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,...
Join us TODAY (October 31st) 1pm EST for a Tweetchat about NIH’s new Next Generation Researchers Initiative

Join us TODAY (October 31st) 1pm EST for a Tweetchat about NIH’s new Next Generation Researchers Initiative

Don’t forget to follow along with our Tweetchat as FoR Board Member and NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group Member Juan Pablo Ruiz (@HappyStemCell) tells us about the NGRI.   Don’t forget after the chat to go to our urgent call for action to send your thoughts to the NIH about the NGRI proposal....
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...
Effects of DACA on members of the STEM community

Effects of DACA on members of the STEM community

This is a guest post by Future of Research board member, Sarah Wong.   Future of Research has issued a statement condemning the attacks on DACA and expressing our commitment to diversity in STEM. FoR interviewed several members of the STEM community to understand more about the effects of DACA on this population. They described the barriers they have faced while in the US and their fears in the face of the DACA repeal. Finally, they discussed how the scientific community can help support them.   Karina Meneses, a math major at the University of California San Diego, arrived in the USA from Mexico at age 11. She recalled her childhood experience as an illegal immigrant: “I have faced financial hardship: my parents and I lived in a single room for years and have been on the brink of being homeless if not for people who were willing to lend a hand and let us stay with them. There have been times when we relied on the Church for food. And of course, this isn’t because my parents are lazy but because it is very hard to find a stable job when you’re undocumented”. Despite these hardships, she managed to graduate at the top of her high school class. She is now in her final year at UCSD, and plans to attend graduate school.   Meneses stressed that DACA recipients face more financial hardships in college than US citizens, as many are ineligible for certain scholarships or paid research programs. This sentiment was shared by Francisco J. López-Flores, a Senior Leave Analyst at UCLA Health, who was “part of...
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 to help those affected by Hurricane Maria

With thanks to Daniel Colon-Ramos from Ciencia Puerto Rico, we want to share with you ways you can help those affected by Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.   Members of our community have been directly and indirectly impacted by the devastation caused by Maria. Many people have loved ones and collaborators who are in the midst of the crisis. Hurricane Maria has left 3.5 million people without power in the archipelago of Puerto Rico in a massive humanitarian crisis. Almost all of the population have no power and 75% don’t have water service at home; according to the Pentagon, 44% don’t have access to drinking water. Approximately 80% of the population do not have access to communication services, as landlines, cell towers and internet access are severely affected.   CenadoresPR and CienciaPR have collected and vetted ways of helping those affected, and kindly shared this information with us: If people need to find information about family, friends or community in Puerto Rico, email the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) at maria1@prfaa.pr.gov or contact them at 202-800-3133 or 202-800-3134. Another organization providing assistance to PRFAA is the Puerto Rico Family Institute at 212-414-7895. Google has also activated its Google Person Finder The American Red Cross has a  Safe and Well page, where survivors can register and post messages, and loved ones can search for registrants. Those worried about missing friends or relatives with a serious health condition are encouraged to call the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767, so volunteers on the ground can follow-up.   They have also collected and vetted ways of aiding recovery: Donations to...