However, many scientists can make valuable independent contributions to team efforts through essential skills and expertise that do not result in a first- or last-author listing on publications. By 2010, the vision includes a new system for attribution in publications in which the contributions of each author are explicitly stated and appropriately valued by promotion committees, study sections, and other evaluators. The biomedical research community can learn and adopt models from other scientific enterprises (e.g., high-energy physics research, the biotechnology industry), where large interdisciplinary teams of creative individuals are common and publication recognition is apportioned appropriately.

Recognize and Reward Non-Tenure-Track Pathways

Finally, although the tenure-track faculty position is the dominant model for independent basic biomedical research in academia and is likely to remain so, this traditional pathway, by which life scientists achieve independent laboratory status through a “straight and narrow” route, is not as clear as it once was. On this pathway, graduate students move on to perform postdoctoral work, are hired as assistant professors, and obtain their own funding. But this pathway is not as common now and it is not the only route to creative and independent scientific research. The research community needs to retain the talents of scientists who do not pursue the tenure-track academic faculty pathway. In particular, the vision for 2010 includes respect and recognition for staff scientists, whose contributions to the research enterprise are critically important and who may conduct much of the biomedical research in the future.

In the vision for 2010, academia will establish and support new career tracks that recognize independent scientific thought and scholarly achievements outside the traditional tenure-track position. This issue is addressed in more detail in Chapter 6.


In the current system of training and apprenticeship, faculty members are largely responsible for facilitating the transition to independence of trainees in their laboratories. Currently, standards and best practice for training and mentoring postdoctoral researchers are highly variable between—and even within—institutions. In fact, some faculty members are not comfortable or skilled as mentors, and few faculty have received any training and preparation for this important role. Indeed, because the majority of postdoctoral researchers are supported on individual research grants held by their advisors, there is no mandate or stated expectation

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