4
Careers

There is very little information on the careers of former NIST/NRC RAs. Sources of information are described in the next section, but to summarize, the data cover the immediate post-appointment plans of RAs or their current employment at an arbitrary, recent time point. Career histories are not available. Based on these data, former RAs are seen to have moved into employment in all sectors. Of particular interest to NIST is whether the NRC Resident Research Associateship Program at NIST (NIST/NRC RAP) is providing a source of job candidates. Some information available to answer this question was obtained through the expert panels and data collected by NIST.

From the point of view of current and former RAs at NIST, as well as NIST staff, the Program is viewed as beneficial to expanding the pool of potential applicants to NIST jobs. Many current RAs, interviewed during the expert panels came to the RAP with the hopes of remaining at NIST. They were aware that it was difficult to make the transition to permanent employee, but some felt that having the NIST/NRC Research Associateship was the best way to stay. The success rate, based on their estimates, varies widely by where at NIST the RAs were employed. Estimates ranged from 5 to 60 percent, although the NIST-wide estimate was thought to be around 30 to 40 percent. Former RAs who remained at NIST thought that the overall retention rate was around 50 percent, and that the percentage retained varied by labs, for example in some labs they felt it was 15 to 20 percent. While both current and former RAs noted that it was difficult to remain at NIST, former RAs felt that current RAs overestimate their chances of staying. Advisors and division chiefs put the percentage of RAs being hired at NIST at about 33 percent. They reported that about half of RAs ask about staying. Participants noted that in many cases, RAs intended to go elsewhere after their tenure, while those who came to NIST and highly enjoyed working there often found a way to remain. During the expert panel with NIST advisors and managers, they noted that the program was a good way to recruit (some said “primary” way to recruit) and retain good people. As one participant noted: “It's a great way to try someone out.”

RESEARCH ASSOCIATES’ CAREERS

Three sources of information about the careers of RAs after the appointment are the final reports RAs fill out at the end of their postdoctoral appointment, a directory put together by The National Academies, and information from NIST about change in status of RAs. In 1996, The National Academies put together a Directory of Resident Research Associates. The first data source focuses on the plans of RAs after completing their appointments. It is the only career information taken at the beginning of the RAs post-appointment career.

Table 4-1 looks at where RAs planned to go next, following their appointment. Again, these data are taken from the final reports filled out by RAs, and as noted in Chapter 3, not many RAs complete this form. Fifty-seven percent (of 253) NIST/NRC RAs and 37 percent (of 6,936) of RAs from other RAPs provided information on their post-tenure employment position.



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4 Careers There is very little information on the careers of former NIST/NRC RAs. Sources of information are described in the next section, but to summarize, the data cover the immediate post-appointment plans of RAs or their current employment at an arbitrary, recent time point. Career histories are not available. Based on these data, former RAs are seen to have moved into employment in all sectors. Of particular interest to NIST is whether the NRC Resident Research Associateship Program at NIST (NIST/NRC RAP) is providing a source of job candidates. Some information available to answer this question was obtained through the expert panels and data collected by NIST. From the point of view of current and former RAs at NIST, as well as NIST staff, the Program is viewed as beneficial to expanding the pool of potential applicants to NIST jobs. Many current RAs, interviewed during the expert panels came to the RAP with the hopes of remaining at NIST. They were aware that it was difficult to make the transition to permanent employee, but some felt that having the NIST/NRC Research Associateship was the best way to stay. The success rate, based on their estimates, varies widely by where at NIST the RAs were employed. Estimates ranged from 5 to 60 percent, although the NIST-wide estimate was thought to be around 30 to 40 percent. Former RAs who remained at NIST thought that the overall retention rate was around 50 percent, and that the percentage retained varied by labs, for example in some labs they felt it was 15 to 20 percent. While both current and former RAs noted that it was difficult to remain at NIST, former RAs felt that current RAs overestimate their chances of staying. Advisors and division chiefs put the percentage of RAs being hired at NIST at about 33 percent. They reported that about half of RAs ask about staying. Participants noted that in many cases, RAs intended to go elsewhere after their tenure, while those who came to NIST and highly enjoyed working there often found a way to remain. During the expert panel with NIST advisors and managers, they noted that the program was a good way to recruit (some said “primary” way to recruit) and retain good people. As one participant noted: “It's a great way to try someone out.” RESEARCH ASSOCIATES’ CAREERS Three sources of information about the careers of RAs after the appointment are the final reports RAs fill out at the end of their postdoctoral appointment, a directory put together by The National Academies, and information from NIST about change in status of RAs. In 1996, The National Academies put together a Directory of Resident Research Associates. The first data source focuses on the plans of RAs after completing their appointments. It is the only career information taken at the beginning of the RAs post-appointment career. Table 4-1 looks at where RAs planned to go next, following their appointment. Again, these data are taken from the final reports filled out by RAs, and as noted in Chapter 3, not many RAs complete this form. Fifty-seven percent (of 253) NIST/NRC RAs and 37 percent (of 6,936) of RAs from other RAPs provided information on their post-tenure employment position. 80

