NEW resource: Tracking career outcomes of PhDs and postdocs at institutions

NEW resource: Tracking career outcomes of PhDs and postdocs at institutions

  For decades, institutions have been asked in various reports to track and report out on their PhD and postdoc alumnae career outcomes. A number of recent efforts by a variety of stakeholders in the last year suggest that 2018 may be the year when this comes to pass, and we are keeping track of all the efforts and which institutions have released data in our new Tracking Career Outcomes at Institutions resource.   As stated in a Policy Forum by ten University Presidents in Science, “A new data effort to inform career choices in biomedicine,”:   “The biomedical research enterprise finds itself in a moment of intense self-reflection, with science leaders, professional organizations, and funders all working to enhance their support for the next generation of biomedical scientists. One focus of their attention has been the lack of robust and publicly available information on education and training outcomes. In the absence of such information, students are prevented from making informed choices about their pre- and postdoctoral training activities, and universities from preparing trainees for a full range of careers.   The piece points out that reports that have asked for this data have included: Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences: A Framework for Discussion (FASEB, 2015); The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2014); Bridges to Independence: Fostering the Independence of New Investigators in Biomedical Research (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2005); and Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 1995).   Greater transparency could allow junior researchers to act more rationally, or prepare in a more informed manner, their...
January 2018 Newsletter items

January 2018 Newsletter items

You can sign up to receive the full monthly newsletter here   Postdoc salaries in the U.S.   The image above was kindly given to us by Drew Doering of UW-Madison. Some of the data is currently being updated e.g. University of Illinois has now sent corrected information; the resource will be updated in the coming days. We released a resource in December about postdoc salaries on our website here. A story about the resource, “Pay for US postdocs varies wildly by institution” came out in Nature discussing some of the general points. After analyzing the data, we have put this preprint on bioRxiv: “Assessing the Landscape of U.S. Postdoctoral Salaries” and have submitted a manuscript to a journal on this data. Please take a look and tell us what you think! You can also see a summary of the data and issues surrounding it in the poster I presented at ASCB in December (see also the effort in harmonizing postdoc titles at institutions published in eLife, in “What’s in a Name?“, and “The GSS is an unreliable indicator of biological sciences postdoc population trends“). Career outcome tracking for PhDs and postdocs     A number of groups including Rescuing Biomedical Research and the Coalition for Next Generation Life Sciences (or CNGLS as I like to call it) have been pushing efforts towards making institutions keep track of where their graduate student and postdoc alumnae go. CNGLS is a coalition of ten institutions committed to releasing various pieces of data about their populations over the next 2 years – you can see their website here and read their coauthored piece in Science on the rationale behind this move here. We have...
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,...
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...