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:
A working group has been formed to develop strategies to reemphasize the importance of critically evaluating the quality of the candidate’s research and teaching, and other contributions a faculty member makes to departmental culture and the university community. Basing faculty evaluations on grants and publications, a central feature of current evaluation processes at most institutions, effectively outsources the retention, promotion and tenure evaluation of academic institutions to funding agencies and journals.
Other prominent groups are working on these issues as well. For example, HHMI, in collaboration with the Declaration on Research Assessment group (DORA), will host a 2019 meeting to consider reforms to biomedical faculty evaluation, and the NASEM will also host a 2019 meeting on the same topic broadly focused on all of the sciences.
In a classic Malthusian dilemma, the size of the biomedical research workforce is rapidly outstripping the resources needed to support it. At a time when resources have stagnated in constant dollars, the number of trainees, who constitute the majority of the research labor force, continues to expand. Shifting to a staffing model that includes more non-trainees would have two benefits: it would provide good jobs for highly skilled biomedical Ph.D.s and it would reduce the demand for trainees.
To encourage such a shift, in 2015 the NCI, initiated the Research Specialist/R50 program to fund the work of computational scientists and lab and core-based staff scientists. Conversations with the NCI indicate that they consider the program a success because of the large number of high-quality proposals they received during each year’s funding cycle. An official evaluation will be carried out after five years’ worth of awards have been made.
A working group is collecting data from a variety of public and private universities and research institutes on how they support staff scientists, including those who work in individual laboratories, and those who oversee department and university-wide core facilities. We are especially interested in identifying successful funding mechanisms and career development strategies. RBR is also working with the NASEM on a meeting later this year to discuss how best to expand the ranks of staff scientists in biomedical research.