Graduate students and recent grads: An opportunity to contribute to the Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century study

Graduate students and recent grads: An opportunity to contribute to the Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century study

In a recent post, we discussed the beginning of the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, a new study looking at how the U.S. can create the next generation of independent researchers.   Another study that has just begun at the National Academies is the “Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century study,” which is holding a session at the AAAS meeting in Boston this month, “Open Forum: Perspectives on the Future of STEM Graduate Education” with the study chair, Alan Leshner.   It is particularly important for this committee to hear directly from current and recently graduated graduate students in person and we encourage anyone attending the meeting to join. We at FoR will hopefully be able to report back on what was discussed.   The scope of the committee is:   “An ad hoc committee, under the auspices of BHEW (Board on Higher Education and Workforce) and COSEPUP (Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy), and liaising with GUIRR (Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable) and TAC (Teacher Advisory Council), will lead a study of STEM graduate-level education in the U.S., revisiting and updating a similar COSEPUP study completed 20 years ago. Specific tasks will include: • Conduct a systems analysis of graduate education, with the aim of identifying policies, programs and practices that could better meet the diverse education and career needs of graduate students in coming years (at both the master’s and Ph.D. levels—understanding the commonalities and distinctions between the two levels), and also aimed at identifying deficiencies and gaps in the system that could improve graduate education programs. • Identify strategies to improve the alignment of graduate education...
OpenCon San Francisco satellite event at Manylabs 5.30-9pm Tues Feb 7th

OpenCon San Francisco satellite event at Manylabs 5.30-9pm Tues Feb 7th

Info about this meeting will be regularly updated at the OpenCon satellite event site here.   In November 2016, FoR President Jessica Polka and Executive Director attended OpenCon 2016, (see #OpenCon), a meeting seeking to empower the next generation to advance open access, open data, and open education, to generate a more open and accessible system of research and education. Finding ways of making data and educational resources available for all, and enabling people to be able to disseminate their data easily for others to see and use, their work for others to read, and their educational materials for others to access, are of interest to FoR particularly in helping those who want to practice academia more openly to feel able to do so. Gary is also a resident in the Manylabs community space for open research and education, which includes a variety of projects including Maker science. Therefore we are hosting an OpenCon satellite event on Tuesday, February 7th in the Manylabs workshop space (with drinks and light bites) from 5.30pm-9pm, to discuss some of the open science, open data, open education and Maker work going on in the local area.   Speakers will include:   Stephanie Santoso, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation:     Stephanie served from 2014-2016 as the first-ever Senior Advisor for Making at the White House, where she helped develop President Obama’s Nation of Makers initiative, to broaden access to the Maker Movement. This included planning the first-ever White House Maker Faire and the National Week of Making. She will give a short talk describing what Maker science is.   Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer, iBiology    ...
Future of Research statement on immigration Executive Order, and commitment to future work

Future of Research statement on immigration Executive Order, and commitment to future work

FoR’s mission is to improve the scientific research enterprise. We promote grassroots advocacy amongst junior researchers to discuss the problems they perceive with science, and possible solutions to fix them. We then work on making these solutions a reality, working with and advocating to institutions, scientific societies, federal agencies and senior scientists to effect change – and to speak as a voice of junior researchers. We also seek to empower junior researchers by collecting data about academia and scientific training, and make the data available to help them make rational decisions when figuring out how best to use their passion for science to benefit society.   This mission applies to problems like postdoc salaries and the recent Fair Labor Standards Act fiasco. It also applies to problems like the President’s Executive Order banning nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days, and how we as a scientific community respond to them.   A huge number of junior researchers in the U.S. are not U.S. citizens. Two-thirds of postdoctoral researchers are estimated to be foreign nationals, and the majority of those are estimated to be on temporary visas such as J-1 or H-1B visas. Considering just one of the seven affected countries, there were more than 10,000 Iranian students alone in the U.S. in 2013-14, and 1,364 Iranian scholars at U.S. institutions.   This Executive Order prevents these scientists from re-entering the country if they leave, or entering if they are currently outside. It prevents scientists from traveling to and from conferences.   But these actions not...
The Next Generation Researchers Initiative at the National Academies: New Study Begins

The Next Generation Researchers Initiative at the National Academies: New Study Begins

