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Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief (2021)

Chapter: Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief

Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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Proceedings of a Workshop


IN BRIEF

March 2021

Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times

An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward

Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief

The global COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest across the country have impacted society in myriad ways, including affecting scientists across all career stages, said Rita Balice-Gordon, chief scientific officer of Muna Therapeutics, as she welcomed participants to a virtual workshop on Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times. Laboratory closings, class disruptions, and hiring freezes, combined with challenges experienced by the entire population, have brought to light systemic institutional challenges faced by neuroscience trainees. At the same time, there has been a collective awakening around issues related to race, diversity, and inclusion. To explore these issues in more depth, consider changes needed across the ecosystem, and spark continuing discussion, the workshop brought together a diverse group of neuroscientists representing different sectors and career stages.

The virtual workshop held on January 19, 2021, was the second in a series originating from the Action Collaborative on Neuroscience Training: Developing a Nimble and Versatile Workforce, an initiative of the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The workshop series aims to illuminate critical issues and catalyze a reconsideration of how neuroscience training could be designed to meet current and future workforce needs across multiple sectors.

The intention of the workshop series is to motivate not just discussion of change, but action, said Katja Brose, science program officer at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Brose co-chairs the Action Collaborative along with Balice-Gordon and Rosalind Segal of Harvard Medical School. Brose encouraged participants to take these discussions back to their local communities, labs, departments, and organizations to consider concrete steps they might take.

PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES ON NEUROSCIENCE TRAINING IN CHALLENGING TIMES ACROSS DIFFERENT SECTORS AND CAREER STAGES

To begin the workshop, a panel of neuroscientists across the career spectrum discussed both new and long-standing challenges in neuroscience training, reflecting on their personal experiences. Moderated by Balice-Gordon, the panelists then considered how the field might effectively address these problems using insights from neuroscientific research, harnessing the energy of the young to bring about change, evolving training paradigms, establishing new benchmarks of success, and working collaboratively with institutional leadership to drive the changes needed within academia and the overall scientific culture.

Exploring the Challenges Highlighted by the Global Pandemic, Racial Injustice, and Gender Inequity

The challenges that have arisen over the past year—a global pandemic and the social reckoning regarding racial injustice and white supremacy—have created difficulties for neuroscientists across the entire training spectrum, said Cristin


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Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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Welle, associate professor of neurosurgery, physiology, and biophysics at the University of Colorado. At the same time, however, these challenges have unmasked inherent problems in current training paradigms and provided opportunities to address those problems.

As the mother of three young children, Welle knows how difficult balancing work and life can be. Moreover, the job of constructing networks of support that allow parents to work and maintain a healthy family life often falls to mothers, including women scientists. These struggles have always existed, she said; when COVID-19 emerged and tore down so many of these carefully assembled support structures, it brought these challenges to the forefront and made them difficult to ignore.

Yet, there have also been silver linings, said Welle. Being at home more and having meetings and conferences and conducting science virtually can work well, she said, enabling the creation of a better work–life balance. The dramatic reduction in travel has also been an unexpected benefit, leading many scientists to question the necessity of traveling all over the world, sometimes many times each month, to work with collaborators. Welle suggested taking the opportunities that COVID-19 forced onto the scientific community and integrating them into future work paradigms.

Political struggles were also felt acutely in many labs, said Welle. “Racial injustice toward our Black colleagues and Black Americans was felt by all of us, our trainees, and faculty,” she said. “As scientists, we need to give ourselves permission and space to acknowledge this, to have difficult conversations, and to create this space within our training processes.” Welle noted that neuroscience, like many other scientific fields, has historically been a white, male-dominated field. Although progress has been made, she suggested that everyone needs to acknowledge their role in upholding structures that have promoted a white, male-centric viewpoint and work to change them.

Daniel Gonzales, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray postdoctoral fellow in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University and another scientist–parent, said that being a postdoc during this time has been unstable and challenging in many ways, including financially. He echoed Welle’s comments about racism in academia. “You can’t talk about 2020 without looking at the racial and social justice issues and the incredible need for institutional and cultural change within academia,” he said.

