution (i.e. if a postdoc is paid directly on a fellowship, we see salaries of $0, or low amounts if the stipend is supplemented).   Therefore, in an effort to not only gather data more widely about postdoc salaries, but also to ensure that data collection effort results in greater transparency about postdoc salaries, we have joined forces with the team behind Personal Finances for PhDs who also run the site www.phdstipends.com (if you are a graduate student, feel free to fill this out, or please pass this along to graduate students you know). Thousand of PhD stipends have been reported on their site – and furthermore, we know of institutions using this data to benchmark their own PhD stipends. Therefore they have developed postdocsalaries.com – a site where you can enter your annual salary as a postdoc from the present back to 2013.   The site aims to make the discussion about salaries more transparent, and also by working together we hope to eventually be able to make use of salary data from the site to assist in our analysis. For institutions in the U.S., there is the option to fill in demographic data, which will NOT be posted along with the individual data entries, but will instead be used to...
FoR March Newsletter

FoR March Newsletter

It’s been a quiet few weeks from us as we continue to wrap up a number of things. The report from the National Academies on the future of the next generation of the biomedical workforce, which BoD President Jessica Polka, Advisory Board member Paula Stephan and myself were all on, is about to head to the printers and finally be sent to NIH this month. We also have a number of papers in press/submitted/in preparation; and we have some exciting projects being developed on the basis of meetings held in the last few months which some of you may have attended that we are excited to get under way! Stay tuned!   One project will be based on discussions from the recent ASAPbio peer review meeting (you can see a summary here) which was organized by Jessica Polka, and attended by BoD former and current members Becki Lijek and Teon Brooks, myself, and advisory board members Chris Pickett and Vitek Tracz. It transpired that there was a massive disconnect between the experience of junior researchers, who may write peer reviews, and have those peer reviews signed and submitted in someone else’s name, versus the insistence by members of the senior community that this couldn’t possibly be happening. This is not an unusual disconnect – I notice this lack of awareness of what actually happens in academia frequently in my work – but everyone agreed that “ghostwriting” of peer review reports should not be happening, and I’m excited to be welcoming Becki back to help us lead a project on tackling this issue. This also ties neatly into our efforts to...
University Coalition releases first round of data on graduate students

University Coalition releases first round of data on graduate students

Information on the biomedical labor market is necessary both for the formulation of policies that ensure its sustainable future as well as for informing individual career decisions.   A recent announcement in Science by a coalition of universities pledged to release information on all of their biomedical graduate students AND postdocs, and the first set of data was released on February 1st, specifically including: Admissions and matriculation data of Ph.D. students Median time to degree and completion data for Ph.D. programs Demographics of Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars by gender, underrepresented minority status, and citizenship   The data can be accessed from this page. We have updated our career outcomes tracking resource with this information. Data is reported by institution and FoR congratulates UCSF, Johns Hopkins, University of Wisconsin, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Cornell University and Weill Cornell, Duke University, MIT, and University of Michigan for leading this movement and releasing this data.   FoR is currently looking through the data and will soon issue some analyses of overall trends.   We are urging other universities to join the NGLS coalition to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and stewardship of the biomedical research enterprise – interested institutions can get in touch with the Coalition at CNGLS@JHU.EDU   The coalition has laid out a roadmap with important milestones for releasing trainee information in a progressive fashion, and the next data release scheduled is July 1st for postdoc demographic information....
NEW resource: Tracking career outcomes of PhDs and postdocs at institutions

NEW resource: Tracking career outcomes of PhDs and postdocs at institutions

  For decades, institutions have been asked in various reports to track and report out on their PhD and postdoc alumnae career outcomes. A number of recent efforts by a variety of stakeholders in the last year suggest that 2018 may be the year when this comes to pass, and we are keeping track of all the efforts and which institutions have released data in our new Tracking Career Outcomes at Institutions resource.   As stated in a Policy Forum by ten University Presidents in Science, “A new data effort to inform career choices in biomedicine,”:   “The biomedical research enterprise finds itself in a moment of intense self-reflection, with science leaders, professional organizations, and funders all working to enhance their support for the next generation of biomedical scientists. One focus of their attention has been the lack of robust and publicly available information on education and training outcomes. In the absence of such information, students are prevented from making informed choices about their pre- and postdoctoral training activities, and universities from preparing trainees for a full range of careers.   The piece points out that reports that have asked for this data have included: Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences: A Framework for Discussion (FASEB, 2015); The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2014); Bridges to Independence: Fostering the Independence of New Investigators in Biomedical Research (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2005); and Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 1995).   Greater transparency could allow junior researchers to act more rationally, or prepare in a more informed manner, their...
January 2018 Newsletter items

January 2018 Newsletter items

You can sign up to receive the full monthly newsletter here   Postdoc salaries in the U.S.   The image above was kindly given to us by Drew Doering of UW-Madison. Some of the data is currently being updated e.g. University of Illinois has now sent corrected information; the resource will be updated in the coming days. We released a resource in December about postdoc salaries on our website here. A story about the resource, “Pay for US postdocs varies wildly by institution” came out in Nature discussing some of the general points. After analyzing the data, we have put this preprint on bioRxiv: “Assessing the Landscape of U.S. Postdoctoral Salaries” and have submitted a manuscript to a journal on this data. Please take a look and tell us what you think! You can also see a summary of the data and issues surrounding it in the poster I presented at ASCB in December (see also the effort in harmonizing postdoc titles at institutions published in eLife, in “What’s in a Name?“, and “The GSS is an unreliable indicator of biological sciences postdoc population trends“). Career outcome tracking for PhDs and postdocs     A number of groups including Rescuing Biomedical Research and the Coalition for Next Generation Life Sciences (or CNGLS as I like to call it) have been pushing efforts towards making institutions keep track of where their graduate student and postdoc alumnae go. CNGLS is a coalition of ten institutions committed to releasing various pieces of data about their populations over the next 2 years – you can see their website here and read their coauthored piece in Science on the rationale behind this move here. We have...
What a pilot course taught us about biomedical research data management practices

What a pilot course taught us about biomedical research data management practices

  This is a guest post by Adriana Bankston, who participated in the pilot phase of this course along with fellow Future of Research board member, Calvin Ho.   Training in research data management is critical for early career scientists. Proper data management is a responsible research practice that can facilitate collaboration and ensure that research outputs are properly generated, stored and made available for future use. In addition, it allows for discussions on measuring the scholarly influence and impact of such data, which is critical for the scientific training and career progression of early career scientists. Finally, this type of course is also valuable to organizations who rely on evidence-based resources to effect change in the scientific enterprise, including Future of Research (FoR).   In fall 2017, Elaine Martin, DA and Julie Goldman, MLIS, from The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, led the pilot phase of the Best Practices for Biomedical Research Data Management Massive Open Online Course supported by the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative for Resource Development. The pilot phase of the course consisted in nine online modules (approximately 20 hours of content) focused on specific components of data management best practices. Module topics included the research data lifecycle, metadata, data access, curation, long-term storage and preservation, as well as data ownership and related institutional policies. It also discussed open access and open data sharing, measuring the impact of research data, and the role of librarians in working with researchers to facilitate their data management needs.   While specific aspects of the pilot phase of the course are...