A new study commenced work at the start of 2017: the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative,” directed by the Board on Higher Education and Workforce at the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine.   The study originated in a bill introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and has been mandated by Congress in both the 2016 Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. The study is aimed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), members of Congress, institutional administrators and faculty, industry, foundations and professional associations: specifically, to the Office of the Director at NIH, the Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.   The project scope is (taken from the National Academies Current Projects page):   “An ad hoc committee overseen by the Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW), in collaboration with COSEMPUP, BOSE, and HMD, will conduct a study that 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. The study will examine evidence-based programs and policies that can reduce barriers to, and create more opportunities for, successful transitions to independent research careers. It will also examine factors that influence the stability and sustainability of the early stages of independent research careers. The study will include: • An evaluation of the barriers that...
Guest post: Landing Your First Postdoc Position

Guest post: Landing Your First Postdoc Position

Holly Hamilton was a travel awardee for the Advocating for Science Symposium and Workshop in Boston, 2016:   After completing 23+ years of education, you may come to realize that one thing you do not know is how to land your first job. If after careful consideration and research, e.g.: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2016/08/23/should-you-pursue-postdoc-or-not-essay http://www.nature.com/news/the-future-of-the-postdoc-1.17253 http://cheekyscientist.com/phds-stop-applying-postdocs-start-applying-research-scientist-positions/ http://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/to-postdoc-or-not-to-postdoc http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/11/postdoc-special-kind-hell)   you have decided that a postdoctoral position is your next step, here is your how-to guide to success.     Identify faculty in fields that interest you.   For a postdoc position, job boards are nearly useless. Most professors do not use job boards to advertise positions and are notoriously bad about updating and listing job openings on their lab websites. So unless you know for a fact that this faculty is not currently seeking a postdoc, keep them on your list anyways. After spending several years on your doctoral thesis on one very specific subject, you may feel compelled to stay within that field. However, if you plan to stay on the tenure-track, you should know that many granting agencies (ahem, the NIH) prefer to see a postdoc in a subject that is entirely separate from your graduate training. Why? The NIH believes that the purpose of a postdoc is the train you on a new subject-area and methods. You can explore other fields by attending scientific meetings. And when you are there, network, network, network. You may meet your next boss. At the very least, you can decide whether certain fields are right for you. And since one day you will want to get paid, pay close attention to fields that...
Upcoming FoR Meeting in Vancouver  Feb 20th 2017

Upcoming FoR Meeting in Vancouver Feb 20th 2017

The first FoR meeting in 2017 will be in Vancouver on February 20th, 2017.   Information about the meeting is continually being updated here at our FoR Vancouver 2017 page.     FoR Vancouver represent early-career researchers from across Vancouver and British Columbia, from Simon Fraser University to the University of British Columbia to the University of Victoria. Current job structures in science, and opportunities for funding, training, and support make careers in research unpredictable and insecure for many of Canada’s most passionate young scientists. However, a more sustainable career environment could secure world-leading science in Canada and BC, which will be vital to deal with health, environmental, agricultural, and economic challenges to come.   The Future of Research Vancouver Symposium 2017 On February 20th, 2017, we will be holding the first FoR Vancouver symposium, bringing together early-career researchers from across BC to discuss challenges facing the future of Canadian science, including: 1) Funding for early career researchers 2) Training and transparency of career outcomes of early career researchers 3) Increased connectivity – how to promote and strengthen conversations about research and infrastructure between research institutions and provinces 4) The structure of the scientific workforce   We are proud to announce our speakers and panellists for FoRVan 2017! Keynote address: Hon. Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education Dr. Liisa Galea, neuroscientist and science policy advocate Dr Laya Boyd, neuroscientists, Canada Research Chair and CIHR delegate Other panellists will include representatives from local industry and not-for-profit groups; to be announced!   Preliminary Schedule: February 20th, 2017 2:00 – 2:30 – Registration 2:30 – 3:15 – Keynote 3:20 – 4:30 – Interactive...
New publications: Using Census Data to See the New Face Of U.S. Science

New publications: Using Census Data to See the New Face Of U.S. Science

One of the key challenges in our work pushing for reform of the academic system and the scientific enterprise is convincing those resistant to change that there is a problem. Part of the issue in dealing with this is the debate about the quality/quantity of data available about the scientific workforce; with almost no tracking of career outcomes for graduate students and postdocs, and the variable degree to postdocs are administered in the U.S. hindering data collection efforts, a key argument against reform is the scarcity of data with which to make informed changes.   To combat this, we have started working more closely with those in science policy and the social sciences who work on these issues, and recently teamed up with labor economists at the U.S. Census Bureau/NIH to look at the U.S. biomedical workforce using census data. We have produced a comprehensive analysis of the historical size, shape and demography of the biomedical workforce in our working paper, “Preparing for the 21st Century Biomedical Research Job Market: Using Census Data to Inform Policy and Career Decision-Making” which is discussed in our comment in Nature out today, “The New Face of Science in the U.S.”. Our hope is this analysis will be of use to policy-makers, and can also help to inform junior and senior scientists alike (particularly in academia) about the realities we currently face.    We used the Integrated Public-Use Microdata Series-USA (IPUMS-USA, University of Minnesota) dataset, which contains data from both the decennial census and the annual American Community Survey (ACS), to look at biomedical scientists in the U.S. (for more details on the methods, see Appendix...
Guest post: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) injunction and postdocs: one month later

