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Research Training in the Biomedical, Behavioral, and Clinical Research Sciences
tries that are rapidly diversifying and making major purposeful investments in science and in new technologies as a high national priority. Indeed their investments in education and in research and technological infrastructure may soon exceed our own, and as the major recession continues, the difference in investment may only increase. It is thus not inconceivable that the influx of foreign postdoctorates may well slow, and the effect could be severe as we have come increasingly to depend on this source of fellows to “titrate” our research workforce needs in response to changes in R01 funding. In addition, because of the economic distress, faculty at the end of their careers are resisting retirement because their 401(k) funds were depleted at the same time that university capacity to create new faculty slots was sharply diminished. All of these factors add up to bleaker prospects for those of our trainee workforce who are ready to enter the traditional job market.
A crisis can oftentimes provide an opportunity for creative, new, and unexpected solutions. The review committee felt very strongly that postdoctorates must be provided opportunities to learn about other, less traditional career options. Prominent among these is K-12 science education, generally agreed to be in a sorry state in this country. Accordingly, the NIH and other federal agencies, including the Department of Education, should devise mechanisms that enable senior postdoctorates to meet requirements to gain accreditation in teaching and should develop incentives (e.g., educational loans forgiveness) to encourage these trainees to enter high school science teaching. These trainees are highly knowledgeable, well trained, and possess unusual capabilities unlikely to be found in individuals with B.S. or M.S. degrees. Not only might this provide an attractive option to some in the trainee workforce, but it could also begin to address a major problem in our educational system that threatens the future scientific prowess and economic competitiveness of our country.
In the light of this discussion we propose the following recommendations:
Recommendation 3–1: The total number of NRSA positions in the biomedical sciences should remain at least atthe fiscal year 2008 level. Furthermore, we recommendthat future adjustments be closely linked to the totalextramural research funding in the biomedical, clinical,and behavioral sciences. In recommending this linkage, the committee realizes that a decline in extramuralresearch would also call for a decline in training.
Recommendation 3–2: Peer reviewers in evaluating training grant applications, especially competing renewals,should be instructed to broaden their concept of “successful” training outcomes to recognize nontraditionaloutcomes that meet important national priorities andneeds related to the biomedical, behavioral, and clinicalsciences.
Recommendation 3–3: One highly needed and extremelyvaluable outcome would be for graduates of the biomedical training workforce to become involved in acareer teaching K-12, and especially middle and highschool science. The NIH and the Department of Education should work to provide incentives to attract traineesto careers in K-12 science and should lead a nationaleffort to accelerate the processes of “teaching accreditation” that the committee recognizes is controlled by theindividual states.
Recommendation 3–4: The size of the MSTPs should beexpanded by at least 20 percent, and more if financiallyfeasible.
Currently there are 911 MSTP slots at an average cost of $41,806 per slot. An increase by 20 percent to about 1,100 slots would increase the MSTP budget by about $7.6 million or 1 percent of the NRSA budget. If phased in over time, the impact would be less.
Recommendation 3–5: The M.D./Ph.D. MSTP should beencouraged to include basic behavioral and social sciences training relevant to biomedical research, includingthe neurosciences.
Recommendation 3–6: MSTPs should be encouraged tointensify their efforts to identify and recruit qualifiednontraditional, underrepresented groups (women andminorities). These efforts should be documented, andthey should be a factor in the evaluation of all requestsfor MSTP funding increases and be conditions for receiptof any MSTP funding increases. Success depends onhaving a critical mass (not isolated examples) of underrepresented trainees in any given MSTP.
Recommendation 3–7: All institutes are encouraged tomake F30 fellowships accessible to qualified M.D./Ph.D.students.