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2 SUMMARY OF WORKSHOP DISCUSSIONS Recruitment of appropriately trained stock assessment scientists to NMFS appeared to be more serious than the problem of recruiting fishery social scientists. In contrast to the case of stock assessment scientists, there is a relative abundance of social scientists who might be attracted to new NMFS positions or who might conduct research of interest to NMFS through grant and fellowship funding. One workshop participant suggested that if NMFS creates additional positions, they should be concentrated in the regional fishery science centers so that a critical mass of expertise is present in the centers. New staff at the Ph.D. level should also have opportunities to engage in general scholarly research in addition to research focused on requirements in the Magnuson-Stevens Act and Regulatory Flexibility Act. However, simply creating staff positions for stock assessment scientists in NMFS laboratories is unlikely to address the shortfall in the short term, because there are not enough graduates possessing U.S. citizenship to fill such positions. NMFS might be better able to help the regional fishery management councils manage fisheries sustainably, and be more likely to avoid lawsuits, if the agency were to achieve the tier goals listed in Appendix C . Achieving such goals will require increased employment of stock assessment and social scientists, although workshop participants did not attempt to assess the accuracy of NMFS’ estimates of the number of additional scientists needed to meet such goals. CONCEPTUALIZING THE HUMAN RESOURCE PROBLEM The human resource problem is a supply-demand problem, and NMFS could approach its human resource problems by either decreasing demand or increasing supply. Workshop participants focused on NMFS and university needs, recognizing that other sectors (industry, state governments, and environmental groups) would also benefit from any improvement. Decreasing Demand The first approach NMFS could use to deal with its human resource requirements would be to attempt to reduce demand within the agency for fishery stock assessment and social scientists. Suggestions for reducing total demand for stock assessment scientists included (1) decreasing the regulatory requirements for fisheries, (2) managing more cautiously (e.g., setting lower total allowable catches) so that less information and analyses are needed, (3) developing and implementing management methods that require less stock assessment and social science
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advice, or (4) increasing technological capabilities to perform analyses without increasing staff numbers. Options 1 and 2 for decreasing demand for stock assessment and social scientists are included to reflect workshop discussions, but would probably not be feasible or desirable. One workshop participant believed that option 3 deserves particular attention and that new management paradigms should be sought because some elements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act may be virtually impossible to implement with a high degree of accuracy and precision, even with additional funds and personnel. Agreement among managers, commercial fishers, recreational anglers, and environmental advocates will be necessary for any of these options to be successful. Only option 3— developing and implementing new management techniques that reduce the need for stock assessment and social science advice—is likely to be practical in the immediate future. Even this option can only be implemented if (1) commercial fishers could be convinced that their livelihoods would not be endangered, (2) recreational anglers could be convinced that their recreational opportunities would not be diminished, and (3) environmental advocates could be convinced that the target species and marine ecosystems would not be at risk. Another suggestion for reducing the demand for stock assessment and social scientists within NMFS—and possibly total demand—was to contract out a greater percentage of stock assessment and social science analyses. Rationales for and against such an approach were discussed at the workshop. On the positive side, contracting out the analyses would make more obvious the incremental costs of implementing new regulations. At present, such costs are relatively hidden because added duties are often absorbed by existing personnel allowing Congress to consider existing scientific resource as seemingly free and infinite. Contracting out could also allow access to foreign graduates of U.S. stock assessment and social science programs so that their training and skills are not lost to the U.S. effort. By offering potentially higher salaries, contracting out could also help retain individuals who otherwise would leave the field for more lucrative occupations. Social science projects contracted out by NMFS accounted for approximately $800,000 per year in fiscal years 1999 and 2000. Fewer stock assessments are contracted out because of the limited number of stock assessment scientists in the academic and consulting communities. Also, NMFS scientists are more likely to understand the nuances of a fishery and to have participated in the design and conduct of data collection and analysis. Contracting to university scientists and their students could contribute to the NMFS’ recruitment and training goals and could strengthen the academic stock assessment and social science sectors and draw them closer to NMFS. In addition, the flow of resources into fishery-related academic areas might increase the on-campus standing of those departments, thereby encouraging the universities to invest, or protect resources already invested, in those areas and encouraging collaborative ties with other departments. For example, committing resources to a fisheries stock assessment program might strengthen ties with applied mathematics and statistics programs by providing internships and research assistantships to graduate students in those programs, where most assistantships are currently linked to teaching. Several arguments were made against contracting out analyses:
