for training, and the experience is sometimes treated primarily as a form of employment, with little or no serious educational component.

Postdoctoral researchers who emerge from this setting are typically narrowly focused, and many aspire to become “clones” of their advisors rather than to think boldly and independently. The areas of research for postdoctoral researchers usually center tightly on the work of their advisor. Further, their career opportunities are constrained by the dearth of tenure-track faculty positions for independent investigators, especially at research-intensive institutions.

Fortunately, recognition of these problems among some faculty and within certain professional societies is growing. In the 2010 vision, faculty groups within institutions, government and private funding agencies of biomedical research, and professional societies would acknowledge an educational imperative for postdoctoral researchers, defining and implementing policies for their training and mechanisms for fostering their independence. These issues are discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.

NEED FOR DATA

As discussed in Chapter 2, there are very few available data on early-career researchers, making even simple questions—such as the number of postdoctoral scholars—very difficult to answer. The lack of data on postdoctoral researchers, staff scientists, and other non-tenure-track positions—as well as for tenure-track scientists1—makes it difficult to formulate informed programmatic and policy decisions. The few existing data sources exclude large segments of the biomedical research community (see Box 2-1); for example, the Survey of Doctorate Recipients excludes MDs and anyone earning a PhD outside of the United States.

The vision for 2010 includes a comprehensive integrated research personnel database that includes basic information on all federally-funded scientific researchers. This system would provide accurate counts and statistics on the research workforce and allow the kind of targeted and rigorous analysis needed for making informed programmatic and policy decisions. The need for accurate data is critical and is discussed in each of Chapters 4, 5, and 6.

1  

The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a Faculty Roster that includes comprehensive information on faculty members at accredited U.S. medical schools. There are, therefore, some data on biomedical researchers at medical schools, but no similar source for biomedical researchers outside of medical schools.



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