Needed: Flexible Mentors in Science

Needed: Flexible Mentors in Science

This post originally appeared on the GCC Carpe Careers blog published on the Inside Higher Ed website on May 1, 2017. Re-posting with permission from Inside Higher Ed. Adriana Bankston provides advice for how research scientists can positively influence the personal and professional development of the trainees who work in their labs. I’ve written a lot of articles about what junior scientists can do to navigate their own career transitions, but I would now like to urge mentors to help and support them in those endeavors. In a recent Open Forum discussion on graduate education at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, it became clear that research faculty are key to the future of science. They have the single most important influence on a trainee’s personal and professional development. Recognizing the needs of your trainees, and how they may differ depending on each person’s goals, is crucial to ensuring success — both during training and later in your trainees’ lives. Below, I would like to offer some specific advice on being a flexible mentor in science today. Train the trainees. This point seems obvious, yet it is often overlooked, given that the culture of academe is based on the number of high-impact publications in which one’s research is published. Mentors thus rightly demand this from trainees so that they can stay afloat in science today. But let’s not forget that before they can publish something of value from your lab, trainees first need to be trained in how to perform high-quality research. Remember that the ability of your trainees to go out into the world and...
Enhancing the connections between institutions and professional societies in advancing postdoctoral training

Enhancing the connections between institutions and professional societies in advancing postdoctoral training

This post was originally published on the Genetics Society of America (GSA) blog ‘Genes to Genomes’ on May 15, 2017. Re-posting with permission from GSA. This post was co-written by Future of Research activists Adriana Bankston and Sonia Hall. Postdocs often lack the professional development opportunities they need. Many stakeholders are working to address this critical gap, including the academic, non-profit, private, and government sectors. While postdocs benefit from the great variety of resources and providers, it is important to minimize duplication of efforts. To maximize the contributions of all invested groups, the Genetics Society of America and the Future of Research collaborated to organize a workshop for the 2017 National Postdoctoral Association Annual Meeting: “Enhancing the Connections Between Institutions and Professional Societies in Advancing Postdoctoral Training.” Our goal was to bring together the various stakeholders to map out a collaborative framework to provide the best professional development for trainees. The session included a panel discussion and five concurrent breakout sessions. The panel discussion revealed how different groups are currently enhancing postdoctoral training. Career development professionals have carefully developed, tested, and evaluated a variety of programs. They have invested substantial time and effort in understanding the needs and interests of their local communities. At the same time, professional organizations are increasingly offering career and professional development training at regional and national conferences, as well as through online webinars. The overlap between these groups provides an opportunity to begin working together to maximize the investment that career development professionals have made in developing quality programming. Because professional societies work at the intersection of the academic, private, government, and non-profit sectors, they...
Tracking Postdoc Trends and Outcomes at the NIH: a Talk by Dr. P. Kay Lund

Tracking Postdoc Trends and Outcomes at the NIH: a Talk by Dr. P. Kay Lund

This is a guest post by Future of Research policy activist, Adriana Bankston, who moderated this plenary session at the 2017 NPA meeting.   In a recent post, we summarized the talk given by Dr. Nancy Calvin-Naylor in one of the plenary sessions at the 2017 National Postdoctoral Association Annual Meeting entitled “Data driven approaches to tracking postdocs.” The second of the two main speakers in this session was Dr. P. Kay Lund, Director of the Division of Biomedical Research Workforce (DBRW) at the National Institutes of Health.   What is the mission of the DBRW? Dr. P. Kay Lund began her talk entitled “Tracking postdoc trends and outcomes at the NIH” by describing the mission and structure of the Division of Biomedical Research Workforce (DBRW). The mission of the DBRW is develop, maintain, enhance and assess NIH policies and programs that support innovative research training, career development and diversity of the biomedical research workforce. To achieve these goals DBRW advises trans-NIH on policy and programs for training and career development, and conducts research and economic analyses related to biomedical research workforce and the associated career options and labor market.   NIH trends in training of postdoctoral researchers and early faculty One of the goals of the DBRW is to examine the trends in training and career development support for postdoctorates and early faculty according to NIH data from 1998-2015. For training purposes, the number of postdoctoral training grant appointments slightly decreased since 2011, whereas the number of individual fellowships remained relatively the same. In terms of career development, there has been an increase in individual career development awards...
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...
Join in on Tuesday May 16th: The 2nd Homo scientificus europaeus Meeting

Join in on Tuesday May 16th: The 2nd Homo scientificus europaeus Meeting

  On May 16th the 2nd Homo scientificus europaeus Meeting, “A pan-European Scientists’ Community: Promoting an Open Science in an Open World“, will be taking place in Barcelona, Spain. Its aim is to foster the creation of a pan-European community fostering greater interaction between science and society. In the morning, representatives of grassroots associations and organizers of various European “March for Science” marches will discuss national initiatives, and their convergence. The afternoon will focus on the concept of Science Open to Society and will conclude with a general debate on how to proceed for promoting an Open Science in an Open World. Executive Director Gary McDowell will be speaking remotely as part of the final session.   You can watch the event live on the YouTube feed here....
The NIH grant cap

The NIH grant cap

  The National Institutes of Health have proposed a cap on the level of funding that individual investigators can be awarded from NIH. In “New NIH Approach to Grant Funding Aimed at Optimizing Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars“, NIH Director Francis Collins announced the move in an attempt to redress imbalances with funding, and to particularly focus on early- and mid-career investigators. Indeed, as the post states: “While we have made progress in reversing the decline in grant funding to early-career investigators through various programs and policies, the percentage of NIH awards that support this group remains flat. Unfortunately, gains for early-career investigators have been offset by a decline in the percentage of NIH awards that support mid-career investigators. The only group for which the percentage of grant funding is increasing is late-career investigators.” Further information is described in Michael Lauer’s Open Mike blog post on the subject.   What’s up with the early- and mid-career investigators? Not funding rates, and that’s the issue. As Michael Lauer recently discussed at the National Academy of Sciences, the NIH recently intervened to attempt to halt the declining funding rates of early-career investigators, and while they were successful in stabilizing the level of funding of early career investigators, as the success of the senior investigator pool continued to increase, mid-career investigators now started to see a downturn:       Why would NIH want to introduce this cap? 10% of NIH investigators receive 40% of the funding. This may not seem like a problem to those who feel the best science should be rewarded, but the problem is inherent in defining what the best science is,...