Using Insights from Science to Address Stressors and Change the Culture of Science Toward Greater Inclusivity

The past year undoubtedly has been stressful for all sectors of society, including scientists at all career stages. AZA Stephen Allsop, a psychiatry resident at Yale University, uses neuroscience and systems tools to investigate the biological foundations of social behavior, such as the impact of social connectedness and bias on cognition and behavior. As a person of African descent growing up in the Caribbean and the United States, Allsop became interested in what shapes how people interact socially. He now uses neuroscience and systems tools to explore the biological foundations of these social interactions. For example, observational fear—learning fear behavior vicariously even when it has not actually been experienced—can be studied in rodents and Drosophila, but is also seen in humans. Moreover, humans have embedded into them these biologically-based psychological constructs like racism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, he said.

Allsop suggested that these psychological constructs can shape the emotional state of trainees as they navigate through their training, and that social psychology interventions implemented in academic contexts may enable those coming from diverse and historically disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve higher academic success and better emotional wellness. However, even institutions and departments that have expressed the goals of becoming antiracist or driving cultural change may not be implementing the necessary structures, policies, and tools that are needed.

Understanding the fundamental neurobiology of these psychological constructs, according to Allsop, “opens up a number of different avenues to start getting at change in a tangible way and meeting people at the place where their behaviors are being shaped, which is the brain.”

Harnessing the Energy of the Young to Bring About Change

While the pandemic and social unrest have challenged all scientists, the stakes and risks are different, as are the tools available for addressing these challenges, depending on one’s career stage. The driving force for change comes from young people who are creative and smart, said Huda Akil, the Gardner Quarton Distinguished University Professor of Neurosciences in the Department of Psychiatry, and co-director of the Michigan Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan. Senior scientists and leaders of institutions can serve as translators, she said, putting pressure on institutions to take the energy of the young, catalyze it, and move it into actual change. They can convince even somewhat rigid institutions through their own behavior—how they treat people, recruit, and write evaluations—that engaging a diverse community of scientists is for the greater good, said Akil.

Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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Gonzales advocated for an increased focus on building communities that give postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates a sense of belonging and value within academia through their interactions with others who look and think like them. He cited a movement called the Community of Scholars,1 in which he and others who belong to demographic groups traditionally excluded because of their ethnicity or race collaborate on ways to amplify the visibility of diverse communities. For example, they recently published a list of 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America (Community of Scholars, 2020).

The pandemic has fueled the growth of this and other diverse virtual communities, and has thus normalized the virtual format, said Gonzales. Social media has enabled him to reach out to other scientists to talk about science and other aspects of their lives. “I feel surrounded virtually by other postdocs, graduate students, and early-career scientists who are dedicated to their science, but also pushing for change in academia as well,” said Gonzales. He added that social media has also given rise to movements such as Black in Neuro,2 building community among Black neuroscientists and promoting their accomplishments.

Evolving Training Paradigms and Goals to Address the Changing Culture of Science

The field of neuroscience has evolved substantially over the past few decades, becoming more interdisciplinary and translational and relying more on team science, said Welle. Training paradigms should also reflect those changes by becoming less linear, she said. Her own route to becoming a successful neuroscientist provides a telling example.

After completing a traditional systems neuroscience Ph.D., Welle went to work in a lab at the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Devices and Radiological Health. At FDA, she established and built a new research program looking at the long-term safety and effectiveness of brain–computer interface devices. As important as the work itself, said Welle, was her collaboration with a network of colleagues at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense. She also engaged with the policy and regulatory wings of FDA, which she said opened her eyes to what it means to have a successful translational research program. “Those experiences made me a much better scientist, a stronger scientist, with a clearer understanding of where I want my research program to go and what could be most beneficial to society,” said Welle.

Working in the neural engineering field, Welle also had the opportunity to collaborate with many engineers. “I think neuroscience can learn from the field of engineering, where it is not necessarily the expectation that everyone will go straight into academic science,” she said. Rather, newly minted Ph.D.s have a wide menu of options in industry, government, as consultants, or in academia. Graduate mentors in engineering programs understand and promote non-linear career trajectories, tailoring training programs to help them achieve their goals whether they stay within academia or not, said Welle.

