NIH's Office of Extramural Research has launched a working group to examine the structure of the extramural biomedical research workforce, asking questions about the various positions and what type of training is needed. In a recent ScienceInsider interview, Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman suggests reducing the number of trainees and increasing the number of permanent employees. DrugMonkey agrees. The job of a research technician is not much different from the work currently being done by undergrads, graduate trainees and even some postdocs and senior scientists, he says. Most research techs don't write papers, but some do, and, in DrugMonkey's experience, research techs can do the work of an average grad student. "There is no reason whatsoever that a long-term technician cannot evolve in ways that one expects a graduate student to evolve over the course of five years or so. No reason that she cannot be given ownership over a project (and she in many labs is given this already) and be expected to take it all the way to manuscript drafting," he adds. It won't be easy to implement Tilghman's idea, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. "The first and most obvious way the NIH can affect this situation is to pull the rug out from under the vast amounts of $$ that they spend on supporting doctoral students," DrugMonkey says, and spend a little more on research technicians.
Spending Money in All the Wrong Places?
May 06, 2011