Click for next page ( 38


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 37
III. PRINCIPLES AND PROBLEMS PRINCIPLES In responding to the requirements of the continuing study called for in the National Research Service Award Act, the Committee has been guided by certain general principles. Although several of these were stated in the report of the feasibility study, they deserve emphasis and are repeated here. A. Numbers Numbers and forecasts must be kept in perspective and not stretched beyond the narrow ranges of validity. In contrast to the problem of forecasting aggregate manpower in large fields, estimating needs by fine fields is exceedingly difficult. Boundaries between disciplines have become less distinct with the increase in emphasis on study of biological phenomena at the molecular level. Titles of narrow disciplinary fields have therefore lost some meaning for the purposes of forecasting. The problem is compounded by the difficulty of predicting major scientific developments and their impact on manpower requirements. Moreover, many aspects of the dynamics of the manpower pool are not clearly understood, and hence, any supply/demand model that can be developed will have limi- tations for determining the need for disciplinary specialists. These limitations, the Committee believes, are offset largely by the breadth of training and the adaptability of biomedical/behavioral scientists and their capacity for mobility within and across fields. This is especially true for transfers from more fundamental to applied fields. Further, postdoctoral training often makes possible a transfer to a related field where shortages may exist. As noted in The Life sciences~l7 a report published by the National Academy of Sciences, a large percentage of those - The Life Sciences, Report of the Committee on Research in the Life Sciences of the Committee on Science and Public Policy r National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D. C., 1970. 37

OCR for page 37
pursuing postdoctoral training seek this experience in a discipline other than that in which they received their graduate education. Moreover, most do so in laboratories other than those of their original research mentors, engaging in fields of research distinctly different from those in which they had been trained in the first instance. These facts Mnder- score the importance of postdoctoral study as a mechanism for responding to new opportunities and reinforce the caveat stated at the beginning of this section. B. High Quality and Stability In addition to a concern for adequate numbers of personnel, NIH/ ADAMHA/HRA must play a pivotal role in helping to maintain high-quality training programs. This dual role, the importance of which is under- scored in the declaration of purpose for Title I of the law, requires continuity of support for its proper fulfillment. Since it takes many years to complete the training of an individual -seven or more years of post-baccalaureate training for Ph.D.'s working in the basic bio- medical and behavioral sciences - the process cannot be turned on and off abruptly without damage to quality and training capability. Per- sistence of the stop/start pattern of support that has occurred in re- centyears could lead to erosion in the quality of the training struc- ture. C. Flexibility It will continue to be important to foster flexibility in the organization of training activities to ensure responsiveness to the changing character of the research scene. By "stability," the Committee does not mean "no change." Change must not only be permitted but en- couraged to allow appropriate response to the dynamic character of bio- medical/behavioral research and its changing manpower requirements. Within funding levels tied to specific fields and numbers, how are re- sources to be mobilized to allow ready responsiveness to emerging op- portunities? This is a key question requiring the development of a sensitive monitoring system, as well as the introduction of modifica- tions and the design of experimental training programs. Flexibility in this context has implications which the Committee believes merit further consideration. Individuals must be prepared to change fields as research opportunities present themselves. A further key issue relates to the capability of institutions to adjust their resources faculty, students, and facilities to a changing manpower outlook, as in the case of fields approaching a point of saturation. 38