Welle opined that society benefits from having neuroscientists in a variety of careers in which they can hold decision-making positions, including in public policy, public health, and law. “Broadening our understanding of what a career path looks like brings strength, not weakness,” she said. Balice-Gordon concurred. As someone who moved from a traditional academic position to industry and now into a highly entrepreneurial space, she agreed that non-linearity and breadth amplify the kinds of science one can do and the impact of that science across all sectors of society.

Defining and Establishing New Benchmarks of Success

To change training paradigms, Allsop advocated for redefining the benchmarks of success. He said that will require thinking carefully about the legacy of white supremacy within academia and how that has defined the “quintessential scientist.” Thus, more inclusive benchmarks should reflect not only academic achievements, but also sociocultural ones. Triggering behavioral change will require rethinking the definition of success and creating a new psychological paradigm with a different view of what it means to be a scientist, including what a scientist looks like, talks like, and acts like, said Allsop.

Indeed, the definition of a successful scientist in academia has long reflected what Akil called “derivative measures of success,” such as the number of R01s and citations, which have been adopted by recruitment and promotion committees and influence the selection of speakers for prestigious meetings. These “soulless, simple-minded measures” may be indicative of something, said Akil, but should not define who scientists are or what they are doing. “It’s a reductive approach to trying to be objective, but has actually been rather toxic,” she said. Moreover, she said, scientists are supposed to accept failure because they are putting new ideas on the line and exploring novel concepts and pathways that may or may not yield the expected answers. They learn that failure is part of the pathway to success.

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1 To learn more about the Community of Scholars, see http://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/author/the-community-of-scholars (accessed January 31, 2021).

2 To learn more about Black in Neuro, see https://www.blackinneuro.com (accessed January 31, 2021).

Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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Akil added that inflexible measures of failure and success not only interfere with the willingness to take risks in science, but also may be particularly stressful to people confronting other challenges such as being from a different racial or cultural background, having young children, or having a different scientific perspective. “We’re stressing people unduly and actually competing with whatever creative energy is there for science,” she said. “It’s not just inhumane, it’s counterproductive.”

One way the current standards for success inhibit inclusion and diversity is by not valuing efforts to develop the next generation of scientists by building communities and providing effective mentorship, said Gonzales. What is needed, he said, is to value not just benchwork, citations, and papers, but also efforts to build communities and amplify marginalized communities within the field.

For example, Akil suggested that when a search committee is reviewing applicants for a position, it look beyond the number of papers and ask about other ways the candidate has contributed to science or the scientific community. Recruiting someone to join one’s lab, enter a graduate program, or join the faculty means recruiting a partner in a journey, she said. In chalk talks, interviews, and other forums, Akil said questions should be asked about the candidate’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts; their community engagement; their plans for using and deploying their scientific discoveries; and their hopes for the future.

Institutional Leadership in Changing the Training Paradigm

As moderator of the first panel, Balice-Gordon asked the panelists for their thoughts on what leaders at their institutions could do to partner with scientists at different career stages to improve training and inclusion, redefine benchmarks of success, and support cultural change.

For postdocs, Gonzales suggested changing the training paradigm to give them more breadth by incorporating standards that go beyond papers, benchwork, and the rigor of their science to include whether they can mentor and manage people.

Welle added that top-down buy-in is needed for changing metrics and standards for evaluation at all levels of career transition. These new metrics should reflect not only the type of science that the institution has committed to pursuing, but also the institution’s values. Valuing different perspectives, experiences, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and training backgrounds may enrich a lab, department, or institution, said Welle. In the promotions process, Welle advocated emphasis on mentorship; participation in DEI efforts on campus; and national leadership in promoting DEI. She said in the interview and admissions process changes are needed to ensure that recruitment efforts reach the widest talent pool.

Change is already happening, said Allsop. Having leaders who embrace change, who are actively seeking to understand the sociocultural world in which we are now living, and who are willing to create intentional structures for those changes can create the space for trainees to have a seat at the table when decisions are made.

Academia should lead meaningful societal change, not just echo it, added Akil. The pandemic and antiracism movements have shown inequities at multiple levels, yet science can unite people from different cultural, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds and serve as a context to drive true antiracism and antidiscrimination of every kind, she said.

INSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON CHANGES NEEDED IN NEUROSCIENCE TRAINING

The second panel provided institutional perspectives in the context of a difficult year on how to re-envision training, rethink measures of success, and promote inclusion and diversity and how to evolve the cultural of science. As Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of Stanford University, explained, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the events in Washington, DC, over the past year that culminated in the January 6 insurrection, “the brutal killings and heartbreaking acts of injustice have triggered a call for us to address racial justice with urgency.” Indeed, added Kelsey Martin, dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine and professor of biological chemistry and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed “in stark lighting” inequities that have long existed, both in terms of the populations that are disproportionately impacted by the virus and the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Institutional Responses to This Period of Uncertainty

Disruptions caused by COVID-19—online education, lab closures, interruptions and slowing of work, and an uncertain job market—have exacerbated the stress of trainees, said Tessier-Lavigne. Institutional leaders are grappling with the fallout from the pandemic and working to alleviate the stress on trainees through a variety of initiatives, including technological and financial assistance, he said. Although the pandemic has affected everyone, he noted that it has also revealed inequities of the system and the necessity to address the special circumstances of those in need, such as people with children and families or students whose living arrangements are not conducive to online learning.

Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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These challenges have also put into focus the difficulty of the academic path even in good times, said Tessier-Lavigne. He suggested that from this institutions can learn how to facilitate a more streamlined, supportive, and straightforward learning experience. He added that postdoctoral fellows interested in academic careers are particularly impacted by pandemic-related delays in the process of searching for faculty positions. Because of these delays, new systems are needed to support them, he said.

As the dean of a medical school, Martin said, the technologies used to enable working from home create huge opportunities. “It’s like a seismic shift or an evolutionary leap where we now see where there were a lot of things that were always difficult for many individuals, but we now have the opportunity to collectively address them straight on and explicitly,” she said.

Martin noted that the pandemic has also demonstrated the interdependence of basic science research and clinical care. For example, the COVID-19 vaccine was developed and made available to the population in record time, but only because of nearly 20 years of research on RNA vaccines and 50 years of research on coronavirus, she said, adding: “I think that there’s going to be sort of a societal reckoning of the importance of basic science research to health and clinical care.”

The potential for institutions to take advantage of crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic also extends to institutions such as NIH, said Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. NIH has recognized for many years the need to improve workforce diversity, he said. The pandemic and recent concentration on racism have brought this issue to the forefront. “The wheels are really moving” on steps to address this issue, he said, and he predicted significant changes will be coming to improve diversity and stamp out harassment.

Some of the steps that NIH is taking to help trainees in these difficult times include extending fellowships and training programs, he said. He also noted other “silver linings” of the pandemic. Trainees, for example, are greatly influenced by the behavior of their mentors, and as limits on travel have dramatically reduced travel to scientific meetings, mentors may be more available to interact on a daily basis with their trainees to keep their labs functioning, said Koroshetz. Trainees also gain knowledge and make valuable connections through virtual lectures by visiting professors, who are also limited by travel restrictions during the pandemic. Springing up in response have been remote science communities such as Neuro Zoom,3 a forum for weekly research talks from around the world. The pandemic has also raised the profile of science within the United States, which bodes well for trainees, who will have the opportunity to shape the science of the future, he said.

Cori Bargmann cited other ways in which the scientific community has responded to the pandemic. Bargmann straddles academia and philanthropy as the leader of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s science efforts while also holding the Torsten N. Wiesel Professorship at The Rockefeller University, where she heads the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior. Bargmann said that the urgency of responding to the pandemic led many scientists to pivot from what they had been working on to other projects where they could apply their expertise in ways that made a substantial and immediate impact. What this demonstrated, she said, is that institutions that ordinarily lack the flexibility to allow people to move into new areas can seize opportunities when needed. Scientists themselves benefit, she said, by bringing their ideas and expertise to a new project and working with experts in other areas to do something better than what either could have done on their own, she said.

The scientific community’s response to the widespread racial unrest following George Floyd’s murder provided other lessons, said Bargmann. At The Rockefeller University and other institutions around the country, leadership came from students and postdocs who stepped up to address how to make changes and how to open more doors to bring in more people. “They have been creative, consistent, and forceful on the issues of how Black lives matter,” she said, providing lessons to those who knew there was a problem but were not acting. Among these lessons, she said, is the need to broaden who is included in conversations about critical issues from the beginning.

