The postdoctoral experience and ways to effect change in science from a series of recent talks and workshops

The postdoctoral experience and ways to effect change in science from a series of recent talks and workshops

A reflective piece by Dr. Adriana Bankston   I’ve had a long standing interest in how current problems in science affect early career scientists, in particular the postdoctoral population. In spring 2018, I was invited to several universities to talk about some of these issues and hear from trainees about their academic experiences: University of Southern California (USC) (on postdocs and international researchers); Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Scripps Science Policy Discussion Group – studying policy for science); and University of California San Diego (UCSD) (Science Policy, Advocacy, and Communication (SciPAC) Group – advocating for an improved scientific enterprise). Below, I combined information obtained from these talks and workshops into general themes and conclusions.   Note #1: Although some of these ideas were only debated at particular universities, they are larger systemic issues we have previously encountered across other U.S. institutions.   Note #2: The responses below are recorded from the opinions of trainees from various universities, and do not necessarily represent the views of Future of Research as an organization.   WHAT DO POSTDOCS EXPERIENCE IN ACADEMIA TODAY?   Loneliness: Some direct quotes were that “postdocs work too much [feel guilty not doing so], are sad, and [are] not making friends.” Postdocs generally don’t know who other postdocs are in their building, and international postdocs feel very lonely [due to the large size of the campus].   Inadequate training: Postdocs and graduate students aren’t being trained adequately for their level – for example, PIs train postdocs like graduate students and vice versa. Also, mentors seem to be more flexible with the schedule of graduate students [in terms of going...

Please fill out and share the early career researcher Peer Review Survey to tell us about your peer review experiences

We are launching our #ECRPeerReview effort – focused on ensuring the recognition of peer review efforts by early career researchers. Please help us start by filling out, and sharing, this survey: https://tinyurl.com/ECRs-in-peer-review    Peer review is viewed as central to the evaluation of research, and in the case of peer review of manuscripts for journal publication, an activity that is seen as part of the service of a researcher. Graduate students, as those training in how to carry out research, should therefore clearly be participating in, and receiving training in, constructive peer review. Postdocs are researchers in a position of mentored independence – working on their own projects and research plans, and learning how to manage a research group from an independent principal investigator. As such, postdocs are already intellectually capable of being fully involved in the peer review process. But, how involved are these early career researchers (ECRs) in journal peer review? A recent survey in eLife, a journal publishing life sciences research, indicated that 92% of those surveyed had undertaken reviewing activities. But more than half, and 37% of graduate students, had done so without the assistance of their advisor:   This statistic may come as a surprise to some but, anecdotally, discussions with ECRs (particularly in the life sciences) point to a number of incidences of “ghostwriting” of peer review reports: that is, carrying out peer review of a manuscript, writing the report, and submitting it to a supervisor, who submits the report (or some version of it) under their own name, and without the name of the co-reviewer.   This led us to ask: just how often...
Contact your Senators to request they ask the NIH Director why the NIH continues to give grants to scientists found guilty of sexual harassment

Contact your Senators to request they ask the NIH Director why the NIH continues to give grants to scientists found guilty of sexual harassment

On Thursday, August 23, at 10 AM EDT the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing entitled “Prioritizing Cures: Science and Stewardship at the National Institutes of Health”. The hearing will be webcast here. Last week Senate HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray sent a letter to Dr. Francis Collins, who will be testifying at the meeting, posing a number of questions about how NIH handles sexual harassment among funded investigators. They draw attention to the NIH’s role in this problem, ask for evidence of the NIH’s actions to date, and request policy change. Francis Collins, Hannah Valentine and Michael Lauer wrote a letter to Nature in 2016 about the need for policy changes.   We are asking you to join those who have a started a campaign to contact elected representatives on the HELP Committee. A graduate student at Yale, Sarah Smaga, has produced a call script for the HELP Committee Meeting including the names and telephone numbers of Senators on the committee which you can access here. The call asks for specific policies to ensure that those found guilty of sexual harassment are not able to receive NIH funding, enabling them to put more trainees and their careers at risk.   Two members of the committee are particularly focused on prospects of early career researchers: Susan Collins of Maine and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led a bipartisan effort focused on trainees that resulted in the Next Generation Researchers Initiative at NIH being mandated under the 21st Century Cures Act. It seeks to improve prospects for early career researchers, paying attention to recommendations from a study at the...
Welcome to our new members of the Board of Directors!

Welcome to our new members of the Board of Directors!

We are excited to announce the return of Board members Dr. Jessica Polka, Dr. David Riglar, Dr. Cara Weismann and Dr. Carrie Niziolek to serve another term on the Board of Directors, in addition to our six new members!   We would like to thank Dr. Kearney Gunsalus, Dr. Yelena Bernadskaya, Dr. Erica Walsh-Michel, Dr. Sarah Mazzilli and Dr. Patricia Goodwin for their service on the board since its creation.   Our new Board members, who are taking their places, are:            ...
Future of Research response to NIGMS RFI on postdoctoral transitions to diversify research faculty

Future of Research response to NIGMS RFI on postdoctoral transitions to diversify research faculty

