Examining Administrative Research Data to Track Postdoc Career Outcomes: a Talk by Dr. Nancy Calvin-Naylor

Examining Administrative Research Data to Track Postdoc Career Outcomes: a Talk by Dr. Nancy Calvin-Naylor

This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston, who moderated this plenary session at the 2017 NPA meeting.   Postdoctoral scholars make up a large segment of the biomedical workforce, and tracking their career trajectories is imperative for providing them with the most appropriate training. This information would also facilitate current postdocs to connect with former trainees who transitioned into various career paths, and thus develop a network of professionals to have as a resource throughout their careers.   Despite the importance of tracking postdoctoral career outcomes, data on this topic are difficult to obtain, and the best methods for data collection are still being debated in the scientific community. The speakers in one of the plenary sessions at the 2017 National Postdoctoral Association Annual Meeting entitled “Data driven approaches to tracking postdocs,” attempted to address some of these issues. One of the main speakers in this session was Dr. Nancy Calvin-Naylor, Managing Director at the Institute for Research on Innovation & Science (IRIS) at the University of Michigan.   What is the recent state of the biomedical research workforce? Dr. Nancy Calvin-Naylor’s talk entitled “Examining Administrative Research Data to Track Postdoc Career Outcomes” began with the traditional definition of the postdoc experience as an apprenticeship for an independent academic research career. However, she pointed out that fewer academic research positions exist than the number of graduate students and postdocs, and trainees are now pursuing a variety of different career paths. Although a variety of approaches have been taken to their track career outcomes to date, there are still a lot of unknowns (shown...
So…You Want To Do A Postdoc? Talk by Executive Director at University of Michigan

So…You Want To Do A Postdoc? Talk by Executive Director at University of Michigan

On April 27 2017, Executive Director Gary McDowell gave a talk to graduate students at the University of Michigan, “So…You Want To Do A Postdoc?” The talk presents some data about the postdoc position to provide context for discussing some barriers junior scientists face, and some advice on things to consider. This talk doesn’t aim to be a comprehensive resource, but rather to provoke thought and reflection, and challenge some basic assumptions people may have about the postdoc position.   The talk is available here on YouTube, and the slide deck is available here at F1000Research in the Future of Research Channel. After downloading the PDF of the slide deck it should be possible to click on the links to access the resources and citations mentioned.   A note on the data presented: the talk includes a very preliminary analysis using publicly-available data from the University of Michigan. It is hard to draw concrete conclusions from the data about salaries, but is used to highlight the difficulties in finding out salary info that potential postdocs may face; to challenge the assumption that all postdocs are paid on a defined scale (usually assumed to be the NIH NRSA stipend scale); and to demonstrate that a wide range of salaries can be found, and that postdocs need to ensure they are advocating for themselves in potential negotiations for positions....
Economic Implications of Scientific Training in the Biomedical Research Workforce: a Workshop at the 2017 AAAS Meeting

Economic Implications of Scientific Training in the Biomedical Research Workforce: a Workshop at the 2017 AAAS Meeting

 This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston. The biomedical research enterprise is driven at its core by junior scientists working at the bench. Postdocs are highly skilled scientific experts who provide a great deal of value to the scientific enterprise. In spite of this fact, they have historically been paid low wages, leading to professional dissatisfaction which may also cause them to leave the bench. Policy changes to increase postdoc compensation, as well as innovative incentives, may be very beneficial for retaining postdocs in science by creating an environment for them to effectively perform their work. Thinking about the biomedical research workforce from an economic point of view may therefore help us better understand the challenges faced by postdocs and facilitate solutions to these problems.   Critical discussions about the role of postdocs in the scientific enterprise occurred during the session entitled “Economic Implications of Scientific Training in the Biomedical Research Workforce” at the 2017 AAAS meeting. The three labor economists who presented in this session focused on the economics of the postdoctoral position and how it affects their career outcomes. Paula Stephan of Georgia State University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (also a member of the FoR advisory board) has served on a number of committees both in the US and in Europe, including the National Academies’ committee “On the Postdoctoral Experience Revisited.” The other two speakers, Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas and Bruce Weinberg of The Ohio State University, both have expertise in the STEM workforce and served on the NIH’s recent Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group. Paula...
Please help with data collection: two surveys on current and former junior scientists

Please help with data collection: two surveys on current and former junior scientists

There are two international surveys about academia currently soliciting data:   One for current postdocs on working conditions, collecting data from postdocs all around the world. All responses are anonymous. You can find the results later in the year at www.lifesciencenetwork.com. Another survey is for those who used to work as researchers in the academic sector (it says for Europe, but you can still fill it out regardless of location) but now work in other employment sectors, to capture understanding of motivations for career transition, how transitions are achieved, useful resources, competencies valued by employers, and how useful academic experience has been. It is by Vitae, for Euraxess.   More data is urgently needed on these issues, please help by filling these in!...
The aging of the science and engineering workforce

The aging of the science and engineering workforce

A new study has been published in PNAS, titled “Why the US science and engineering workforce is aging rapidly“. The paper looks at data using the NSF’s Survey of Doctorate Recipients, and also uses U.S. Census data to get information about international researchers, to examine why the science and engineering workforce is aging. While there is a definite contribution from the general aging effect of the Baby Boomer population, aging is predicted to continue even without this effect.   The paper is discussed in Science, “As the U.S. scientific workforce ages, the younger generation faces the implications” and Inside Higher Ed, “50 Shades of Gray” and the authors are keen to point out that it is unknown as yet what the effects on the scientific enterprise of this aging may be, given that we can’t currently define well what differing contributions people at different ages make to science.   The paper supports previous work on the biomedical workforce by Misty Heggeness, who we interviewed previously on this subject of the aging biomedical workforce using NIH data, and with whom we also analyzed the biomedical workforce using Census data in “Preparing for the 21st Century Biomedical Research Job Market: Using Census Data to Inform Policy and Career Decision-Making” and “The new face of US science“.   At the public session of the Next Generation Researchers Initiative in January 2017, Michael Lauer of the NIH pointed out that recent interventions have stabilized the percentage of funded investigators who are early career, but now mid-career investigators are starting to suffer as the percentage of funded investigators who are late stage continues to grow:...