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TABLE 4-1 Immediate Employment of Research Associates Following Postdoctoral Appointment, by Program NIST/NRC RAP Other RAP Plans N % N % Research or teaching at U.S. college/university 28 19.3 609 23.9 Research position at another U.S. govt. agency 10 6.9 247 9.7 Administrative position at U.S. govt. lab 0 0.0 53 2.1 Research/administration in non-profit 1 0.7 43 1.7 Research/administration in industry 24 16.6 325 12.8 Self employed 0 0.0 45 1.8 Postdoctoral research 6 4.1 173 6.8 Remain at host agency as permanent employee 45 31.0 392 15.4 Remain at host agency as contractor/temp 20 13.8 180 7.1 Research or teaching at foreign govt. lab 0 0.0 48 1.9 Research or teaching at foreign college/university 1 0.7 67 2.6 Government 1 0.7 1 0.0 Other 3 2.1 88 3.5 No information provided 3 2.1 188 7.4 Unknown 3 2.1 87 3.4 N 145 100 2546 100 Source: National Academies, DataRAP Database, tabulations by staff. As Table 4-1 shows, among those RAs who answered the question, the most common response for NIST/NRC RAs was remaining at NIST as a permanent employee. When adding in those RAs who were going to continue working at or for NIST as a contractor or as a temporary employee, about 45 percent of those who answered the question continued to be affiliated with NIST, compared with only 22.5 percent for the Research Associates who were in other RAPs. This lends credence to the views expressed by NIST/NRC Research Associates about their satisfaction with the program, to the view expressed by participants in the expert panels that the Research Associateships are a good entrée into a career at NIST, and to the view that NIST uses the Research Associateships as one recruiting tool for finding skilled employees. Respondents to the final report also are asked to identify the name of the organization that they plan to go to for their next position. For academic appointments, respondents listed 27 different institutions. Aside from NIST, Research Associates identified a number of other government positions, including several at the national labs. As was true for academia, respondents whose immediate employment plans were in industry each cited a different company. Thus, those respondents who were not continuing in some fashion at NIST tended to go all over the country within the major employment sectors. The Directory was intended to identify where former RAs were at the time the Directory was compiled. It initially covered the years 1959-1995. The data were then updated to cover up to the period 2002 and made web-accessible. Information in the written Directory and its subsequent update were based on data collected at the time individuals received their reward and responses to a questionnaire requesting information about their current activities. Many former RAs did not respond to the questionnaire and in many cases it was not possible to find contact information for some former RAs (NRC, 1996). Beginning in 1965, there are 9,924 entries in the current database. Of these, 1,035 or about 10 percent were individuals who had received NIST/NRC Research Associateships. The 81

