4
THE FUTURE SUPPLY OF NEWLY INDEPENDENT LIFE SCIENTISTS

OVERVIEW

A newly independent scientist who has just secured a junior faculty position has completed a long training process, often lasting 26 years–12 years of elementary and secondary school, 4 years of college, typically 5–6 years of Ph.D. training, and usually 2–5 years of postdoctoral research. The numbers of students flowing through this training process into careers in science have been referred to as "the pipeline." As students advance from high school through college to graduate school, decreasing numbers express interest in science careers. Of the 4 million students in the entire high-school sophomore class of 1977, it is estimated that only 10,000 (0.25%) earned Ph.D. degrees in natural sciences or engineering in 1992. For minority groups, the narrowing of the pipeline is more pronounced—only 0.04% of the minority-group members of the 1977 sophomore class received Ph.D.s in 1992 (53). In recent years, concern has been expressed over the ability of the American school system to produce a science-literate public and an adequate number of well-trained academic and industrial scientists. Numerous publications have addressed the current state of education and presented plans to revitalize science education (1,19,46,59,61,73). The result is that corporations, nonprofit organizations, and many state and federal government agencies have attached a high priority to science education.

On the basis of projections generated by modeling the future supply of basic research scientists and the demand for their skills, a 1989 National Research Council report (45) predicted a serious shortage of U.S. academic biologists by the year 2000. Increased retirements, declining interest in scientific careers, and increased nonacademic employment opportunities are some of the chief factors that contributed to this prediction. The reliability of the projection has been questioned, and a more recent analysis of the



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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences 4 THE FUTURE SUPPLY OF NEWLY INDEPENDENT LIFE SCIENTISTS OVERVIEW A newly independent scientist who has just secured a junior faculty position has completed a long training process, often lasting 26 years–12 years of elementary and secondary school, 4 years of college, typically 5–6 years of Ph.D. training, and usually 2–5 years of postdoctoral research. The numbers of students flowing through this training process into careers in science have been referred to as "the pipeline." As students advance from high school through college to graduate school, decreasing numbers express interest in science careers. Of the 4 million students in the entire high-school sophomore class of 1977, it is estimated that only 10,000 (0.25%) earned Ph.D. degrees in natural sciences or engineering in 1992. For minority groups, the narrowing of the pipeline is more pronounced—only 0.04% of the minority-group members of the 1977 sophomore class received Ph.D.s in 1992 (53). In recent years, concern has been expressed over the ability of the American school system to produce a science-literate public and an adequate number of well-trained academic and industrial scientists. Numerous publications have addressed the current state of education and presented plans to revitalize science education (1,19,46,59,61,73). The result is that corporations, nonprofit organizations, and many state and federal government agencies have attached a high priority to science education. On the basis of projections generated by modeling the future supply of basic research scientists and the demand for their skills, a 1989 National Research Council report (45) predicted a serious shortage of U.S. academic biologists by the year 2000. Increased retirements, declining interest in scientific careers, and increased nonacademic employment opportunities are some of the chief factors that contributed to this prediction. The reliability of the projection has been questioned, and a more recent analysis of the

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences situation might find that the demand will at most increase slowly. However, the committee views as self-evident the continuing need for the supply of scientists in the field to be refreshed and for the nation's education system and funding mechanisms to produce trained scientists to fill industrial and academic positions. CURRENT SUPPLY OF SCIENTISTS The attractiveness of the biological sciences as an undergraduate major has declined over the last 15 years. In the mid-1970s, 4% of all majors in U.S. universities were in biological sciences; by 1986, that fraction had declined to 2.8%. In the early 1980s, the decline reflected, in part, the growing popularity of the preprofessional curricula—those aiming at law, business, medicine, and management (22,125). By the mid-1980s, the number of students in these curricula ceased to increase, but the natural sciences, biological sciences, and engineering fields were still experiencing declines. As shown in Figure 4-1, bachelor's degrees in the biological sciences declined in the late 1970s and in the 1980s after reaching a peak in 1976. The number of Ph.D. degrees awarded in the biological sciences has been generally around 3,500–4,000 per year from 1971 to 1992. The most recent data (for 1992) indicate that the number of degrees rose—fueled, perhaps, by growth in interest in microbiology, biochemistry, and cell and molecular biology (42,129)—while other fields remained steady or declined. The slow growth in the scientific pipeline suggests that at all points in the pipeline there are attractive career alternatives to the path that leads to a Ph.D. in science and engineering (45). Baccalaureates in the life sciences might choose to enter the workforce or go to medical, dental, veterinary, business, or law school, rather than proceed to graduate study. Ph.D.s can choose to take on industrial or government jobs, rather than continue with academic postdoctoral research (22,45,116). Postdoctoral researchers have a similar array of choices, at a higher level (47). The choices that they make depend, in part, on things that can be quantified—salaries, demand for faculty, and the growth of related industries—but also on more qualitative factors, such as the perceived excitement of research in the field or the perceived difficulty in obtaining funding and sustaining a productive research career. Most successful academic scientists train many more undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral associates than are required to maintain

