the same 10-year period. Postdoctoral appointments in the behavioral and social sciences have increased over the past decade, and this is projected to continue, with about one-third more doctorates in postdoctoral positions in 2011 than in 2001. Unemployment is projected to remain low and even decline to about 0.4 percent of the potential workforce in 2011.


In assessing the overall picture for the behavioral and social sciences, the situation is similar to that for the biomedical sciences—namely, unemployment is low and the number of Ph.D.s entering the job market in the future is consonant with reasonable expectations about job availability. Appendix D discusses the uncertainties in the workforce model used to generate this conclusion. Based on this limited model, the status quo appears appropriate. However, all of these conclusions need to be placed in a broader context, which will be discussed in Chapter 10.

Finally, the NRSA program plays a special role in setting standards and attracting people to specific fields. This is vital for the health of the training system. A marked difference in training in the behavioral and social sciences relative to the biomedical sciences is in the concentration of support in a single institute, the NIMH. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the subject matter and its general importance to the health of the nation, this does not seem desirable. A better distribution of training support across all NIH institutes and centers (including NIGMS) would be preferable. A specific recommendation in this regard is made in Chapter 5, but this issue also merits mention here.


Recommendation 3-1: This committee recommends that the total number of NRSA program positions in the behavioral and social sciences should remain at least at the 2003 level. Furthermore, the committee recommends that training levels after 2003 be commensurate with the rise in the total extramural research funding in the biomedical, clinical, and behavioral and social sciences.

Data on the number of predoctoral and postdoctoral traineeships in the behavioral and social sciences are incomplete after 2000.6 In 2000 there were 434 predoctoral trainees and 240 postdoctoral trainees. There was an 8.5 percent increase in the total number of predoctoral NRSA positions from 2000 to 2003 and an 8.4 percent increase in postdoctoral NRSA training positions. Assuming these increases also held for the behavioral and social sciences, approximately 471 predoctoral and 260 postdoctoral NRSA training slots would have been filled in the behavioral and social sciences in 2003. Fellowship data are probably more current, since these awards are made to individuals in specific training areas, and the predoctoral and postdoctoral awards in 2002 were 194 and 111, respectively. This level of predoctoral support was probably also true for 2003, since there was little change in the total number of NRSA fellowships from 2002 to 2003. Therefore, the total number of individuals in the behavioral and social sciences supported by the NRSA mechanism in 2003 is about 665 at the predoctoral level. This is only a small fraction of the total support for graduate students. Much more comes from institutional support through teaching assistantships and self-support. Similarly, postdoctoral support is more likely to come from research grants and other forms of institutional support (see Figure 3-13).

The recommendation links the training level in the behavioral and social sciences to extramural research support across NIH, since all of the three broad fields for which NRSA training is available are becoming more interdisciplinary and training is needed to meet this trend. While NIH currently classifies research grants into a single area of research, it is also quick to recognize that the research may involve many fields and that expertise is needed in these fields to carry out the research.

The relatively low unemployment among Ph.D.s in the behavioral and social sciences suggests that having 2003 serve as a baseline for NRSA program support and having increases based on increases in extramural research support are both justified.

The discussion following Recommendation 2-1 with regard to the quality of the NRSA program and the relative balance of biomedical training to the workforce also applies to the behavioral and social sciences.

Recommendation 3-2: This committee recommends that each NIH institute and center incorporate the behavioral and social sciences into its training portfolio, including institutes and centers that have not emphasized these disciplines in the past.

The behavioral and social sciences are critical for the understanding, prevention, and treatment of most major health problems. For historical rather than rational reasons, most training has been centered in just a few NIH institutes and centers. In the case of NIGMS, Congress specifically instructed that the behavioral and social sciences be included, but this has not been done as of 2004. The result is that health decisions that arise in many institutes and centers are made without sufficient input from scientists and decision makers who have knowledge of and training in the techniques of the behavioral and social sciences.


Data on the number of NRSA trainees in the behavioral and social sciences are incomplete after 2000 since educational institutions report on the number of students trained in a field. The information is returned to NIH as much as 2 years after training, and the information was last processed in February 2003.

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