  This RFI closes July 20th – please read below if you are still in time to comment – and comment here   The National Institute of General Medical Sciences recently issued a Request For Information (RFI) seeking input on strategies to enhance postdoctoral career transitions, with an aim to promoting faculty diversity. You can read more about it in this Blog post, “Give Input on Strategies to Enhance Postdoctoral Career Transitions to Promote Faculty Diversity”; you can find the full RFI here and comments are submitted here.   As described in the Request For Information:   “Specific topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:   The barriers scientists from underrepresented groups face as they progress from postdoctoral training into faculty positions at research-intensive institutions, and potential strategies to overcome these barriers. The qualities and perspectives that scientists from underrepresented groups bring to the research enterprise, and how these can be drawn upon to encourage and promote career transitions into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions. Approaches key stakeholders (e.g., faculty advisors, institutions, scientific societies, etc.) can use to promote the successful career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions, and how these can be coordinated and sustained to maximize impact. Current strategies that have been successful in promoting the transition of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into independent, tenure-track faculty positions. Any other comments or recommendations for NIGMS to consider with respect to programs to enhance career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions.”   Below and here as a PDF on our press page you can...
Coalition of Next Generation Life Science Releases Initial set of Postdoc Data

Coalition of Next Generation Life Science Releases Initial set of Postdoc Data

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. After announcement in Science, a coalition of universities pledged to release information on all of their biomedical graduate students AND postdocs.   The first set of data was released on February 1st 2018, focusing on admissions and demographics data about Ph.D. students. The next set of data released July 1st 2018 includes: Number of postdoctoral researchers Demographics of postdoctoral scholars by gender, underrepresented minority status, and citizenship For some institutions, length of postdoc and career outcomes. The data can be accessed from this page by institution and we have updated our career outcomes tracking resource with this information. Data is reported by institution and again 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.   Below, we discuss some highlights of these datasets that illustrate the importance of having this data available. 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 October 1st for time in postdoctoral training at each institution.   Highlights of the latest data release Demographic representations It is important to remember that, in contrast to graduate admissions which are carried out at a program- or department-wide level,...
Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics wins reprieve in government reorganization bill

Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics wins reprieve in government reorganization bill

Future of Research recently joined a number of other U.S. and international scientific organizations and professional societies in sending a letter to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, urging him to keep the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS) autonomous and independent. There has been good news: the component of a government reorganization bill dismantling PRIS was removed in final conference deliberations hours before the midnight deadline of June 30 ending the legislative session. There were frequent references to 47 scientific organizations urging Puerto Rico’s governor not to dismantle statistical agency and we are very glad to have been able to add our support to this cause. Join us on social media to thank the Puerto Rico legislature and especially Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz (@trschatz51) and House Speaker Carlos ‘Johnny’ Méndez Núñez (@JohnnyMndez36) along with the conference committee using the hashtags: #FactsMatterPR & #CuentasClarasPR. You can also read news items about the development from the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association. We received the following from the coordinators of the effort: “We were pleasantly surprised by the development with each new version of the reorganizational plan remaining fixed on dismantling PRIS and the final House and Senate passed versions earlier in the week both containing the provision. Despite the seemingly slim chance for success, the broad community fighting for PRIS’s independence kept up the pressure through media, social media, and grassroots…The conferenced and approved bill has this language (translated by Google Translate): “However, it is clarified that this Legislature has determined to address issues related to the Institute of Statistics in a subsequent legislation.” Please stay tuned.” Many thanks to all who...
Extended call to July 12th for applications to serve on Future of Research’s Board of Directors 2018-20

Extended call to July 12th for applications to serve on Future of Research’s Board of Directors 2018-20

Due to issue with the futureofresearch.org domain from July 4-8, we are extending our call for applications to July 12th – please see details below!   *****   Future of Research is looking to recruit new members to serve on our Board of Directors from 2018-2020.   Members of the Board serve for two years. We are looking for people interested in taking a lead on small projects, or in working groups, to support the work of the organization and help us in our goal of helping junior researchers organize local meetings; increasing transparency about the academic system; and generally advocating for change for junior researchers.   In particular, this year we are gearing up to focus on: empowerment of early career researchers, through recognition of their scholarly efforts in peer review, and to advocate for more ECRs on the boards of organizations in the research community; incentivizing and rewarding good mentoring, and calling out egregious behavior and sexual harassment in academe; and fundraising efforts to help sustain the work of the organization going forward. Applications from anyone able to commit to work on these projects will be particularly favorably viewed.   The time commitment expected is 1-2 hours per week, usually working over video calls. We would be happy to receive applications from anyone interested in helping us, regardless of field, career stage or location.   Please spread the word! To apply, fill out the form here and send a brief CV to garymcdow@gmail.com – feel free to contact us for more information! The applications are open until July 12th....
In Defense of Science: the National Science Policy Network

In Defense of Science: the National Science Policy Network

In Defense of Science: The National Science Policy Network Is Helping the Next Generation of Civic Scientists and Engineers to Organize Nationwide Network Receives More than $100,000 in Grants for Local Work   See this op-ed in Scientific American.   From the National Science Policy Network:   The National Science Policy Network (NSPN) is excited to announce a major new effort to support early-career science policy groups nationwide. With the support of Schmidt Futures and other national partners, NSPN will significantly increase assistance to grassroots STEM groups advocating for greater engagement of the scientific community in policy and advocacy.   The political turmoil of the past year has catalyzed civic engagement amongst members of the scientific community. New data from a survey conducted by NSPN earlier this year shows that out of 22 science policy groups surveyed, 45% have launched within the past year and a half, and 60% of all groups operate on an annual budget of $1,200 or less.   To support the growing trend of civic scientists, NSPN is launching three programs focused on providing training and resources.   First, we are providing microgrants for early-career science policy groups, giving seed funding to support high-impact projects and facilitate the growth of smaller, underfunded groups. Second, we are collaborating with Research!America on the Bipartisan Candidate Engagement Initiative to raise awareness among candidates running for national office on the importance of scientific research. Third, we are hosting a fall symposium in NYC to bring together student science policy, advocacy, and communication groups from across the country.   All of this is available at a new website that also...