OCR for page 37
D. Concern for Excellence The new law assigns to the continuing study the task of assessing NIH/ADAMHA/HRA training programs- a further indication of the concern for excellence. It will be necessary to evaluate the impact of training programs on the total scientific environment of institutions. Basic approaches to implementing this responsibility will be to identify areas of program success for retrospective examination of effects, such as en- couragement of programs that cut across traditional departmental lines; stimulation of interaction of faculty, trainees, and persons from other departments and institutions; and increase in the quality of advanced courses. Other questions warrant investigation. Is quality more effec- tively fostered by concentration on a limited number of programs than by providing broad support for training? Is it possible without NTH/ADAMHA/ HRA support to build the types of curricula that permit quality training in special fields? How effective have these programs been in attracting superior personnel into areas lacking a tradition of research? E. Shared Responsibility Though it should be a truism, the point merits repetition that NIH/ADAMHA/HRA are not - and should not be - responsible for the support of all biomedical and behavioral research training. That responsibility is shared with other elements of American society the States, industry, the foundations, private donors, and the universities themselves which will continue to make their individual contributions. NIH/ADAMHA are indeed responsible, as affirmed by the new law, for providing sufficient support to ensure that the overall training effort will produce the numbers and quality of research scientists which may be required in the future. This presupposes that NIH/ADAMHA/HRA will continue to bear a substantial share of the costs of graduate education in the biomedical/behavioral sciences with provision for adjustment in the face of evidence of ex- cessive or insufficient training effort. ^ ~ '- provide training support in these fields, of students via research grants, but also, fellowship and traineeship support. Other agencies, however, also particularly through support to a minor extent, via direct F. Recognition of Systems Aspects The complex of training programs, training institutions, and em- ploying organizations forms a system whose parts continuously interact. Adequate adjustment of training support levels requires a view over time, from undergraduate to postdoctoral levels, on into employment and across ~9

OCR for page 37
disciplines and employer categories. An overall systems view is essential. It is not possible to change one portion without some effect on the other parts. Such a systems approach needs to be developed so that the effect of changing one parameter on the other parts of the system and on the system as a whole can be anticipated. - PROBLEMS Certain problems arise in the application of these principles and in the operation of the training/utilization system. Although the Com- mittee has not--considered them in depth, it believes they must be noted to provide perspective in thinking about research training. A. The Costs of Imbalance of Supply and Demand Supply and demand are seldom, if ever, in perfect balance. Im- balance is the rule, and attention should be directed toward relative costs rather than toward the establishment of a fictitious "balance." Research personnel may be produced in overabundance, may be too few, or may closely match in numbers the demand for their services. The costs of oversupply, undersupply, and even of a too-close balance should be appraised in considering recommendations for numbers of persons to be supported in training. An oversupply can result in a serious degree of frustration and personal hardship for the redundant individuals and dislocation of individual lives when people graduate from training pro- grams only to find that the expected jobs are not available. An under- supply of properly qualified persons results in the inability of research institutions to meet national needs. Shortages of h~ghly-skilled person- nel result in a failure to exploit emerging leads regarding health- related research and thus delay or diminish the impact of research find- ings that may aid the nation's health. Too tight a coupling of supply and demand results in a lack of mobility within the system. B. Market Studies and Their Limitations Several approaches are possible in considering the impact of the market. There are short-term and long-term projections, and attempts have been made to incorporate into projections supply and demand the response of individuals and institutions to observed supp~y/demand im- balances. Further development of such market-response models is regarded by the Committee as important to improvement in projection techniques. Some other approaches deserve comment. See also Appendix D 40

OCR for page 37
One method of projecting supply makes use of "fixed coefficient" models, in which a certain percentage of the graduates of any given stage of the pipeline are expected to go on to the next stage, from high school to college to graduate school to employment in research. These coefficients are, in some models, varied according to observed time trends, but for any particular model, they are fixed at a given point in the projection process. Such models fail to take into consideration the response of students and employers to changes in the market. While this method is useful for some short-run applications,its forecasting accuracy has not been such as to reco~`u`~end it for important long-term decisions. Short-term estimates of the market may be made by assembling the judgments of persons closely associated with a given field or by survey- ing employers as to their intentions over a given time perspective. For the preparation of this report, the first method was explored, but with- out conclusive results. Actuarial data on the employment situation have been assembled at various times. The Survey of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers, con- ducted by the National Research Council in 1973, showed that the unem- ployment rate for bioscientists in 1973 was 1.O percent; for behavioral scientists, 1.1 percent. In other fields the rates varied above and below these amounts, for ~ total of all fields of 1.2 percent. The data indicated that there was not, as of 1973, a serious excess of supply; the unemployment rates are near a "frictional" minimum. A 1975 survey is now under way. It is not expected that the 1975 rates will be substantially different, although the general state of the economy suggests that they may drift marginally higher this year. Unemployment rates for Ph.D.'s are nor completely informative. Underemployment must also be considered. Traditionally, the majority of Ph.D.'s and of physician-scientists have been employed in academic institutions universities and medical schools in the case of the biomedical scientists. Studies of the impor- tant academic sector, made by Allan M. Cartter and others, indicated this situation is changing. A diminishing proportion of new Ph.D.'s and M.D.' can expect to find employment in the universities. The nonacademic market must be expected, in the future, to absorb an increasing fraction of the new researchers business and industry, government at all levels, nonprofit organizations, etc. Data are not yet available to permit an accurate assessment of the proportions of the market which each of these sectors may absorb. It obviously will depend in part on government decisions regarding environmental protection and improvement, drug test- ing, product safety, and so on. 41