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Figure 4-1 Number of degrees in biological and agricultural sciences conferred by U.S. universities. Source: NSF (112,131). a steady population of academic scientists. The assumption that these scientists-in-training become academic scientists has led to the suggestion that the number of scientists is ever-increasing-the "Sorcerer's Apprentice phenomenon" (4,148). However, as Figure 4-1 indicates, no Sorcerer's Apprentice has been at work in the life sciences. The number of persons who have received bachelor's and masters degree's in the life sciences has declined

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences dramatically since peaks were reached in the late 1970s, and the small increase in the number of doctorates does not foreshadow a rapid increase in the number of young scientists in the near future. Although the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded annually in the life sciences has not changed dramatically, the absolute number of life scientists has steadily increased over the last 15 years (110). The mean age of the academic life-scientist population has been steadily increasing (17,62,80,110,118). The average age of applicants for R01 and R29 funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) rose from 42.0 years in 1980 to 43.8 years in 1990 (104). More striking, however, is the fact that the percentage of total applicants 36 or younger fell from 1980 to 1993 from 20.3% to 10.3%. Even when one considers only new competing R01 applications, which should bias the distribution in favor of newly independent investigators, the percentage of applicants under 36 fell from 17.2% in 1985 to 7.2% in 1993. The reasons underlying the aging of the applicants for NIH grants are complex and might include the longer training periods for both graduateschool and postdoctoral fellowships. At least some part of the trend is attributable to the decline in attractiveness of the academic research track. Ironically, as discussed in detail in Chapter 2 (see Table 2-2), somewhat higher success rates at NIH were enjoyed by the youngest applicants in previous years (104). The aging of the academic population means that the rate of retirements might increase before the turn of the century. A recent survey indicated that 57% of colleges and universities expect an increased pace of retirement; although community colleges will be most severely affected, 40% of doctorate-granting universities expect a similar trend (17). It is crucial that sufficient young academics be in place to compensate for these retirements. The perception that there are fair and reasonable research opportunities for newly independent investigators is critical in maintaining continuity among graduate students and postdoctoral, newly independent, and senior scientists. Recently, a few research funders, recognizing that, have introduced programs targeted to young investigators. For example, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has targeted the hiring of young scientists; as a result, the median age of those appointed as independent investigators from January 1988 to mid-1991 is 37 years, whereas the average age of all HHMI investigators

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences was 41 years in February 1991 (personal communication, P. Choppin, HHMI, July 1991). The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), faced with concerns about an aging professional population and a potential surge of retirees in 1994, has been stressing the hiring of recent graduates. The average age of the NASA scientist and engineer workforce declined from 44 years in 1981 to 42 years in 1991 (80). The concern about the ability of our system to produce adequate numbers of newly independent academic scientists stems from a combination of the decreasing overall success rates discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, the sharp decrease in the number of young investigators who are applying for grant support, and an apparent decrease in the number of students interested in science careers. WOMEN IN THE PIPELINE1 At all levels, women constitute a growing fraction of degree recipients in the life sciences. Over the decade from 1980 to 1990, their share of lifescience doctorates grew from 24% to 34% and their share of baccalaureates from 39% to 45% (111). Yet this growth in female participation in the life sciences is not yet reflected in participation in tenure-track or principal investigator positions. Until they enter academic positions, statistics on women show that they perform much like their male counterparts in the life sciences. Once registered in doctoral programs, women take almost exactly as long as men to complete the doctorate (6.8 years for women, 6.6 years for men), although their total time from baccalaureate to doctorate is longer (9.7 versus 8.8 years) (42,54). After receipt of the Ph.D., almost equal percentages of women and men plan to go on to postdoctoral study (55.3% of women, 55.8% of men), which is the usual precursor to a faculty appointment (42). 1   In this section, data not otherwise attributed were obtained through personal communication with Brooke Whiting, Association of American Medical Colleges, and L. Parker, Program Evaluation, National Science Foundation.

