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There's Agreement Here

Over the years, a number of groups has suggested ways to make biomedical research more sustainable. But as scientists from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and elsewhere note in an opinion piece at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, implementation of these recommendations has been slow.

ASBMB's Christopher Pickett and his colleagues waded through the most recent of these reports to identify eight common recommendations.

The first consensus recommendation, they report, is that the federal government should make research funding predictable and sustainable through a multi-year budget. At the same time, other consensus recommendations were for increased funding for research and for the streamlining of burdensome regulations.

Other recommendations focus on the plight of new investigators. For instance, Pickett and his colleagues argue that postdocs should be paid more, more trainees should be supported by training grants and fellowships, and institutions and federal agencies should limit the grad student and postdoc training periods. At the same time, they recommend that trainees be better educated about their career options.

The authors also recommend that PIs shift toward relying more on staff scientists.

ScienceInsider's Jocelyn Kaiser notes that the US National Institutes of Health has sought to address a number of these concerns, though others could be more difficult to put into practice.

For instance, Sally Rockey, the deputy director of extramural research at NIH, says a raise for postdocs "could have adverse consequences for research grant budgets." She tells Kaiser NIH is keeping with its current practice of increasing salaries by 2 percent each year.

Similarly, Rockey says that shifting trainees to training grants from research grants isn't "practical or feasible, at least in the short term."

The authors of the PNAS piece note that their recommendations might be a bitter pill to swallow. ASBMB plans to hold a meeting next winter that brings together the authors of similar reports as well as industry and patient group leaders to develop and advocacy plan, Pickett tells Kaiser.