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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program 5 Lucille P. Markey Visiting Fellows Program In September, 1984, the Markey Trustees met with leading biomedical scientists in the United Kingdom to explore the possibility of establishing a program to support a small number of outstanding, young biomedical scientists from the United Kingdom who would spend two years pursuing their research in a leading biomedical institution in the United States. This program was proposed in recognition of the support the Medical Research Council (MRC) afforded researchers from the United States. In addition, the Trustees recognized the impact of the cutbacks in support available in the United Kingdom through the MRC. Following subsequent discussions in 1985, the Trustees finalized a plan to fund United Kingdom scholars in United States institutions. Later, the Visiting Fellows program was expanded to include Visiting Fellows from Australia. A total of 36 Visiting Fellows—26 United Kingdom Visiting Fellows and 10 Australian Visiting Fellows—were awarded support between 1986 and 1994. Total support for the Visiting Fellows program amounted to $3,298,000. The Visiting Fellows Program had a number of salient features: Four two-year awards would be made in each of three years beginning in July, 1986, for a total of 12 awards. In the initial year, each awardee would receive a stipend of $25,000 and a travel allowance of $750. In the second year, the stipend would increase by $3,000, but the travel allowance would remain the same.
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program A selection committee for United Kingdom Visiting Fellows consisted of four distinguished United Kingdom biomedical scientists, including: Walter Bodmer, Ph.D., F.R.S. Director Imperial Cancer Research Sydney Brenner, Ph.D., F.R.S. Head, Molecular Genetics Unit Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology University of Cambridge School of Medicine George Stark, Ph.D. Chairman, Research Institute The Cleveland Clinic Sir David Weatherall, M.D., Ch.B., F.R.C.P., F.R.S. Regis Professor of Medicine University of Oxford A selection committee for Australian Visiting Fellows consisted of three distinguished Australian biomedical scientists, including: Professor Emeritus Sir Gustov J. V. Nossal, A.C., C.B.E., Pres.A.A., F.R.S. The Walther and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Professor Emeritus Donald Metcalf, A.C., M.D., F.A.A., F.R.S. Assistant Director The Walther and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Professor James Pittard, Ph.D. Yale, D.Sc. Melb, F.A.A. Professor of Microbiology University of Melbourne Each committee would invite 10 to 12 leading laboratories in the United Kingdom or Australia to nominate 1 or 2 candidates for the Markey Award. Nominees would be either at the postdoctoral or junior faculty level. The committee would review nominees and then hold one meeting to make final selections.
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program The nominating institution would make a commitment to ensure placement of each Fellow upon their return to the United Kingdom or Australia. Each Fellow would obtain a commitment from a target United States institution, and, ideally, a preceptor within that institution. Funds for the Fellow would be paid to and administered by the targeted institution. Fellows were required to submit an annual progress report of their research accomplishments, along with a financial report from the targeted institution. The selection committee would review each Fellow’s progress and provide overall surveillance of the program on a continuing basis. EVALUATION OF THE VISITING FELLOWS PROGRAM Because the Markey Visiting Fellows program was a postdoctoral award and because there was no comparison group, the committee decided not to conduct an evaluation of the outcomes of the Fellows program. We did interview as many Fellows as possible in order to gain an understanding of the impact of the postdoctoral fellowship on their research agenda and career pathway. It was much more difficult to locate and interview the Fellows, the majority of whom were living outside of the United States. A listing of the Markey Visiting Fellows and their locations at the time we contacted them to schedule an interview can be found in Appendix E of this report. INTERVIEWS WITH MARKEY FELLOWS A total of 29 Markey Visiting Fellows (23 men and 6 women) were interviewed between 1999 and 2004. When commenting on whether they felt independent prior to the start of the award, several U.K. Fellows mentioned that it is extremely difficult to complete a Ph.D. in the United Kingdom (a large percentage start and never finish), so actually finishing a dissertation almost guarantees that the individual is independent. Moreover, the Fellows frequently noted that U.K. and Australian postdoctoral fellows were significantly younger than their U.S. counterparts because of the differences in the educational systems. As such, while they were intellectually very capable, there was a “ramping up” period when they first came to the United States where they needed to scramble in order to achieve the same level of productivity as their U.S. counterparts. When I first joined the Markey program, I felt “out of depth”—but it was inspiring to meet these people [at the meetings] who had done such fantastic research.
