programs may be driven primarily by departmental needs for teaching assistants and research assistants, the latter of whom are largely supported by research grants (Massy and Goldman, 1995). A search of several databases for government contracting and sources of funding conducted by the committee in early 2013 showed a range of sponsors, research institutions, and interests involved in radiation health- and biology-related research. Those databases indicate the number of solicitations, grants, and length and topical areas, but they provide incomplete information about funding amounts and workforce requirements. However, they do indicate the contracting and grant activity, important stakeholders, and interests in the field, which are at least indirectly related to the current demand for radiobiology researchers. A compilation of this information is presented in Table 3-3.
Drivers of Future Demand
As it is with many efforts to construct valid workforce projections, it is difficult to accurately estimate the future need for radiobiology researchers. However, certain trends in the use of radiological materials and information gaps in the science suggest that demand will continue and may increase. Those trends include increased use of radiation for diagnostic imaging, the emergence of new forms of radiation therapy, and a resurgence of interest in nuclear energy (Hei, 2013).
Chapter 2, which addresses current directions in radiobiology research, identifies a number of unanswered questions about the human health effects of low-dose ionizing radiation exposures that require attention. Answers to these questions are needed to better quantify radiological risks and derive exposure guidance that can be used when making public health decisions (for example, shelter in place versus evacuation versus long-term relocation) in the wake of a release incident or accident.
The Current and Future Workforce
The available data are insufficient to determine whether the supply of radiobiology researchers will be adequate to satisfy demand, and the information that is available is potentially complicated by a lessening of demand due to weak economic conditions and diminished support for research. Information suggests, however, that although the current supply may be meeting the demand, shortages could occur as the current workforce reaches retirement.
As already noted, DOE and its national laboratories are facing serious attrition of nuclear scientists and engineers and their capabilities through the effects of aging staff. In 2010, three-quarters of the radiological professionals within the DOE laboratories were eligible to retire (Wogman et al.,