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Changing Pool

A new cohort of biomedical researchers entered the workforce between 1998 and 2004, when National Institutes of Health's budget doubled from $13.7 billion to $28.1 billion, the US Census Bureau's Misty Heggeness and her colleagues write at Nature.

Heggeness and her colleagues drew upon data from the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the Census Bureau, and focused on respondents who had PhDs and were categorized as biological or medical scientists.

From this dataset, they found that, in 2004, there were 26,000 people under the age of 40 with PhDs who were working as biomedical scientists, a number that increased to nearly 36,000 by 2011. They note that this cohort, which they dubbed 'doubling boomers,' has faced particular challenges after that influx of research spending ebbed.

In that same timeframe, the researchers note that the number of faculty positions didn't change. Instead, 80 percent of biomedical researchers with PhDs don't work in academia, they say, noting that that's a record high.

There's also been an increase in minority and foreign-born PhD researchers in this cohort, the researchers report. Heggeness and her colleagues write that by 2014, about half of US biomedical researchers under the age of 40 belonged to a minority group and that about half were either non-citizens or naturalized citizens.

"Mentors and trainees need to educate themselves about the options available to young scientists," they add. "Research institutions should help trainees to gain skills that are valuable to industry. Pushing them towards academia by default is not helpful or realistic."

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