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program The Markey raised my confidence level: being a young postdoctoral fellow in an established lab, and having changed fields totally, I needed all the confidence I could get. When asked about their decisions to accept the Markey Fellowship, several Fellows noted that as they were already “the cream of the crop” they had other fellowship offers to study in the United States, but they selected the Markey Fellowship primarily for two reasons: 1) the award was to the individual, which meant they could change laboratories, if necessary and 2) the award had a more generous stipend than the others. One Fellow commented “this meant I had a nicer apartment, but it really didn’t matter as I spent such little time there” (paraphrased). Another, by contrast, commented that the additional funds allowed him to add 6 months at the end of his fellowship period which allowed him to visit other U.S. laboratories, acquire additional techniques, and establish further collaborations before returning home. I trotted around to various labs in the States, doing experiments in them . . . laying the groundwork for what I have gone on to do subsequently in my own lab. Had I not been paid generously by Markey, I probably would not have thought of spending my own money to do that. Technology transfer was one of the goals of the Markey Visiting Fellows program. This was achieved when Fellows took new technologies with them when they returned to their home countries. The majority of the Fellows did return to their home countries at the completion of their fellowship. Of the 9 Fellows who continued working in the US, 5 are in academia, one is at a non-profit, and 3 are at biotechnology companies. The remainder have either returned to their home country, the United Kingdom or Australia, or are working in Europe or Asia—all at research institutes or in academia. Because of the lack of name-recognition outside the United States, only a small percentage of the Fellows commented that the Fellowship helped them find a job upon their return home. Those who did mention that the Award helped them find a job were mostly those who opted to stay in the United States. When queried as to what factors influenced a decision to accept a particular job offer, there were varied responses, including: dual career challenge, funding opportunities, wanting an urban setting (New York, London, or Tokyo), and a large number wanting to raise their families in their home countries.
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program It is more FUN doing science in Britain … you have more time to think; in the U.K. if you are good, you will be funded. Everyday life in the U.K. is less stressful than the U.S. Australia has all the relatives, a better health care system, and generally a better environment for living. These awards were initially for 2 years, with an optional third year. Many of the Fellows commented that unlike the Scholars, they did not feel the freedom to take on particularly riskier research because of the short duration of the award. At this point in the interview, when discussing the impact of the Visiting Fellow Award on their style of research, several individuals commented that the annual meetings had a significant impact on them. They referred frequently that “rubbing elbows” with the Markey Scholars and committee members was inspiring and one described it as a “boot-strapping” effect. I don’t think the structure of the award impacted my style, but definitely coming to the U.S. and staying for 5 years definitely impacted me in the sense that it made me familiar with how American science works. I better understand the mindset of U.S. scientists and the pressure to work in the lab all the time. Working in the U.S. and being around the Scholars did impact me. I learned there was no one solution to a research question, and that multiple approaches with different tools have value. Academic science is very competitive. People may not like the U.S. environment, but they need to see that these are the standards—this is the competition. The Markey meetings exposed me to different areas of research. They created enthusiasm and fostered creative thinking. The fellowship gave me a more “expansive” view on research. At the conclusion of their interviews, all but one Fellow noted that they felt they had met or exceeded, or were making significant progress toward meeting their career goals. The one person who felt he had not achieved his goals was doing far more clinical work than he wanted. All were appreciative of the opportunity to come to the United States and study, and felt that the program was an excellent postdoctoral award. Several mentioned that if a subsequent funder wanted to improve on the design of the award, it should consider extending the award term to include additional time to set up their laboratories when the Fellow returns to his or her home country.
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program Happiest two years of my life. The personal side of the Markey Trust was very good. Other grant programs made you feel anonymous. I would recommend keeping the selection process rigorous. I take the European point of view—justified elitism. Don’t give a little bit to everyone; give to very few and then the award will become a label of excellence. I would like to thank the people who made the decisions for the opportunity. They gave me support to wander quite a long way from what I would imagine their support area [biomedicine] is. The Markey was great because they didn’t burden us with bureaucracy, and at the same time, what little they asked us to do was clearly assessed, seriously and appropriately.
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