This is the blog of Rescuing Biomedical Research. We post about topical issues relevant to the mission of RBR as well as the work of the RBR Writing Program. Contributions invited by the Steering Committee will also appear in this space.
The biomedical research enterprise strives to be a meritocracy, but structural inequities and the reliance on nonscientific proxies such as journal impact and university prestige present roadblocks. Attempts to alleviate these problems are numerous— for example, ASAPbio, the grant-support index, the National Research Mentoring Network, and the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity—and have met with […]
Expanding support and implementing new teaching strategies to broaden diversity in biomedical research
An RBR Writing Program post by Sophia Kaska A sustainable biomedical research enterprise must be diverse along any number of axes, including racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic lines. The 2011 Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads from the National Academies laid out recommendations to improve diversity and inclusion in […]
An RBR Writing Program post by Eve Granatosky One key to improving the sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise is aligning the supply of qualified faculty applicants with the number of available positions. Scientists who choose to pursue an academic career path, whether at a research or teaching-focused institution, are faced with a limited number […]
An RBR Writing Program post by Torrey Truszkowski Stagnant National Institutes of Health budgets and increasing competition for grants have made sustaining a steady lab budget a difficult and time-consuming endeavor. Declining success rates for NIH grant applications mean that scientists are submitting more grant applications but also revising and resubmitting more reviewed grant applications. […]
An RBR Writing Program post by Eve Granatosky In today’s hypercompetitive environment, properly evaluating the productivity and success of researchers is critical for tenure and promotion decisions, grant funding decisions and many other aspects of research and career advancement. Some basic metrics, such as a researcher’s number of peer-reviewed publications or amount of grant funding, […]
By Brittany Aguilar Last Friday, the National Institutes of Health released a notice specifying that researchers can cite academic preprints and other interim research products in NIH grant applications. “This is a pretty big step,” said Chris Pickett, director of Rescuing Biomedical Research. “Allowing investigators to cite their preprints in grant applications will give the […]
By Swagata Basu On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and immigrants, including green card and travel visa holders, from seven countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Syrian refugees have been banned indefinitely from entering the country placing them further in limbo. At least 18 percent of the entire U.S. […]
By Sonia Hall Francis Collins will continue as director of the National Institutes of Health during part of the Trump administration. Just like all of President Obama’s nominees that cleared the U.S. Senate confirmation process, Collins tendered his resignation as NIH director effective noon on Friday, Jan. 20. However, the announcement that Donald Trump asked […]
By Swagata Basu A recent paper in Nature Biotechnology shows how postdoctoral training in biomedical sciences can affect early career outcomes. Despite a dearth in available academic tenure-track positions in and a drop in National Institutes of Health success rates, there has been sustained growth in the number of biomedical postdocs due to an abundance […]
By Brittany Aguilar A new study published today in PLoS ONE from researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill demonstrates that some of the quantitative metrics used by graduate-admissions committees are poor predictors of productivity. Specifically, the authors suggest undergraduate grade-point average and Graduate Record Exam scores do not correlate with some standard metrics […]
By Sonia Hall In a paper published today in PLoS ONE, Moneta-Koehler et al. demonstrated that scores on the Graduate Record Exam are not predictive of success in biomedical graduate school. Taking the GRE is required by nearly every biomedical graduate school, and higher GRE scores have been assumed to be indicative of success in […]
By Kelsey Hampton On Tuesday, the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom released a statement “actively encouraging” researchers to share pre-peer reviewed manuscripts on preprint servers such as bioRxiv and others. The MRC’s endorsement of including preprints in grant applications adds to the increasing support in scientific communities to adopt a rapid, effective system […]
By Elizabeth Moses Recent political events in the U.S. and the U.K. have cast significant doubt on the future of international research collaborations. The decision in the U.K. to exit the European Union has generated uncertainty about the future of the U.K.’s international research partnerships. In the U.S., some scientists have expressed concern that president-elect […]
Yesterday, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The bill passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. The 21st Century Cures Act is nearly 1,000 pages with 25 separate Titles, or sections. Titles I and II deal specifically with the National Institutes of Health and the conduct of basic research. […]