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response rate for current employment data was 37.5 percent (of 1035) for NIST/NRC RAs and 37.7 percent (of 8889) for former RAs in other RAPs. Among those who responded, as Table 4-3 shows, the current employer for over one-third of former NIST/NRC RAs is NIST. NIST/NRC RAs were more likely to be employed in government and less likely to be employed in academia or other sectors. An important finding is that about 37.6 percent of NIST/NRC RAs were working at NIST when surveyed. TABLE 4-2 Current Employment of Former Research Associates, by Program NIST/NRC RAP Other RAP Current Employer of Former Research Associates N % N % Academic institution 114 29.4 1186 35.4 Industry 80 20.6 710 21.2 Government 13 3.4 134 4.0 National lab 23 5.9 63 1.9 Government-same as postdoc 146 37.6 941 28.1 Nonprofit 4 1.0 89 2.7 Medical center/Hospital 4 1.0 126 3.8 Other (including self employed) 4 1.0 105 3.1 N 388 100.0 3354 100.0 Source: Fellowship Directory Database. As Table 4-2 notes—similarly with Table 4-1—among those who answered the questionnaire sent out to compile the Directory, 37.6 percent of former NIST/NRC RAs were employed at NIST when the survey was taken, compared with about 28.1 percent of former RAs of other RAPs, who were at their host agencies. A final data source are data collected by NIST of changes in postdoctoral status, that is: appointment start dates, appointment terminations, resignations, and most important for our purposes here, conversions of RAs to either term appointments of career conditional appointments. 82

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TABLE 4-3 Number of Former NIST/NRC Research Associates Who Converted to Career- Conditional or Term Appointments After Their Postdoctoral Appointments Conversion to Conversion to Year Awards Career Conditional Term Appointment Total 1998 57 1 7 8 1999 40 7 7 14 2000 58 4 7 11 2001 39 4 9 13 2002 57 5 9 14 2003 35 6 6 12 2004 52 3 10 13 2005 56 5 17 22 2006 48 3 11 14 2007 59 1 3 4 Total 501 39 86 125 Note: Awards is for 2 years prior to year of change. Source: Data provided by NIST, tabulations by staff. As Table 4-3 shows, about 25 percent of former RAs converted (this does not include RAs who converted to contractor status) and among those former RAs who converted, about 31 percent converted to permanent employee status. There are a number of reasons to conduct a more thorough evaluation of the careers of former RAs. Collecting data currently not being done on the careers of former RAs would facilitate benchmarking should NIST want to make changes to the program, further improvements to the program, and would shift information about the program from qualitative to quantitative data. There are several directions that future assessment could go in. In general, these include: (1) studying benefits to RAs (potential benefits could include: better or more training, greater productivity after the postdoctoral appointment, receiving more grants after the postdoctoral appointment); (2) studying benefits to NIST (potential benefits could include: success of NIST/NRC RAs, more and better alternatives for hiring, increased breadth of expertise, novel research projects and their impact, increased collaboration, increased numbers of applicants to the program, or increased prestige); and (3) examining the costs of the program to NIST (potential costs could include: costs to advisors or opportunity cost of not hiring other staff). Methodologically, such analysis could take the form of surveys of former RAs, social network analysis (to examine collaboration), CV analysis (to examine the impact of the position on careers), or citation analysis (to assess the impact of RAs’ work). PRELIMINARY RESULTS Preliminary evidence suggests that RAs contribute to the pool of qualified applicants to permanent positions at NIST. About 45 percent of RAs indicated that their immediate post- tenure position was at NIST as a permanent, temporary, or contract employee after their appointment—a higher percentage than RAs at other federal agencies. A survey of former RAs found that a higher percentage of former NIST/NRC RAs stayed at NIST than RAs at other federal agencies stayed at their host agency (37.6 to 28.1 percent). Second, evidence on the outcomes of the Program is largely lacking. Little data are collected on the career outcomes of 83

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former RAs; and the value of the program to NIST or to the broader scientific and engineering community. RECOMMENDATIONS 1. NIST should conduct a broad evaluation of the careers of former RAs to evaluate the impact of the Program on RAs’ careers, NIST, and the broader science and engineering community. The best approach for doing this is a survey, which would compare the career outcomes of NIST/NRC RAs to similar postdocs. The survey would be directed towards these former RAs and a suitable control group. Ideally, two possible comparisons could be made. First, one could construct a peer group. This would consist of a matched or stratified sample of individuals who had postdocs similar to the one at NIST for the comparison group. Although not ideal, one solution would be to take a stratified sample of former RAs from the Fellowships Office’s Directory. This is a census of former RAs; but as noted earlier in the report, many of these individuals could not be found or failed to respond to an earlier survey designed to collect information on their current employment. A second comparison group would consist of similar doctorates. A roster could be assembled by tapping the group of applicants to RAPs, who did not receive an award. These individuals will likely exhibit a diversity of career paths, including some who took postdocs (in academia or industry) and others who went straight into employment. Box 4-1 offers suggested questions that might be asked. 84

