Graduate students and recent grads: An opportunity to contribute to the Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century study

Graduate students and recent grads: An opportunity to contribute to the Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century study

In a recent post, we discussed the beginning of the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, a new study looking at how the U.S. can create the next generation of independent researchers.   Another study that has just begun at the National Academies is the “Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century study,” which is holding a session at the AAAS meeting in Boston this month, “Open Forum: Perspectives on the Future of STEM Graduate Education” with the study chair, Alan Leshner.   It is particularly important for this committee to hear directly from current and recently graduated graduate students in person and we encourage anyone attending the meeting to join. We at FoR will hopefully be able to report back on what was discussed.   The scope of the committee is:   “An ad hoc committee, under the auspices of BHEW (Board on Higher Education and Workforce) and COSEPUP (Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy), and liaising with GUIRR (Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable) and TAC (Teacher Advisory Council), will lead a study of STEM graduate-level education in the U.S., revisiting and updating a similar COSEPUP study completed 20 years ago. Specific tasks will include: • Conduct a systems analysis of graduate education, with the aim of identifying policies, programs and practices that could better meet the diverse education and career needs of graduate students in coming years (at both the master’s and Ph.D. levels—understanding the commonalities and distinctions between the two levels), and also aimed at identifying deficiencies and gaps in the system that could improve graduate education programs. • Identify strategies to improve the alignment of graduate education...
Webinar with New York Academy of Sciences on the FLSA and postdocs: Tuesday December 13

Webinar with New York Academy of Sciences on the FLSA and postdocs: Tuesday December 13

On Tuesday December 13th, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST, the New York academy of Sciences will host a webinar: “The Changing Landscape for Postdocs in the US: Potential Implications and Systemic Changes to Support Postdocs in the US Beyond the FLSA Ruling” The speakers will be Dr. Kate Sleeth from the National Postdoctoral Association, Sam Castañeda from University of California Berkeley, and Future of Research Executive Director Dr. Gary McDowell. The webinar, when originally scheduled, was intended to discuss the updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act and their effects on postdoctoral researchers after coming into effect on December 1st, but on November 22nd a preliminary injunction against the updates was granted, and now there is a different landscape in which some institutions are raising salaries as planned, and some are not, as we have been laying out in our resource on the FLSA and postdocs....
Advocating for Science Symposium Travel Awardee Tess Eidem: Exploring the Changing Landscape of  the Scientific Enterprise

Advocating for Science Symposium Travel Awardee Tess Eidem: Exploring the Changing Landscape of the Scientific Enterprise

This is a guest post written by Advocating for Science Travel Awardee, Tess Eidem:     Tess Eidem, Ph.D. is a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral Fellow in the Goodrich-Kugel Laboratory in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Tess has a passion for science communication and outreach and was recently awarded a travel grant to attend the Advocating for Science Symposium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where participants discussed the challenges faced by scientists and alternative paths one can pursue with a Ph.D.    “The first question people ask is, ‘What do you do?’ A good way to answer that as a scientist is to say, ‘I work for you.’” –Ben Corb, Director of Public Affairs of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).     In September, I had the privilege to attend the Advocating for Science Symposium held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I heard Mr. Corb’s and other science advocates’ message on how to use our diverse skills to move science forward. The mission of the two-day symposium was to: Provide valuable advocacy resources to young investigators (grad students and postdocs) Identify obstacles faced by the scientific community Establish a plan of action to overcome those obstacles The symposium consisted of workshops and interactive panels with policy leaders and communicators designed to help scientists distill their message for a lay audience and explore alternative career paths in science communication, policy, and media. The program also featured a keynote presentation by Dr. Rush Holt, former Congressman and CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Many of these...
Meeting Report: The Advocating for Science Symposium in Boston 2016

Meeting Report: The Advocating for Science Symposium in Boston 2016

On September 16th and 17th 2016, the Advocating for Science Symposium and Workshop was held at MIT, organized by the Future of Research, Academics for the Future of Science, and the MIT Graduate Student Council.   The purpose of the meeting was to give an opportunity to those with a passion for advocating for science to develop their advocacy skills, meet like-minded junior scientists and develop focused efforts together to effect positive change. The meeting attracted attendees not only from the Boston area, but further afield, including travel awardees Elisa van der Plas (Netherlands), Sridhar Vedachalam (Baltimore), Tess Eidem (Colorado), Adriana Bankston (Kentucky), Holly Hamilton (Colorado) and Alex Erwin (Kansas).     The symposium session on Friday evening included talks and a panel discussion, to discuss issues the scientific enterprise faces, strategies used by current advocates to effect change, and examples of past successes and failures. The first talks (which can be viewed here) were from Gary McDowell, Executive Director of Future of Research (slides here), and Christin Glorioso, co-founder of Academics for the Future of Science (slides here), discussing their advocacy efforts involving systemic issues with the scientific enterprise, and funding for junior researchers, respectively. This was followed by a panel discussion (which you can view here) with a group of current policy experts: Kate Stoll, Senior Policy Advisor at the MIT Washington Office; Ben Corb, Director of Public Affairs for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Adam Fegan, Director of the Early Career Scientist Segment at AAAS; and Marnie Gelbart, Director of Programs at pgEd. Finally, the keynote address (which you can view here) was given by Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS and...
Changes to employee benefits for scientists after FLSA

Changes to employee benefits for scientists after FLSA

On Dec 1st, the threshold at which salaried workers receive overtime payment for working more than 40 hours per week will increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, under updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). We have been focusing on postdoctoral researchers (all postdocs working at a U.S. institution who are not in a primarily teaching role come under this ruling regardless of visa or funding source). But this also covers a range of other staff titles, such as staff scientists and technical staff. These staff may be easier to track on an hourly basis because of their difference in duties – namely, that they are not viewed as trainees seeking independent positions as part of their role – but some of them, who may have been exempt previously due to meeting the salary and duties exemptions here* may be becoming non-exempt. Separate from the salary issue, what is happening to benefits for all of these scientists? Those moving from exempt status to non-exempt status need to consider that those benefits are often very different. In light of the information discussed below, it would be interesting to hear more if benefits for non-exempt employees are changing at institutions – please feel free to get in touch at info@futureofresearch.org.   Institutional attitudes to postdoc benefits Fringe benefit rates are determined by institutions to budget for fringe benefit contributions from research proposals. These cover things like health insurance, social security, and retirement plans. As described here in the guide to fringe benefits at UCSF, these rates are expressed as a percentage of salary. In light of the salary increases due...
Postdocs on fellowships: are they FLSA-exempt?

Postdocs on fellowships: are they FLSA-exempt?

Institutions declaring postdoc “fellows” FLSA exempt On Dec 1st, the threshold at which salaried workers receive overtime payment for working more than 40 hours per week will increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, under updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). All postdocs working in the U.S. who are not in a primarily teaching role, come under this ruling, regardless of visa or funding source. Or do they? Because as we discussed in a recent post, in building our FLSA and postdocs resource, Brandeis are taking the opinion that postdocs who are directly paid on stipends – namely, postdoctoral “fellows” – are FLSA exempt. Recently, Brown University also publicly made this assertion. Here is the view of Brandeis: Here is the view of Brown: Why is this line being taken? Postdoc fellowships come from a variety of sources and countries. They are often “paid direct” to the postdoc and not through the institution; and they may not meet the new FLSA minimum. If institutions believe these postdocs are not covered by the FLSA, then they may make the case that their salaries do not need to be supplemented to meet the new FLSA minimum.   Are postdoc fellows exempt? Postdoc fellows are not considered employees by institutions, as they are not paid by the institution. However, reading the directions from the Department of Labor, that is not the same as being recognized as exempt from the FLSA. A postdoc is federally recognized as both a trainee and an employee (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 2, part 200.400(f)) and unless they are in a primarily teaching role, all postdocs regardless...