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Analyses could decrease in quality and comparability over time because of disruption of the continuum within NMFS from data collection through analysis. Contracting analyses to consulting firms can raise concerns about the impartiality of the analyses because many consulting firms have represented one or another interested party in various issues. Some stock assessment activities will not be considered fundamental research in university departments and will be discouraged or prohibited. The character of university research and the conflicting demands on faculty time often limit university interest in contributing to analyses required for fishery management plans. One participant suggested that fisheries stock assessment and social science activities directed to universities should only be those that include fundamental scientific questions that would lead to new knowledge or approaches. Retention Some emigration from NMFS is inevitable, as individuals leave the agency to pursue career options in other sectors. Such emigration can have a positive effect, as such individuals can help build good relationships between NMFS and other sectors. However, excessive emigration rates negate recruiting efforts. Retention could be increased by improving employee job satisfaction—especially for employees who are often involved in controversy by virtue of their involvement in the regional and interstate fishery management meetings—and by providing incentives for employees to stay. (Participants noted that some government programs encourage early retirement, which could work against retention of employees with critical skills.) NMFS could retain a higher percentage of its employees by providing continuing education opportunities, including formal apprenticeship programs, sabbaticals in universities, and Internet-based courses and an open-university concept. Continuing education could help staff to maintain their skills and develop new ones, including advances in their fields. NMFS could contract some of its continuing education activities to scientific societies such as the American Fisheries Society, the International Institute for Fisheries Economics and Trade, and the Society for Applied Anthropology. Other actions to increase retention of employees could include keeping salaries competitive and providing clear career paths. Increasing Supply Most of the workshop discussions focused on ways to increase the availability of stock assessment and social scientists to NMFS. The supply of such specialists available for hire by NMFS is related directly to the number of students produced in these and related areas. Important factors in supply include recruitment and retention of employees. Recruitment is affected by the number and productivity of individuals, usually located in universities, who train students in these fields. Individuals can also be recruited into stock assessment and social
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science positions from related fields. Post-recruitment retention of employees reduces the demand for new recruits and thus the supply needed. Recruitment Participants identified some impediments to recruitment: Lack of financial support in a student’s early graduate school years Inadequate numbers of teaching faculty or inadequate funding for faculty to focus on areas that support the training of fishery stock assessment and social scientists Stringent entry requirements of institutions Inadequate infrastructural support from universities, for example, laboratory space, computing resources, and research vessels. Any NMFS program to increase recruitment might be more effective if it recognized which of these impediments applies to a particular university. A comprehensive nationwide analysis of recruitment bottlenecks might help NMFS develop strategies for apportioning funding to relieve these four bottlenecks. Few institutions have what some workshop participants considered a critical mass of faculty members to constitute a program in stock assessment or fisheries social science. Examples of institutions that do have this critical mass include the University of Washington for stock assessment science and the University of Rhode Island for fisheries economics. One participant believed that having more institutions with a critical mass of faculty is important for the future of stock assessment and social sciences. At the moment, however, most universities with fisheries programs have only one or two faculty members in an area. Even so, these universities have been important in the supply of students in the past and some of today’s most respected fishery scientists graduated from these small programs. One participant suggested that a combined approach of a few large programs and a diversity of smaller programs may be effective, with some investments in distance learning and other methods of sharing expenses and training. Recruitment from related fields and training recruited individuals in fisheries is another means to increase the supply of potential employees. In addition, some staffing needs in stock assessment and social sciences might be met by retraining qualified individuals already employed by the agency. Workshop participants suggested a variety of actions that NMFS could take to increase the supply of fishery stock assessment and social scientists to the agency and the retention rate for employees. These actions include both traditional and innovative approaches to recruitment and retention. Offer graduate fellowships. The new Joint Graduate Fellowship Programs in Population Dynamics and Marine Resource Economics sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program and NMFS are examples. Fund faculty positions.
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Offer postdoctoral positions in NMFS laboratories. This approach is already employed, through the National Research Council (NRC) postdoctoral fellowship program and other programs. NMFS is hosting 16 NRC postdoctoral fellows in fiscal year 2000. However, the number of fellowships has decreased in the past 5 years due to erosion of NMFS base funding. Sponsor programs to reach undergraduates. Through research grants to university scientists, NMFS and the National Sea Grant College Program help train students, primarily at the graduate level. This avenue could be expanded through undergraduate internships in NMFS laboratories and new activities by the NMFS cooperative and joint institutes. Stock assessment scientists usually enter the field through undergraduate majors in biology, statistics, and other areas of mathematics. NMFS could create special outreach activities to such departments to promote education in quantitative biology, providing opportunities for development of biological knowledge for individuals who major in statistics and mathematics, and development of mathematical skills for biology majors (Levin, 1992). It is more difficult to define the portals of entry for social scientists, because those who enter are so few. Place NMFS employees in academic institutions where they can help recruit students to NMFS. Such placements could be done through sabbaticals (e.g., through Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments) lasting a few months to a year. NMFS scientists could conduct research, and perhaps teach, with their colleagues in universities. Such programs could reward NMFS scientists, increase creative thought, and provide them with a sense of intellectual renewal, which may increase retention. Although this action initially would effectively reduce the number of individuals available in NMFS laboratories to conduct stock assessment and social science analyses, interactions between NMFS scientists and university faculty and students might increase the effectiveness of the NMFS workforce and increase the numbers of students entering the fisheries stock assessment and social science fields in the longer term. Create opportunities for university faculty to take sabbatical leaves at NMFS research facilities. Most universities only offer partial support for sabbatical leave. If NMFS were prepared to cover the balance of faculty sabbatical salaries, it might be possible to induce university scientists to spend time in the NMFS research labs interacting with NMFS personnel, perhaps teaching continuing education classes or modules and collaborating on ongoing research projects. Advertise open positions and inform potential employees about job prospects. Many of these approaches are currently being used by NMFS but could be more effective if they were expanded. Other actions have not yet been tested or have not been considered viable in the past, but could help NMFS improve recruitment efforts. Participants suggested that NMFS could increase the supply of stock assessment and social scientists by the following approaches. Offer competitive salaries. The most obvious solution would be to offer salaries and benefits comparable to those paid by companies and organizations that