OCR for page 37
An important problem associated with this changing perspective con- cerns the attitude of the students, and their professors, toward career patterns. Flexibility of attitude - toward changing tasks, employers, or fields, or all three is likely to be more important in the future. This kind of market shifting is one which students should be prepared to face and to cope with in the future. A related problem is providing accurate and timely market information to guide career decisions. . C. Fellowships Versus Training Grants Training support has gone directly from agencies to (nationally selected) individuals in the form of fellowships (predoctoral and postdoctoral) and to institutions in the form of training grants that provide support both to (locally selected) individuals and to the train- ing elements provided by the institution. The Act continues support to individuals through the fellowship mechanism, but the principle of division of funds between fellowships and traininq Grants requires re- . ~ examination. Fellowships recognize individual excellence but carry more limited support of the training environment. Training grants recognize and enhance the excellence of training environments. Fellowships require a somewhat more elaborate administrative procedure for the review of many individual applications at the national level a procedure that seems appropriate at the postdoctoral level, but less so at the predoctoral level if more than a small number of prestige awards are to be made. Fellowships allow the individual to pick the training institution. Train- ing grant-proposals must also be administratively processed, to be sure. The grants provide stipends and institutional funds at both predoctoral and postdoctoral levels. They require that institutions think through their total training effort and design programs suited to local needs. Both fellowships and training grants are useful, but their differences should be noted and used perceptively to enhance the return on the train- ing investment. D. Training Grant Funds to Institutions and to Trainees The proportion of the funds in any training grant that goes to the students as stipends and to the institution for salaries, supplies, equipment, etc. is not fixed. It varies according to the terms of each training grant. It is important that both functions of the training grant funds be recognized, as it is impossible to provide a high-quality training program without funds for the specialized curriculum and re- sources to accomplish this. These funds must come from some source. Yet the major purpose of training grants is for student support. In- creasing emphasis has been placed in recent years on increasing the 42

OCR for page 37
stipend proportion, particularly since the major department-building era of the 1960's is past. Whether the shift toward greater allocation of funds for stipends has gone far enough is another problem of concern to the Committee. E. Postdoctoral Pool Postdoctoral fellowships and traineeships have long been an im- portant component of the federal program of support of the biomedical and behavioral research fields. Such appointments serve to provide research experience for M.D.'s to complete the research Preparation of _%, ~ . . ~ . . . . . . . . _ _ _ new and. s, especially In One ~ntera~sc~pt~nary and transdisciplinary fields characteristic of these areas of science, and also to provide field-switching opportunities for more experienced scientists. The his- torical trend over several decades 19 has been for a greater percentage of biomedical and behavioral research scientists to undertake postdocto- ral training. ~ ~ _ Since about 1970, a new aspect of postdoctoral involvement and support has appeared. This is the so-called "holding pattern," in which new Ph.D.'s who have been unable to find postgraduation jobs and older Ph.D.'s who have held postdoctoral appointments but have been unable to find permanent positions _ ~ _ _ _ _ are continued in postdoctoral slots beyond the normal term of such appointments. The extent of this phenomenon in the biomedical and behavioral research fields seems to fall within reasonable bounds at present, but the Committee is concerned about the future. Moni- toring the size of the pool and finding out what happens to people who have been a part of it will be tasks for the year ahead. The holding pattern may turn out to serve a useful function, providing a flexible resource to cushion inevitable fluctuations in supply and demand. the Invisible University, National Research Council, Washington, D C., 1969. 43