Selected Invited Conference Papers



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The Markey Scholars Conference: Proceedings Selected Invited Conference Papers

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The Markey Scholars Conference: Proceedings This page intentionally left blank.

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The Markey Scholars Conference: Proceedings Update on Markey Scholars Krystyna Isaacs, Ph.D. SciConsult The Markey Trust funded seven classes of scholars. This paper presents a description of the first five classes of Markey Scholars, those who received their initial funding between 1985 and 1989. Over three-fourths of the scholars from classes 1 to 5 are employed at academic institutions, 12 percent are at non-profit research facilities such as Scripps, 8 percent are at for-profit research facilities such as Merck, and 3 percent are in professions not directly involved in research or medicine. Of those in academia, roughly one-third are now full professors, two-thirds are associate professors, and one is a senior member. And of those in the private or non-profit sector, 13 hold positions such as president, or director, or senior member. We calculated publication rates as the total number of articles published over the entire life of the scholar. Productivity ranged from a low of 10 to a high of 180, with an average of 53 peer-reviewed articles published. The National Research Council generates ranking tables on science departments at public and private academic institutions. They have identified the top-ten institutions in the fields of cellular and developmental biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, and molecular and general genetics. These top-ranked programs are in a total of 13 universities. Nearly 60 percent of the scholars in academia are employed at one of those 13 universities. As part of the overall evaluation of the Markey Scholars conducted by the National Research Council, we are conducting ethnographic inter-

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The Markey Scholars Conference: Proceedings views with all scholars. While this part of the evaluation is not analytic, it provides useful information on the scholars. Interviews are scheduled approximately 10–12 years following the receipt of the Markey award and consist of 30 to 45 minute telephone conversations. A thorough and complete evaluation of the Markey Scholars program will be published by National Academies Press in the summer of 2005 and can be viewed on the National Academies web site: www.nationalacademies.org. The interviews began with several general topics. Questions were raised regarding how and why decisions were made. The first question was, “Remember, way back when you were a lowly fellow or a postdoc. How did you even find out about the award, and how did you feel when you got the phone call from Bob Glaser?” Many of the scholars said they heard about this award through their mentor, the department chair, or their advisor. This is especially true for the first two or three classes, when the Markey Trust was a new program and had not received much publicity. Later the “postdoc/fellows grapevine” started to play a larger role in publicizing the Markey Award and people responded to posted notices. One of the first questions we asked was whether the additional postdoc year requirement was onerous. Some of the scholars believed they were ready to leave when they got the award, but others felt the additional year gave them time to wrap up experiments, collect sufficient data for those reports and grants they needed to write, and also to do job interviews. A number of scholars mentioned that the award gave dual-career scientific couples time to get their career stages in sync. Many scholars were married or were about to be married to other scientists or other medical professionals, and they were either 1 to 2 years behind or 1 to 2 years ahead of their spouse. This extra time helped to get these dual-career couples on the same path, and it also aided in job hunting. Many scholars mentioned that the Markey award gave them confidence to pursue riskier lines of investigation. Not that they changed the direction of their research program or changed their ideas, but these scholars felt like they had the ability to pursue research that would never be funded by the NIH without significant amounts of pilot data. Many scholars learned about jobs through the annual scholars conferences. As scholars wandered through the hall, networking and talking with other scholars, conference speakers, reviewers, or other people invited to the conference, they frequently were informed of potential job openings. We were also curious to learn what variables influenced the choices of those who changed locations vs. those who did not. Follow-up questions indicated that for many scholars, spouses’ job requirement played an important role in relocation plans. Scholars volunteered that this was

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The Markey Scholars Conference: Proceedings critical to them; they were married to a professional and they were not about to drag him/her off into a situation where the spouse could not work. They used the time and the flexibility that the scholar award gave them to find the perfect job for both. Other important considerations were the quality of the graduate student population, the scholar’s particular research interest, reputation of the department, and the economics of the geographical region. A number of scholars spoke up about their startup package and the negotiation experience. Those who stayed at their fellowship institution had significantly less funds in their startup packages. This was not surprising. The scholar was already in-place, so the institutions saw no need to offer them a substantial start-up package. Once scholars assumed faculty status, we wanted to know about their life as junior faculty—what kind of pressures they had from the department to do something other than research, so-called “departmental expectations.” We found that in general scholars had very light committee loads. Many scholars mentioned they wanted to be active members in the department, so some actually volunteered for more committee work than was required. Teaching was never a focus of the Markey Scholars Award; there were no teaching requirements attached to the fellowship. As scholars climbed the career ladder they assumed more administrative duties and many took on more teaching responsibilities than they originally had. Generally speaking, M.D.s and M.D.-Ph.D.s at medical institutions have very light teaching loads compared to colleagues with Ph.D.s at basic research institutions. Markey Scholars are no different. It is a sign of the times that a significant number of scholars have a commercial interest in science. We found many scholars had patents, collaborated with industry, sat on the board of directors or the scientific advisory board for a biotech company, and/or had started their own biotech company. Over and over again the scholars repeated that what they loved was the fact that the Markey Trust had faith in them as a person, not as a project, but in them. They really appreciated the lack of bureaucracy and the fact that administrative decisions were made on a timely basis. Many of the scholars believed that the success of the Markey Scholars program was based on the length of the funding. Seven years of guaranteed funding offered the scholars job security, and the scholars really understood how much this helped them and enabled them to engage in risky science. The scholars also thought the annual conferences were important. Some scholars that left to go to industry, biotech, or Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) felt shut out that they were not invited to subsequent conferences. Finally, scholars were asked, “What could you do to make

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The Markey Scholars Conference: Proceedings the program stronger or better? After a long pause, most responded that the program should not have ended after only seven cycles. Two quotes from the scholars best summarize how they felt about the Markey Trust. The first one is: One of most important aspects was not the dollars, but a feeling of protection in some way and camaraderie both between the participants and the people who were involved in the trust. What I’d like to convey is not just the idea that it was great to give people lots of dollars, but that it was equally important to address the welfare of the scholars. Money alone is not what it is about. And the second one is: I have warm feelings about the Trust. The only thing on my office wall is my Markey certificate.