Guest post: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) injunction and postdocs: one month later

This is a guest post by Adriana Bankston, a volunteer with Future of Research and one of the travel award winners for the Advocating for Science symposium in Boston, 2016.  Adriana has been collecting data directly from institutions as part of this effort.   UPDATE: This post has been updated, the first figure was previously showing institutional plans, not the percentage of the postdoctoral population affected by each change as described in the text.     On December 1st 2016, postdocs working more than 40 hours per week were due to see salary raises from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ruling issued by the Department of Labor. At Future of Research, we have been collecting data and documenting the compliance of universities with the FLSA in our online resource. These data were also communicated in a paper published F1000 research in November 2016. To document this compliance periodically, we published subsequent blog posts at one month, 20 days and 10 days prior to the original FLSA implementation date of December 1st. Our data indicated that, at 10 days prior to December 1st, 69% of all postdocs were expected to receive salary raises, 6% of postdocs were to have either salaries raised or hours tracked with no central institutional mandate for either, 3% of postdocs were at institutions focused on allowing hours tracking, and for 22% of postdocs no data had been made publicly available (below).     Complying with the FLSA ruling for such a large percentage of postdocs with 10 days to go was due to have a very positive impact...
Guest post: If They can do it, then…

Guest post: If They can do it, then…

A guest post by Tammy Barnes, Ph.D., postdoc at the University of Michigan and co-chair of the University of Michigan Postdoctoral Association (UMPDA).   I’m a Kentucky gal.  Before I moved to Ann Arbor for work as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, all that the word “buckeye” meant to me was a treat to be savored around this very time of year.  These days, however, I have started bleeding a different shade of blue and detesting a darker hue of red.   Two weeks ago, a federal judge issued a court order to block changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that were intended to take effect on December 1, 2016. These changes would have raised the salary of an individual to $47,476, unless paid overtime.  At the University of Michigan, this act would have positively affected at least 2,400 faculty and staff, including postdoctoral research fellows (often called “postdocs”).  As a result of this recent FLSA court injunction, the University has paused implementing these changes.  In other words, postdocs will remain overworked and underpaid. As one of the 1,400 postdoctoral fellows at the University of Michigan, I have heard countless testimonies from devastated postdocs who have planned for their future based on the FLSA ruling. Therefore, I cannot sit idly knowing that now colleagues will suffer.      My first year as a postdoc, I worked 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week, typical of the position.  I care deeply about my research and am working to make a difference in how we treat obesity and its many co-morbidities, including type 2...
Guest post: Carrot on a Stick: FLSA regulation, postdoc salaries, and the impending confusion

Guest post: Carrot on a Stick: FLSA regulation, postdoc salaries, and the impending confusion

This is a guest post by Dr Sridhar Vedachalam, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Water Institute at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the travel award winners for the Advocating for Science symposium in Boston, 2016.   In May 2016, the Obama administration’s Department of Labor issued a new regulation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that raised the threshold for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 per annum. At that time, it was unclear how the new regulation would impact the academic sector that employs nearly 40,000 postdoctoral researchers (or “postdocs”), the vast majority of whom are paid more than the current threshold, but less than the proposed threshold. Within days, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Labor Secretary Tom Perez wrote an op-ed advocating for  better postdoc salaries, arguing forcefully that not only do postdocs deserve to be paid more as stipulated in the FLSA regulation, but that the research and academic enterprise and the nation stand to benefit from well-compensated researchers.     To comply with the new rules, universities could either raise postdoc salaries, or track their hours to enable overtime payment. Gary McDowell is the Executive Director of the non-profit Future of Research, an organization that works with junior scientists to improve the scientific research enterprise. When the FLSA regulation came out, he expected all institutions to raise salaries. “This is because it is against the spirit of academia – and frankly, in my opinion, practically impossible – to track postdoctoral hours and pay overtime, as postdocs are often expected to be available to...