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...
eLife #ECRwednesday series begins Oct 26: “What’s the deal with preprints?” with FoR President Jessica Polka

eLife #ECRwednesday series begins Oct 26: “What’s the deal with preprints?” with FoR President Jessica Polka

eLife are launching a new programme of monthly webinars to give early-career researchers in the life and biomedical sciences a platform to share opportunities and explore issues around building a successful research career. The programme of free, online events, which will take place on the last Wednesday of each month, will feature webinars exploring funding opportunities, how to build an independent research career, and the latest tools in research communication — helping all early-career researchers to make the most of their research career. The eLife #ECRwednesday programme kicks off this month with a webinar on ‘Communicating your research: What’s the deal with preprints?‘. Join your peers to discuss the benefits and opportunities that depositing your work in a preprint server brings, featuring the following panellists: – Buz Barstow (Burroughs Wellcome Fund CASI Fellow at the Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, New York) – Jessica Polka, Director of ASAPbio, President of FoR and visiting postdoc at Harvard Medical School, Boston  – Nikolai Slavov, Assistant Professor at Northeastern University, Boston Register now for the webinar on Wednesday, October 26, at 11am-12pm New York | 4-5pm London time. It’s free to attend but registration is required.  The webinar will be followed by a Twitter chat to continue the discussion. Please join us on #ECRwednesday at @eLife_careers for the post-webinar discussion from 12-1pm New York/11-12am Chicago/10-11am Mountain/9-10am San Francisco time....
Registration open for “Advocating for Science” Boston 2016

Registration open for “Advocating for Science” Boston 2016

  Please join us for the “Advocating for Science” Symposium and Workshop, which will take place at MIT September 16-17, 2016. Organized by Future of Research (FoR), Academics for the Future of Science (AFS) and the MIT Graduate Student Council (GSC), this meeting will be an opportunity for those with a passion for advocating for science to develop their advocacy skills, meet like-minded scientists and develop focused efforts together to effect positive change.   The Advocating for Science Symposium on Friday 16th September 4pm-8pm will discuss ongoing advocacy efforts to promote systemic changes within the scientific enterprise and how it is funded. Rush Holt, former congressman and CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will present the Keynote address. A reception and networking event will follow. There is no charge to attend the Symposium.   On Saturday 17th September 9am – 6pm, we will build on this with the Advocating for Science Workshop: an intense advocacy “boot camp” for a focused group of participants who want to gain practical skills in advocacy. The program will progress through the many aspects of effectively advocating for change: from leading and inspiring a group of likeminded individuals to collecting and using effective data, creating an overall message, and communicating that message to the appropriate audiences. Workshops will be run by experts in their respective fields. There is a small fee for Workshop registration. Spaces are limited for the workshop and accordingly we ask that all participants attend the entire day, along with the Friday Symposium....