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences A survey of U.S. medical-school faculties in 1993 revealed that 17,642 (23.5%) of the faculty were female (5). However, women are overrepresented in the lower academic ranks, which have the least professional recognition and job security in medical schools. For example, just 9.1% of full professors and 19.1% of associate professors are female. The underrepresentation of women in the senior ranks can be partially explained by the fact that the increase in the number of women receiving a doctorate in the life sciences is relatively recent. Time, it is argued, will balance the scale. However, studies (7,8) of full-time male and female medical-school faculty in 1991 who were first appointed in 1976 suggest that women have not moved through the academic ranks at the same rate as men-a phenomenon often referred to as ''hitting a glass ceiling.'' As Table 4-1 shows, within the 1976 cohort, just 10% of women but 22% of men had attained the rank of full professor by 1991; women were overrepresented in the assistant-professor and instructor ranks. The failure of women to attain full-professor status could not be attributed to a higher dropout rate, a commonly reported explanation for the "glass ceiling," inasmuch as they exhibited only a slightly higher dropout rate. Rather, these data suggest that even after women achieve faculty status, they are not assuming leadership positions in proportion to their numbers. In many institutions, scientists in part-time and non-tenure-track positions are ineligible to serve as principal investigators. That might partially explain why, in 1989, only 16.4% of competing applications and 19.2% of new applications at NIH were submitted by women (104). Those numbers were increased from 9.6% and 13.2%, respectively, in 1979 but were still well below what would be expected on the basis of the number of women in academic positions. The overall success rate of women who competed for NIH R01 grants in 1990, 22.3%, was almost identical with that of male applicants (96); but it accounted for only 577 grants, compared with the 2,557 awarded to male applicants. The picture is similar for grant applicants at the National Science Foundation (NSF), where women constitute 27% of the funded grant applicants in biological sciences-roughly in keeping with their percentage in the applicant pool. The NSF Research Opportunities for Women (ROW) program conducted a telephone survey to assess its first 3 years (137). ROW, funded through a separate line item, funds grants through a competitive peer-review process to women seeking their first federal grant. Women in

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Table 4-1 Percentages of Full-Time Medical-School Faculty Who Were First Appointed in 1976, by Rank Rank % Female % Male Professor 10 22 Associate professor 25 30 Assistant professor 25 18 Instructor 11 5 Dropped out 27 24 Unknown 2 1   Source: Bickel and Whiting (8). biology, behavior, and geosciences are the main beneficiaries of this program. The survey revealed that the lack of more senior role models and the limitations of the research network were perceived as serious impediments to female entry into research careers. The nonavailability of funding, institutional committee assignments, excessive teaching responsibilities, administrative duties, inadequate clerical support, and family responsibilities were the most frequently cited difficulties. Of those, family responsibilities were cited as a greater impediment for women than for men, although some respondents felt that teaching responsibilities, institutional committee assignments, and funding nonavailability were also sex-related (137). The available information on women in the life-science pipeline suggests that the major point at which women are disproportionately lost from research positions is between the end of graduate school and appointment as assistant professors. The postdoctoral and early faculty years coincide with the time when a woman investigator in the life sciences often considers having a child. Given the cultural milieu in the United States, which places a greater share

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences of the responsibility for child-rearing on women, they are more likely than men to decide that the pursuit of a full-time research career and parenthood are incompatible. Yet studies have found that the success rates of women who have children and continue in research careers are the same as those of women who do not have children (150). If women are to participate fully within the research community, the community must recognize the competing demands on women's time. Otherwise, it will lose talented people or relegate them to marginal positions. Greater flexibility in the timing of tenure decisions for both men and women who take on child-rearing responsibilities can help to prevent the loss of talented people. Some research institutions have abandoned tenure in favor of rolling appointments that are reviewed regularly. Logistically, the establishment of on-site child care with schedules that reflect the needs of scientists could help to improve the career paths of women in science. Most important, though, is the development of an attitude among senior researchers that the talents of scientists who are responsible parents are needed by the research enterprise. Given that attitude, reasonable accommodation of the needs of this part of the research workforce cannot help but follow. The committee is unaware of comprehensive studies that tracked the career paths of women trained in the life sciences after they received their advanced degrees. This type of study could be an important step toward the creation and implementation of programs for the greater participation of women at all levels in academic science. UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITY GROUPS2 During the last 10 years, several programs have emerged that are aimed at encouraging participation of members of underrepresented minority groups in the biological research enterprise. The continued inability of our educational system to produce sizable numbers of African-American, 2   In this report, underrepresented minority groups are defined as African-Americans, Hispanics (Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans), native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Although Asian-Americans are considered an underrepresented minority group in the population as a whole, in the scientific population they are not.

