The Rescuing Biomedical Research Steering Committee is organized into several working groups. The working groups have clear goals aimed at resolving some of the systemic flaws affecting the biomedical research enterprise. Working groups are not permanent and change on a fairly regular basis.
For working groups that have completed their work, please see Actions Taken. The current RBR working groups are:
Age at Independence
The age at which young investigators launch their independent research careers has been increasing over the past several decades. In the early 1980’s, more than 20 percent of National Institutes of Health R01 grant recipients were under 35 years of age. As of 2014, less than two percent were under 35. The failure to fund the most outstanding young scientists and support innovative experimentation at an early career stage has diminished the creativity and innovation of the American research enterprise.
This working group is developing funding models that would reverse this trend and fund young scientists at the early stages of their careers. This group has focused on foreign models for funding young scientists, and consulting with federal officials to determine what facets of these models might be easily adapted to the U.S. system. This working group will also consider other projects that could lower the age at independence, such as reducing the time of graduate and postdoc training.
Core facilities/staff scientists
Many of the advances in biomedical research are due to the invention and proliferation of new, powerful technologies. Although genes, proteins, organelles, pathways and cells are often studied within the context of a specific subfield such as immunology or neuroscience, the new techniques used to investigate them are being adopted across fields. Many of these technologies, such as microarrays, mass spectrometry, two-photon imaging and next generation DNA sequencing, have become expensive to purchase and complex to operate effectively. It is no longer realistic for individual labs to acquire this equipment, nor to expect that trainees will be able to master the techniques in a reasonable length of time. One solution to these challenges is an expansion of core facilities, which are staffed by highly trained and experienced Ph.D.s.
A greater dependence on core facilities has the potential to reduce the cost of experimentation, expand employment opportunities for highly trained staff scientists and reduce the dependence of labs on trainees. This will free trainees to focus on scientific, rather than technical, training. This working group is assessing how different universities and institutions use their core facilities and employ staff scientists to potentially provide a blueprint for other organizations to adopt this model.
Ph.D. alumni career trajectories
Graduate training in the biomedical sciences prepares researchers for a variety of careers, and Ph.D. graduates have secured and excelled in jobs in academia, government and industry for decades. While tracking a Ph.D.’s path from graduate school to a faculty position is relatively straightforward, following Ph.D.s once they leave the academy can be quite difficult due to a lack of obvious tracking mechanisms. However, 70 percent or more of Ph.D. graduates leave the academy after graduation, and it is critically important to understand how these people use their Ph.D. training. Furthermore, this information can benefit different groups in different ways—undergraduates can use it to choose the school that best suits their career goals, graduate students can use it to understand the variety of career paths available to them, and departments and universities can use it to determine whether they are meeting their training goals.
The goals of the career trajectories working group are to (1) identify commonalities among universities that collect and publish data on their Ph.D. alumni, (2) develop a best practices document to provide universities that don’t collect these data with some of the most common methods of data collection, (3) encourage all universities to make these data public and (4) determine whether universities would be interested in submitting their career trajectory data to a national repository.