By Swagata Basu Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health is slated to step down from his role after 7 years. The absence of a Senate-confirmed NIH director, responsible for managing all NIH programs and activities and setting agency policies, could have serious policy implications for the research enterprise, especially at a time […]
By Kelsey Hampton Intense competition for a limited amount of federal funding has long been a reality for biomedical researchers. In a post on the Open Mike blog, Michael Lauer, deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health, and his team examined the pool of research project grant applicants to determine what […]
By Jennifer Nguyen As more Ph.D.s are turning towards careers outside of academia, it is important for universities to equip them with the training and skills necessary to succeed. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health launched the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training program to encourage universities to explore methods focusing on professional training of […]
Today, Rescuing Biomedical Research submitted a response to the National Institutes of Health’s request for information regarding the use of preprints and other interim research products in grant review. We strongly support the ASAPbio position in this regard, and our response is highly similar to the ASAPbio response to the RFI. From the response: A […]
Today, the Board on Higher Education and Workforce at the National Academies of Science announced the formation of a 16-person committee to work on the Next Generation of Researchers study. This study was commissioned by the U.S. Congress in the fiscal 2016 omnibus appropriations package that passed in December 2015. Similar legislative language has been […]
This evening, a federal judge granted a preliminary, nationwide injunction to prevent the implementation of an update to the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime rule. This rule change would have increased the pay of postdoctoral scholars. After a lengthy review process, the Department of Labor released its final version of the FLSA overtime rule in […]
By Elizabeth Moses Underrepresentation of minority groups in the biomedical research workforce, and faculty in particular, has limited the competitiveness and productivity of the research enterprise. While the lack of diversity of medical school faculty has often been blamed on a lack of available talent in the underrepresented-minority pool, a new paper suggests there is […]
The American biomedical research enterprise is an engine of innovation and economic growth. Over the past 70 years, this research engine has led to unparalleled improvements in human health and trained some of the best scientists in the world. To ensure continued successes in American biomedical research, Rescuing Biomedical Research is committed to preserving the […]
By Elizabeth Moses Approaching scientific problems with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds can accelerate the progress of research. Underrepresented minorities occupy just eight percent of senior faculty positions at U.S. four-year colleges and universities. In an effort to broaden participation in the professoriate, the National Science Foundation has committed $5.9 million to three new […]
By Helena Lucente Metrics and other quantitative data assessments of effectiveness are ubiquitous throughout science. However, a common concern of researchers is the overreliance of committees and administrators on metrics that do not accurately portray all of the positive effects an individual can have on research and universities. A recent article in Nature highlights how […]
By Jennifer Nguyen A gender gap in salaries persists across most career stages for those employed in the life sciences, according to the 2016 Life Sciences Salary Survey published this week. Average academic salaries in 2016 were similar to those in 2015, but breaking these data down by gender reveals a more nuanced story.
By Jennifer Nguyen The biomedical research enterprise has been dealing with a tight funding environment for over a decade, and universities have struggled to adjust their finances accordingly. In a paper recently published on bioRxiv, Bourne and Vermillion took a close look at the finances of the University of California, San Francisco and made recommendations […]
By Helena Lucente On Monday, the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke announced it had discontinued its participation in the NIH-wide F32 National Research Service Award for postdoctoral scholars. Instead, the NINDS has established a new F32 NRSA where only graduate students a year prior to joining a lab or a postdoc in their […]
By Helena Lucente In May, the U.S. Department of Labor announced revisions to the overtime rule provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act making an employee earning less than $47,476 on Dec. 1 eligible for overtime pay. This rule change includes postdoctoral scholars, potentially putting a financial burden on labs, departments and universities. Despite the […]
Priscilla Chan, noted philanthropist and pediatrician, and Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook, announced the formation of the Chan Zuckerberg Science to find ways to “cure, treat or manage all diseases in our lifetime.” The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a charitable organization started by the couple, will invest $3 billion over the next […]
We are pleased to announce the launch of Rescuing Biomedical Research’s Writing Program. This program is intended to help graduate students and postdocs about to embark on a career in science policy improve their policy writing skills.
