Upcoming Minisymposium on Reproducibility

Upcoming Minisymposium on Reproducibility

There are numerous efforts under way by a variety of stakeholders to make research more reproducible, through increased transparency and data- and resource-sharing initiatives. What tools are available, what experiments are currently under way, and what best practices are emerging in the drive to facilitate greater reproducibility?   On Wednesday May 9th 2018, Addgene and the Harvard GSAS Science Policy Group will host a Minisymposium on Reproducibility to discuss these issues, which you can attend in-person or remotely:   Talks 3:10 – 3:30 – Reproducibility Overview – Jefrey S. Flier, Researcher at Harvard Medical School, former dean of Harvard Medical School 3:35 – 3:55 – Reagent sharing – Susanna Bachle, Addgene the nonprofit plasmid repository 4:00 – 4:20 – Reagent Development – Steven C. Almo, Institute for Protein Innovation Panel 4:25 – 4:55 Alex Tucker (Ginkgo Bioworks) Pamela Hines (Senior Editor at Science) Edward J. Hall (Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University) Tony Cijsouw (Neuroscience postdoc at Tufts University) Happy Hour Join the Harvard GSAS Science Policy Group for a networking happy hour following the event!   You can register here to attend in-person in Boston (3:00pm – 6:00pm, New Research Building Room 350, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston).   Alternatively, you can view remotely on YouTube here (no registration required).   Future of Research is excited to support this event!...
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....
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,...
FoR Statement on the “Coalition for Next Generation Life Science”

FoR Statement on the “Coalition for Next Generation Life Science”

You can find a PDF copy of the statement below here.   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.   Despite repeated calls (beginning at least as early as 1969) information on the career outcomes of life sciences graduate students and postdocs has remained poor or altogether unavailable. This has recently been discussed in an effort coordinated by Rescuing Biomedical Research and spearheaded by existing efforts to track career outcomes of PhDs, particularly NIH’s BEST Consortium. These efforts are currently focused on graduate programs and PhD outcomes, and do not currently encompass data collection on postdocs.   Today’s announcement in Science that a coalition of universities pledges to release information on all of their biomedical graduate students AND postdocs represents an unprecedented watershed moment. Previous efforts have been driven by prominent advisory committees, individuals, or other groups, but in this case, strong leadership is coming from within universities themselves.   The information to be released includes:   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 Median time in postdoctoral status at the institution Career outcomes for Ph.D. and postdoctoral alumni, classified by job sector and career type   FoR congratulates UCSF, Johns Hopkins, University of Wisconsin, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Cornell University, Duke University, MIT, and University of Michigan. for leading this movement. We urge other universities to join...
Increasing transparency around postdoctoral salaries in the United States

Increasing transparency around postdoctoral salaries in the United States

  There is very little information available on how much postdocs are actually paid in the U.S. It is generally assumed that biomedical postdocs in particular are paid roughly in accordance with the NIH NRSA scale and indeed the National Postdoctoral Association’s Institutional Policy Report and Database show that most institutions have a policy to pay postdocs in accordance with the NRSA scale. This scale is a guideline, however, and the absolute legal minimum for postdoc salaries is largely determined by the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA.   In 2016, we tracked how institutions were changing policies for salaries in response to updates to the FLSA, which would in effect have brought the legal salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476. The tracking effort is documented in our FLSA and postdocs resource and published in our paper, Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act.   The updates never came to pass, and so the mandate to raise salaries was removed. Many institutions committed to continuing to raise salaries, as did the NIH; but a very small number of institutions chose to cancel plans to change salary policies. This led us to consider the question of what the salary landscape for postdocs looks like in the U.S. – and whether it would be possible to determine salaries easily, given that we are already involved in efforts to harmonize postdoc titles, and have pointed to the difficulties in even counting postdocs caused by the administration of postdocs. We are also gathering information on differences in compensation and benefits for postdocs on research grants, vs postdocs on fellowships or training mechanisms in the U.S. At some institutions,...