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Hispanic, and native American scientists has been a source of growing concern to the nation's research community for over a decade. Data show that the share of high-school sophomores in underrepresented minority groups who were interested in natural science and engineering (12%) was only about half the share in nonminority groups (21%) (53,59). By college graduation, the ratio of these shares was even smaller (2% vs. 5.8%), and it remained small when these students obtained Ph.D.s (0.1% vs. 0.25%) (53,59). "Leakage" from the science and engineering pipeline is serious for all U.S. citizens, but it is most serious for minority-group members. Concern about the leakage is heightened by the recognition that minorities make up an increasing share of the U.S. population as a whole and particularly the population that attends school and, later, institutions of higher education. Minorities make up 22% of the U.S. population and are projected to make up 30–40% by the year 2020 (53,66). Many more minority-group researchers in the life sciences are needed both as teachers and for the insights that minority-group scholars are most likely to provide into minority-community behavior and health problems. The federal programs that contribute most to graduate training of minority-group members in the life sciences were initiated in the 1980s and have only now begun to provide funds for a sizable number of trainees (97,98,149). Two such programs are the NSF fellowship program for minority groups and the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program at NIH (86), which is directed toward undergraduates. Recently, both NSF and NIH have instituted policies of providing supplementation to grantees who hire minority-group research assistants (39,86). The numbers of minority-group NSF recipients in the biological sciences and of MARC fellowships are shown in Figure 4-2. The results of those efforts are not apparent in the pipeline. In 1988–1989, bachelor's degrees in the life sciences were conferred on 11% fewer minority-group members than 10 years earlier, even though the total number of minority-group baccalaureates had risen by almost 10%. The largest decline of interest in the life sciences at the baccalaureate level has occurred among minority-group men. The number of minority-group women in the life sciences has actually grown, but total baccalaureate degrees have grown more rapidly (74).

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Figure 4-2 Numbers of individual minority-group recipients of NSF and MARC fellowships. Source: NIH, DRG (100). Minority groups account for 10% of all the doctoral degrees conferred in 1990, compared with 7% in 1980. The numbers show a great deal of variability both across years and between minority groups; it is difficult to discern trends. What is striking is how small the numbers are and have remained over the entire decade. Of about 4,000 doctorates in the life sciences conferred in each of the years 1980 and 1990, African-Americans received 58

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences in 1980 and 56 in 1990; Asian-Americans, 198 and 223; native Americans, six and seven; and Hispanics, 36 and 111 (111). A National Research Council report on biomedical and behavioral research scientists indicates that minority groups, except Asian-Americans, are underrepresented in the science workforce by a factor of 6 or 7 (45). In addition, recent data indicate that both men and women in those groups are underrepresented both in NIH predoctoral programs and among those expressing postdoctoral plans. The pace of recruitment from these groups into scientific careers is not proportional to their growth as segments of the population. There is continuing debate as to whether there is "enough" funding for fellowships to encourage more minority-group members to undertake study in science and engineering. Recent attention has focused on what form funding takes, as well as how much is provided. There is general agreement that money alone is not the answer. Rather, students need to work closely with faculty to be included in the "culture" of their discipline. The results of efforts to draw minority-group students into the research culture are unlikely to be evident until 1995 at the earliest. Increasing the representation of minority groups in science careers must begin with efforts that reach students long before their entry into professional or graduate schools. The main problems cited in recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in science curricula and careers are poor primary and secondary educational systems, scarcity of role models (149), and financial limitations that are different from those for members of the majority. Gains through model programs supported by foundations and government-sponsored initiatives are cause for guarded optimism, as is the increased awareness of the need for such programs and their better coordination.

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