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compete with NMFS for employees. Students with good quantitative skills are in high demand in fields such as pharmaceutical research, software design, consulting, and financial analysis and companies in these fields typically offer higher salaries than the government. If NMFS cannot pay salaries comparable to the private sector, it will be necessary to strengthen non-monetary incentives, such as continuing education, sabbaticals, and other opportunities to conduct research and interact with academic fishery scientists. McCay’s research shows the value that NMFS scientists place on the opportunity to do research. Better communication of opportunities for scientific research therefore may help recruit talented scientists. Work through scientific societies to link academic scientists and new graduates with NMFS needs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enlists help from the Society for Applied Anthropology through a cooperative agreement to encourage interactions between the agency and the academic community. Approximately 50 projects, mostly community-based, have been carried out to date. The Ecological Society of America has implemented cooperative agreements and contracts with several federal agencies, including EPA and the National Park Service. NMFS could approach the Society for Applied Anthropology, International Institute for Fisheries Economics and Trade, and the American Fisheries Society to develop similar cooperative agreements. Employ foreign graduate students and foreign graduates of U.S. programs as guest workers. Another agency in the Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), makes substantial use of this approach. NIST-sponsored foreign guest researchers can obtain J1 visas that allow them to stay in the United States for up to 3.5 years. Of the foreign guest workers at NIST, approximately 50 percent are sponsored by NIST and the other 50 percent are sponsored by their home governments or international organizations. Guest researchers range from graduate students to mid-career scientists on sabbatical leaves. Develop and nurture applied mathematical ecology and population dynamics in universities, particularly related to fishery problems. Sponsor outreach programs in high schools and middle schools near NMFS laboratories. (Many experts in career choice believe that undergraduate years are too late to reach many students.) NMFS should consider outreach to high schools located near NMFS laboratories to give students a first-hand view of potential careers in fisheries. Outreach could include sponsorship and personal involvement of NMFS scientists in school projects and science fairs and support of science teachers with curricular materials and training. A large number of students at all levels could be reached by developing information about fishery careers and including such information on the NMFS Web site. 1 NMFS could increase the visibility of fishery careers by describing such careers in college, graduate school, and career guides. 1 http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov
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BREADTH OF THE PROBLEM The NMFS situation is a subset of a larger problem. Stock assessment and social scientists are employed by NMFS,, fishery management organizations (e.g., regional fishery management councils, interstate commissions, and international treaty organizations), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fishery agencies, academia, industry, and nonprofit organizations. Several workshop participants noted that only a portion of their graduates who stay in fisheries science take jobs with NMFS. Strengthening the fields of fisheries stock assessment and social sciences could benefit both NMFS and also the academic, management, environmental, and industry sectors. IMPLICATIONS OF CAREER DEVELOPMENT MODELS Federal agencies are experiencing a shortage of well-trained professionals to address cross-cutting issues in natural resource management. The issue of how to increase student interest in science careers has received significant attention in recent years and a number of career choice theories have been developed (see Chapter 1 ). NMFS could apply knowledge of the career choice models by making it easier for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to explore what is involved in fishery careers and what skills and interests are consistent with such careers; increasing research and internship opportunities for younger students ensuring that counselors and career guides have sufficient information about fishery careers to share with students; and developing its own career guide and distribute it widely, including on its Web site. QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER The following questions were formulated during the workshop; however, because of time constraints, participants were not able to expand on them. NMFS could address the questions as part of its effort to increase the supply of stock assessment and social scientists. What role can masters-level (and talented bachelor’s-degree level) graduates play in meeting needs for additional stock assessment and social science expertise? What are the characteristics of stock assessment and social scientists employed by NMFS and academic institutions in terms of degree level, training, age, potential years to retirement, race, ethnicity, and gender? What factors lead employees to join and leave NMFS and what interventions could be developed to reduce attrition? How many recruits are needed each year (on average) in each specialty and how large does the pool of teaching faculty need to be to meet the demand?
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What curricula would be most appropriate for the students given the likely fishery issues of the next few decades? Can any lessons be learned by examining the training of some of the eminent fishery scientists of the past several decades who have contributed to the development of stock assessment methods? (Many were trained in mathematics, engineering, and physics.) What is the feasibility of reducing the total demand for stock assessment and social scientists? By considering these questions and others, NMFS can begin to foster the work force it will need in the coming decades.
Representative terms from entire chapter: