In PLoS One, the Georgia Institute of Technology's Henry Sauermann and Michael Roach at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, present "an empirical basis for common concerns regarding labor market imbalances" of PhD scientists. In an effort to tackle a "lack [of] systematic evidence whether career preferences adjust over the course of the PhD training and to what extent advisors exacerbate imbalances by encouraging their students to pursue academic positions," among other things, Sauermann and Roach set out to analyze data gleaned from a survey of PhD students at tier-one institutions across the US. From this, the researchers found that "that the attractiveness of academic careers decreases significantly over the course of the PhD program, despite the fact that advisors strongly encourage academic careers over non-academic careers." Overall, the authors say that their data "provide an empirical basis for common concerns regarding labor market imbalances" as well as evidence that PhD applicants require additional assistance to "carefully weigh the costs and benefits of pursuing a PhD" and that PhD students need better job market advice from their academic advisers.
Supporting the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is necessary for economic growth, writes Alexandra Scheeler at Science Progress, a progressive science and policy site. At a White House Council on Women and Girls event, US President Barack Obama touched on the importance of innovation for the economy. Scheeler notes that a press release from the White House has said that "increasing the number of women engaged in … (STEM) fields is critical to our nation's ability to out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate future competitors."
"To build upon their support of STEM women and ensure America's continued global competitiveness in science and technology, the Obama administration must advocate for policies that allow women to balance their career goals with their family lives," Scheeler adds.
Sally Rockey, deputy director for extramural research at the US National Institutes of Health, addresses the question of "whether investigators that hold MDs or MD/PhDs are more or less likely to be funded than those investigators that hold PhDs."
Using funding rate data from 1998 to 2011, filtered by degrees, Rockey says, "Investigators with a PhD have a slightly lower funding rate than those with medical degrees, and this is consistent over time." She adds that "to keep these data in context, remember that about 30 percent of principal investigators hold MDs or MD/PhDs."
Navigating the so-called two-body problem — that geographic issue nearly every dual-career couple has faced — is tough. But, writing at the ACS Careers blog, consultant Lisa Balbes says that "by addressing this issue early, planning and preparing, you and your partner can develop strategies that allow both of you to have fulfilling careers."
Balbes suggests simple steps to plan and prepare for the future as a dual-career family:
Beyond that, she adds, it's important to consider whose career is less restricted by geographical location, whether to apply only to places with positions available for both partners, and — in the case of academics, for example — whether job-sharing is a viable option.
Like most investors, federal funding agencies tend to view risk negatively when it comes to research — they want to see proof before digging into their pockets. But, Proflike Substance asks, "when was the last time you walked out of a really good talk and thought 'That was some super cool data that came from a totally ordinary idea?'" Though they can be time-consuming and prone to failure, he adds, risky projects can offer up the biggest rewards.
Proflike says his own lab has reaped the rewards of taking research risks. One project, he says, "is evolving from something that was risky into something that will be a slam dunk for funding once we wade through the remaining data." Though it has taken nearly four years, "with many adjustments along the way, we're seeing the project come together the way we hoped it would," he adds.
At the Scientific American Guest Blog, Erin Johnson relays her conversation with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Linda Buck during the Women in Science Symposium held at Cornell University this month. Buck told Johnson that exposure to established female scientists is important for keeping women in science:
The Nobel laureate also shared her advice for young women who choose to pursue careers in the lab, emphasizing the importance of the process of basic science.
"Joy comes with discovery," Buck said, adding that it's important to "periodically take time to step-back, stop working in the lab, and evaluate; it's important to recognize when to give up and let go if you're going down a dead end path. … Science is meant to explore not to prove. If you set out aiming to prove a concept, you might miss the most interesting part."
DrugMonkey is currently polling his readers about what he's calling the "postdoctoral requirement," specifically asking: "How many years of postdoc training are required before getting a faculty-level job?" Among the 157 respondents who say they began a postdoc in 2006 or later, 33 percent say three-to-four years of training are required, while 32 percent think five-to-six is more appropriate. Of the 75 respondents who indicated they began a postdoc between 2000 and 2005, nearly 31 percent consider five-to-six years best. And for the 39 respondents who began a postdoc before 2000, 30 percent agreed that five-to-six years of training are best.
