An assessment of the availability and need for biomedical, clinical, and behavioral research personnel is essential for the health enterprise of the nation and the world. An appropriate pool of researchers in appropriate numbers must be continuously available. The training of new research personnel to meet anticipated short- and long-term future demands, in terms of both area of expertise and number, is important enough to merit independent review and recommendations. It is not sufficient to constitute a new committee every five years. Each committee must analyze vast amounts of data, relearn old lessons, and duplicate past work and is pressed for time in completing its task.
A standing committee, established by and advisory to the NIH, could develop long-term procedures for collecting relevant data, could generate methods for analyzing the data in productive ways, could analyze the research personnel from all sources (i.e., universities, business, and government, both domestic and foreign), could assess the appropriateness of training procedures, and could make reasonable projections about needs and ways to meet those needs in future years.
A standing committee could coordinate with NIH and other agencies to establish regular procedures for data collection and to put in place continually updated databases. Useful databases would include, for example, accurate information about the total number of students and postdoctorals supported by federal funding and knowledge of whether they are foreign or domestic. Surveys, including condition of employment surveys, might be initiated from time to time.
A standing committee would greatly improve the quality, validity, and scope of the recommendations and projections produced.
Recommendation 10-2: The committee recommends that the NIH implement a data collection system for tracking the career outcomes of its recipients of research training support. A minimum set of outcomes would include sector of employment, involvement in research, and subsequent NIH awards.
At the very least, the data should include individuals funded under all training awards and research grants. The lack of data on the career outcomes of NRSA recipients has been noted in previous chapters of this report. A similar scarcity of data on the career outcomes and trajectories of biomedical, behavioral, and clinical scientists in general has been identified by other personnel study groups. Although the NIH currently collects some information on the outcomes of trainees and fellows, it is not in a form amenable to aggregation and further analysis. Moreover, no career outcome information is routinely collected for trainees on research grants. This lack of information works against making progress toward addressing which training mechanisms and strategies will best ensure a talented and productive research workforce.