It is essential that such data collection be appropriately disaggregated to detect any differences between demographic and other groups.
It is important to collect data on individuals in non-tenure track staff scientist research positions at academic institutions. Because of its experience in research on scientific and engineering personnel and the overall research enterprise, such data collection efforts may be best coordinated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and funded by NSF, NIH, and other federal agencies that sponsor scientific research. Important questions to answer include:
Who is in “other academic” category from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients?
How long do appointments last?
To what extent are these positions “stepping stones” to faculty and other independent employment positions?
What are the current models of laboratory space assignment for non-tenure-track individuals?
Are individuals in these positions able to apply for independent NIH grants? To what extent do individuals in these positions apply for NIH grants? Of those who apply, what are their success rates?
How do schools handle start-up costs for research assistant professors/staff scientists?
To what extent are scientists on “soft money” able or allowed to train graduate students?
In sum, we need a greater understanding of the factors that influence a transition to a successful career, either as a tenured faculty investigator or as a staff scientist involved in large-scale collaborative efforts or independent exploration. This need will become greater if the career transition program recommended in this chapter is implemented.
The next chapter focuses on mechanisms to facilitate the establishment of stable research programs.