Urgent ACTION: Contact the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group with your comments

Urgent ACTION: Contact the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group with your comments

The National Institutes of Health currently have a working group discussing what action to take under a Congressional mandate to address the production of the next generation of biomedical researchers. The Advisory Council to the Director’s Working Group, which is described in further detail here, is charged with advising NIH leadership on the development of an NIH-wide policy. You can also find the working group’s charter here.   This follows on from the recent discussion of the Grant Support Index (GSI), which was abruptly introduced and abruptly dropped as an idea to cap the amount of NIH support a researcher can receive, roughly equivalent to three major research project grants. Board member Adriana Bankston summarized her thoughts and recent discussions on the funding cap in this post.     What does the NGRI look like in comparison? A number of concerns have been raised, and there was a discussion held recently by the eLife Community as part of their #ECRWednesday series. Key concerns that have arisen are that without a cap mechanism, money will just be taken away from smaller mid-career or late-career labs; that because this is not a centralized NIH initiative (like the GSI was) but will instead be at the discretion of individual institutes, there will be a lack of transparency that could compound racial and gender funding disparities that NIH already has; and there is no consideration of what happens to investigators once they move from early to mid-career stage, and so we just may end up with more people shutting down labs rather than sustaining the generation through all career stages. You can find some...
A Junior Researcher’s Opinion on the NIH Grant Support Index (GSI)

A Junior Researcher’s Opinion on the NIH Grant Support Index (GSI)

*UPDATE: Contact the NIH and submit your opinions on this issue – see how here*   This is a guest post by Future of Research board member, Adriana Bankston.   The NIH Grant Support Index (GSI) program was first announced by Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director, and further explained in a post by Mike Lauer, Director of Extramural Research, on May 2, 2017. The GSI was established in order to address the problem of “a biomedical research workforce dangerously out of balance.” This is part of a larger issue related to the overall distribution of NIH grant funding, in which 10% of investigators receive over 40% of NIH funding. Therefore, the goal of the GSI was to “limit the total NIH grant support provided to an individual principal investigator through NIH-supported research,” in order to restore balance in the biomedical workforce.   On June 7, 2017, the Future of Research (FoR) Board of Directors expressed support for the NIH GSI in terms of distributing research dollars efficiently to a number of NIH investigators, including early and mid-career investigators. This decision would also allow junior academics to have a voice in the conversation and contribute to scientific advances within the biomedical enterprise.   However, on June 8, 2017, Dr. Francis Collins announced the NIH’s decision to replace the GSI-based funding cap with the Next Generation Researcher’s Initiative (NGRI), an initiative focused instead on the rearrangement of funds “to bolster support to early- and mid-career investigators.” On June 16, 2017, the FoR Board of Directors urged the NIH to reconsider their decision of abandoning the GSI initiative in favor of the...
Registration now open for Boston 2017 Meeting: Expanding Leadership roles for Early Career Researchers #FORLeads

Registration now open for Boston 2017 Meeting: Expanding Leadership roles for Early Career Researchers #FORLeads

  Get Early Career Researchers a Seat at the Table!   Register NOW here   The 2017 Boston FoR meeting will take place at Boston University November 17-18. Check out the conference page here for more info!   Background and symposium goals Future of Research, a nationwide grassroots advocacy group comprised of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) including graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, industry scientists and junior faculty is hosting a 1-and-a-half day symposium focused on training ECRs to develop skills to self-advocate for their training and career development needs.  The goal of this symposium is to promote the inclusion of early career scientists in leadership positions to ensure their representation during decision-making conversations that affect the future of the scientific enterprise.   Conversations about getting ECR advocates a seat at the table are important for giving the early career population a voice in science, in particular as they are the most diverse population within academia in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. There are greater barriers faced by members of underrepresented groups in the struggle to be heard by those in positions of power. Recognizing this fact, we seek to include a diverse and inclusive representation of race, ethnicity, disability status, gender identity and sexual orientation in our invitation/selection of meeting speakers and participants. The efforts taken to make sure that our organization is diverse and inclusive, and can speak to as much of the community as possible, are central also to our efforts in preparing symposia.         Participants at the 2016 “Advocating for Science” Symposium in Boston. Photo by Alina Chan   Symposium format This symposium, hosted at...
FoR public statement on the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative” study at the National Academies

FoR public statement on the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative” study at the National Academies

The Board of Future of Research has submitted the following to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine study, the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative”. As Executive Director Gary McDowell and President Jessica Polka are both members of the study committee, they recused themselves from drafting this statement:   Future of Research advocates for training early career researchers to be successful in independent research careers, and the long-term sustainment of such careers. As an organization, we provide opportunities for and encourage early career researchers to speak up about issues they have experienced within the scientific system, while also collecting and analyzing data to identify ways the system should change to better fit their career preparation needs.   The Next Generation Researchers Initiative study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, brings much of our own concerns to light in terms of the barriers encountered by researchers when transitioning into independent research careers. One of the biggest barriers is the lack of career guidance and support needed to prepare them for successfully transitioning into a variety of research intensive roles within and outside of academia. The Committee could make a positive impact by gathering data on what researchers in these fields need (including longitudinal studies) and encouraging universities and research institutes to implement career development programs to help them in this transition.   More broadly exposing early career researchers to multiple types of research experiences could be achieved by internships and other programs at the university level, enabling them to become better prepared for research intensive careers. We recommend the Committee discuss how mentors can encourage trainees to...
How should we mentor junior scientists? Reflections from a Twitter chat

How should we mentor junior scientists? Reflections from a Twitter chat

This is a guest post by Future of Research board member, Adriana Bankston.   Mentoring junior scientists is one of the most important aspects of academia. Effective mentoring can help young, inexperienced scientists develop into confident, independent and valuable contributors to science and society. Typically, we think of mentors as being faculty members in an academic setting. They are in a position to shape how trainees develop in academia, which is a great responsibility. To a large extent, therefore, culture change begins with the faculty.   On the other hand, not all faculty are effective mentors. In an academic culture dominated by hypercompetition, mentoring might be less emphasized as compared to publication. However, producing trained scientists should be the goal of academia, which is why mentoring is critical to the entire enterprise.   Providing effective mentoring to graduate students and postdocs typically requires a large amount of time and effort, constructive feedback, and a well-defined long-term strategy. It also takes flexibility and adaptability to the needs and goals of the mentee, which is sometimes overshadowed the needs of faculty.   Also, anyone can be a mentor – not just the faculty. Graduate students often mentor undergraduates for an entire summer or a semester in the lab, and postdocs can teach graduate students new concepts and valuable research practices within the lab. Therefore, all of these efforts count as mentoring, and should be properly incentivized and rewarded in academia.   Some of the ideas outlined above, as well as many other great ideas on the topic of mentoring, have emerged during a productive and informative Twitter chat discussion. The event...
Postdocs React to the FLSA Fiasco – Part 2

Postdocs React to the FLSA Fiasco – Part 2

This is a guest post by Future of Research board member, Adriana Bankston. It is the second of two posts (the first post can be found here). Our paper on the effect of the FLSA on postdoc salaries has now been updated here, with analysis of how the injunction and collapse of the updates to the FLSA affected postdocs. Comments to the Department of Labor on a new set of updates were submitted by both the National and UAW5810 branch of the Union of Auto Workers, specifically addressing postdocs.   As stated in the previous post, Future of Research has been tracking the national compliance of institutions with the FLSA ruling both before and after the injunction. Unfortunately, some institutions, including MSU, chose to cancel salary raises for their postdocs, causing a great deal of chaos and confusion. To find out how postdocs in this situation felt, in this second blog post, we spoke with postdocs at MSU whose salaries were cancelled following the injunction.   The effects of cancelling salary raises   Michigan State University (MSU) was one of the institutions where postdoctoral salary raises were cancelled. A common thread among MSU postdocs we interviewed, who wished to remain anonymous, was feeling underappreciated. One MSU postdoc states having had “a constant feeling of being under-appreciated, over-worked, professionally frustrated, and constantly pulling the thrown-in-towel out of the ‘screw-academia’ pile” for the past two years. Postdocs at MSU stated that the initial FLSA ruling gave them a bit of hope. It gave one postdoc the impression that “these past months waiting for a decision to be made were worth it” and made...