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Box 4-1 Career Assessment Survey of Former Research Associates 1. Which Research Associateship Program were you in? 2. Which lab? 3. Which division/directorate/department? 4. Start date of postdoc 5. End date of postdoc 6. What was your primary reason for taking this postdoc? a. Additional training in Ph.D. field b. Training in an area outside of Ph.D. field c. Work with a specific person or place d. Other employment not available e. Postdoc generally expected for a career in this field f. Salary/benefits g. Location h. Some other reason: ______________ 7. Demographic information a. Highest degree b. Year received highest degree c. Ph.D. field d. Gender e. Race/ethnicity f. Citizenship 8. Employment characteristics a. Have you been employed in any position since completing your postdoc? b. Are you currently employed (or self-employed) either full-time or part-time? c. Where are you currently employed? i. Educational institution ii. Industry iii. Government iv. Not-for-profit v. Self-employed vi. Other: _____________ d. If educational, are you employed at: i. K-12 ii. Two-year college, community college, or technical institute iii. Four-year college or university 85

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Box 4-1 (continued) Career Assessment Survey of Former Research Associates 9. If government, are you at the same agency that you had the postdoc with? 10. Is your current position a postdoctoral appointment? 11. Is your current employer the same as your first post-postdoctoral appointment employer? 12. If no, what was the type of employer for your first post-postdoctoral appointment employer? 13. Was your first post-postdoctoral appointment employer the type of employer that you envisioned when you applied for the postdoctoral appointment? 14. How useful did you find the following factors in seeking your first post-postdoctoral appointment employer? (1 = not at all useful to 5 = extremely useful, plus Not Applicable) a. Contacts initiated by the employer b. Contacts you initiated c. Contacts provided by your research advisor d. Contacts provided by someone else at the agency e. Prestige of the your advisor f. Prestige of the agency g. Prestige of the RAP h. Publications for which you received credit while a postdoc i. Presentations you gave while a postdoc j. Participation of grants k. The area you were researching while a postdoc l. Other: ___________________ 15. Productivity (Over the past five years or since the end of your postdoc) a. Publications i. Books, book chapters ii. Publications in peer-reviewed journals b. Patents awarded c. Presentations i. Domestic ii. International d. Awards received e. Grants 86

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Box 4-1 (continued) Career Assessment Survey of Former Research Associates 16. Views about how the program helped you (1 = not at all to 5 = a great deal, plus Not Applicable) a. To what extent have you continued to stay in touch with various persons you met during the postdoc appointment? i. Your research advisor ii. Other agency staff iii. Other postdocs 17. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree)? a. Overall, I found my postdoc experience to be valuable b. When it came to securing my first post-postdoc position, my postdoc experiences put me on an equal footing with other postdoctoral researchers of similar qualifications c. My postdoc experiences taught me most of what I needed to know to prepare grant proposals d. My postdoc experiences taught me most of what I needed to know to conduct independent research e. My postdoc experience led to a professional expertise that I would not have developed otherwise f. I established on-going friendships with people I met at my host institution g. I am proud to have been a NIST Postdoc 18. To what extent did your postdoctoral experience hinder or help with each of the following? (1 = no help at all to 5 = extremely helpful, plus Not Applicable) a. Quality of your current research b. Specific direction of your current research c. Progress of your current research d. Your success in obtaining subsequent funding e. Your teaching/curricular activities f. Your ability to mentor others g. Your confidence in performing leading-edge research h. Your career as a whole i. Other: _____________ 19. Other a. Have you recommended the postdoc to others? b. Would you? c. What were the best features of the postdoc? d. What were the worst features of the postdoc? e. If you could make improvements to the program what would they be? 87