By Adriana Bankston, Ph.D. Evaluating the scientific quality of published work is not a trivial task. Traditional metrics for evaluating publications are often based on the perceived stature of the journal in which the work is published. The journal impact factor has long been the main standard for measuring scientific impact, although it is deeply […]
Bruce Alberts, one of the founders of Rescuing Biomedical Research, was awarded the 2016 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science. This prestigious award is given every two years, and Alberts earned the award due to his “fundamental discoveries in DNA replication and protein biochemistry; for visionary leadership in directing national and international scientific organizations […]
By Adriana Bankston, Ph.D. On Wednesday, the American Chemical Society, an organization with over 150,000 members and whose mission is to “disseminate indispensable chemistry-related information worldwide,” announced its intention to establish the ChemRxiv preprint server for the chemistry community.
By Adriana Bankston, Ph.D. The ability to make novel scientific discoveries is largely dependent on principal investigators being able to secure federal funding. This is often in the form of an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Today, the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives released its fiscal 2017 spending proposal. The National Institutes of Health, which is funded by the Labor-H subcommittee, would receive a $1.25 billion, or nearly 4 percent, increase in FY17. Alzheimer’s research, the BRAIN initiative and the Precision […]
Contributed by Jessica Polka, Ph.D. Any biologist who’s been to a scientific conference knows that sharing our work before formal publication accelerates the pace of research. By giving talks or poster presentations, we can find new collaborators, receive constructive feedback and gain recognition that can help secure a future job. And the benefits are not […]
Last week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee passed a bill that would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion for fiscal 2017.
Earlier this month, the Department of Labor released a revision to the Fair Labor Standards Act rule concerning overtime pay. The revision raised the salary threshold by which workers are eligible for overtime pay to $47,476. The DOL made it clear that postdoctoral scholars would be eligible for overtime pay under this rule. Here is […]
Rescuing Biomedical Research, an organization committed to overcoming the systemic flaws in the biomedical research enterprise, strongly supports increasing pay for postdoctoral scholars. RBR urges universities and the National Institutes of Health to work together to raise the minimum pay of postdocs to at least $47,476 per year to better reflect their level of education, […]
Peer review, as conducted by the National Institutes of Health, is not great at determining relative merit among the top 20 to 30 percent of grants. A new paper by Ferric Fang and Arturo Cassadevall expands on their previous proposal to fund meritorious grants by a lottery system rather than continuing to use the rankings […]
Information and data on the trends in the biomedical workforce are not always easy to come by. The National Science Foundation conducts several annual and biannual surveys to assess the numbers of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, the Ph.D. graduation rate, the demographics of trainee populations and many others. Two new papers present data on […]
Postdoctoral scholars are an important part of the research workforce. As experienced scientists, many postdocs enter a lab and are highly productive after only a short amount of time. However, many groups feel that postdocs are underpaid, relative to their experience and importance to the research enterprise.
Today marks my first day as the director of Rescuing Biomedical Research. RBR is devoted to reforming policies and programs that hinder the pace of research and provide incomplete training to graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. I worked on these issues extensively while with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and I am […]
By Ivan C. Baines
Chief Operating Officer
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
Most would agree that the centralization of expensive and sophisticated equipment is an essential part of the organizational structure of biomedical research institutes today. This has come about through the need to remain on top of technologies that take a lot of time to master (e.g. protein expression and purification, advanced imaging, EM, automation, transgenics…), the necessity to enable more complex multidisciplinary work flows across different technologies, the prohibitively expensive technologies with capacity exceeding the needs of single labs or departments (e.g. NGS), and of course the unwelcome need to generally improve cost efficiency in an ever more constrained funding environment…
By Judith Kimble
Henry Vilas Professor of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
As true at many institutions throughout the country, biomedical researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have become deeply concerned about the systemic flaws threatening U.S. biomedical research. Yet they were not in agreement with some of the solutions proposed in the PNAS 2014 paper by Alberts, Kirschner, Tilghman and Varmus. We therefore generated a cross-campus effort to discuss possible solutions, culminating in a day-long workshop on April 11, 2015. A manuscript describing our workshop and its recommendations is in press at e-Life. So rather than going over the same ground, I thought it would be most useful in this blog to describe details of the process – most not included in that manuscript…