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Starting With Less

Female scientists setting up their first labs have lower salaries and smaller staffs than their male peers, Nature News reports.

The University of Sheffield's Alison Twelvetrees and her colleagues surveyed 365 relatively new principal investigators in the UK about their new positions. More than half, they report in a preprint at BioRxiv, were satisfied with their institutions, departments, and lab space or facilities. But, 20 percent were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, most commonly with their space or facilities.

When the researchers examined their cohort by gender, they found that men tended to receive more startup funding and funds for their lab space than women. Additionally, they report that male fellows or lecturers had more PhD students or postdocs in their groups.

This, first author Sophie Acton from University College London tells Nature News, then affects the researcher's ability to win new grants. "If your lab has had two people working for five years, you cannot compete with someone who has had eight to 10 people and published three papers over the same time," she says. 

The authors make a number of suggestions for host institutions, funders, and researchers themselves, including ensuring new PIs have mentors, access to PhD students, and annual reviews. They particularly encourage that new PIs seeking a position discuss details about their lab space and get everything in writing.