In the comments, Joseph notes that postdoc lengths vary by field, but that overall, "greater than four years feels like excessive for the possible benefits." Arrzey adds that the average length of a postdoc "certainly has become longer over the last 15 years."
A new report from the Educational Testing Service and the Council of Graduate Schools says academic institutions ought to better track career outcomes and job placement information for their graduate students. "University leaders, including graduate deans, need to work at all levels to establish specific responsibility for collecting and using data on career outcomes for each graduate by program," the report says, adding that "graduate faculty need to be provided with this information so that they understand, value, and communicate to students about the full spectrum of career pathways."
Beyond tracking employment data, the ETS-CGS report, titled "The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States," suggests other ways universities might enhance their career counseling services. As The Chronicle of Higher Education notes, the report found that "only about one-third of graduate students received enough information about the full range of career options before entering graduate school … and many students relied on faculty to provide information about viable careers during their time in graduate school."
Ohio State University's Pat Osmer, who chairs the commission behind the report, tells the Chronicle that "graduate school is no longer about making clones of ourselves and training people with the same techniques to work on the same problems from decades ago." Rather, he adds, "It is about identifying the important research and solving problems of the 21st century. We need to make sure graduate students learn the right skills and techniques to do that."
H-indices offer poor measures of early-career researchers' productivity and potential, Stanford University's Richard Zare argues in Angewandte Chemie this week. "Just as the IQ number does not capture the creativity and originality of a person's work, the h-index is not a full measure," Zare says. "Some rough correlations do exist, but in judging researchers early in their career, the h-index seems to be a poor measure. It is more a trailing, rather than a leading, indicator of professional success." He adds that while citation-based metrics can speak to the value of a particular publication, "not being highly cited does not mean that someone's work will never have value."
A lack of support for early- and even mid-career scientists came up at the New Zealand Association of Scientists meeting held in Wellington this week. At his blog, Peter Griffin outlines some of the meeting's talking points related to issues faced by up-and-coming scientists and their employers. Overall, Griffin says, "there was a lot of discussion … about the pressure on emerging scientists to be masters of all trades — not just good at science, but savvy at communicating their science as well as networking and understanding the needs of the business community." Funding is tight, competition is fierce, and "the momentum is swinging towards commercialization and applied science," Griffin says. Despite those challenges, "emerging researchers most definitely do have a future in New Zealand and the more engaged they are in the issues and in articulating the value of their science, the more likely they are to see change that will help secure their futures here," he adds.
Training requirements? Check. Disclosure, review, and monitoring requirements? Check, check, and check.
The US National Institutes of Health has posted a checklist corresponding to its new rules for reporting financial conflicts of interest. "The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of the requirements of the 2011 revised FCOI [financial conflicts of interest] regulation to serve as a checklist resource when developing, revising or reviewing an Institution’s FCOI policy to determine compliance with all regulatory requirements," NIH says.
Beyond training, reporting, monitoring, and maintenance, the checklist also addresses enforcement mechanisms, and public accessibility requirements, among other things.
At American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Today, Baylor College of Medicine's Lynn Zechiedrich says it's high time that the scientific community "acknowledge and reward the burgeoning class of highly skilled, underpaid, and highly stressed workhorses in our nation's research laboratories." As Zechiedrich puts it:
Whether because of circumstance or by choice, Zechiedrich says that "a lot of great talent is accumulating in the middle ranks of institutions. Both those who have become stuck and those who have purposefully chosen not to move on bring much good to our nation's laboratories and institutions."
One part of reading grant proposals Proflife Substance particularly enjoys is that it makes him think about his own work differently. But, he says, "herein lies a dilemma with all reviewing — determining where the line is between stimulating independent thought and leaning on someone else's ideas."
Responding to Proflike, Namnezia says that generating research ideas based on another's proposal is arguably "like insider trading. … By the same topic, if you go to a meeting and get an idea from a poster and repeat the experiment better in your own lab, is this stealing?" she asks. Athene Donald expands on this, saying that a similar dilemma can arise when reviewing papers: