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.
We recently published a policy forum in Science magazine on this topic. More information can be found here and on our blog.
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.