Martin noted that the killing of George Floyd and other acts of police violence forced academic institutions to reexamine the structural racism in their institutions and around the United States. For example, academic institutions have largely relied on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to evaluate candidates for medical school, even though this test is known to discriminate against individuals from underprivileged backgrounds. When the pandemic forced the closure of MCAT testing centers, medical schools had to reassess how they evaluate applicants, providing new opportunities to address a long-standing problem, said Martin.

Broadening Training and Mentorship Paradigms to Be More Responsive to Emerging Challenges

The pandemic has also provided lessons about training and mentoring, including mentoring people throughout their careers, said Brose. She suggested that institutional leaders will need to embrace these lessons in order to address this challenge of training and supporting the next generation of scientists.

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3 To learn more, see https://sites.google.com/view/neurozoom/home (accessed January 28, 2021).

Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×

Tessier-Lavigne was one of several panelists who has transitioned between academia and the private sector during his career. He suggested that neuroscience training should focus not only on the craft of neuroscience but also on the wealth of opportunities available to people with neuroscience training, whether in teaching, biotechnology or the pharmaceutical industry, philanthropy, scientific publishing, law, or government. Supplementing student training with exposure to other fields could provide optionality to trainees.

Indeed, added Bargmann, a scientist does not have to be called “professor” to be an incredible contributor to the scientific enterprise. She advocated for rethinking the culture of science to recognize that not everyone needs to part of the rigid hierarchy that is omnipresent in the academic system. This hierarchy does not map with 100 percent accuracy to the scientific process, she said.

Some of the most impactful work in public health and disease research during the COVID-19 era has been conducted outside of traditional academic institutions at places like the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco, California, said Bargmann. At these institutions, leaders emerge because of their technical expertise and they move around to different projects. Technical leaders are also found at universities, she said, although they may be denied the recognition and respect they deserve. For example, the person who knows most about microscopy at a university may not be the head of any lab but the head of the microscopy facility. He or she will keep up with the field and know how to teach, innovate, and collaborate, and should be recognized and rewarded for those valuable attributes. Indeed, said Bargmann, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has instituted specific grant programs to recognize and support these scientists and technical experts, linking them together in communities of practice as a way to increase their visibility and prestige within the scientific community.

Koroshetz echoed Bargmann’s call for a broader definition of “neuroscientist” as well as a more expansive approach to training. The traditional way of training neuroscientists is completely inadequate to help solve the most intractable problems in neuroscience today, he said. For example, 5 years ago a scientist trying to understand how a circuit worked in a monkey’s brain had to stick an electrode into one or two neurons at a time, induce a behavior, and then collect and make sense of the data from each of those electrodes. Now, thanks in part to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative,4 the technology is available to record data from 1 million neurons simultaneously. Examining a single neuron’s firing is not so computationally complex; however, now scientists with sophisticated mathematical skills are needed to analyze multifaceted data and identify the underlying rules of network behavior, said Koroshetz. The BRAIN Initiative demonstrated that having the right tools is not sufficient if the scientists using those tools are not able to employ them in a rigorous manner.

Another lesson that emerged from the BRAIN Initiative is that many of the most vexing questions in neuroscience can only be answered through a team science approach, said Koroshetz. Team science has long been the dominant paradigm in clinical science, he said, and is now appreciated for its ability to develop critical basic science resources and answer basic science questions that are beyond the bandwidth of an individual lab.

Martin emphasized the broad scope of neuroscience, which comprises not just neurobiology but also psychiatry, neurology, and neurosurgery, as well as learnings from social scientists who study human behavior. Indeed, she said, some of the major contributors to psychiatric disease have roots in the socioeconomic environment and traumatic experiences, which probably link to biology. Understanding the brain and behavior requires learning the craft of neuroscience, integrating all of these disciplines, and knitting together the molecular and cell biology with social structures and clinical observations, she said.

Changing Measures, Assessments, Rewards, and Incentives

Rewards and incentives in science are often somewhat intangible, according to Bargmann. Scientists may be motivated by discovery, impact, respect, and autonomy to different degrees. The tools that institutions use to deliver these personal incentives are jobs, funding, and the creation of environments in which people can be successful, she said.

While the classic mechanism for recognizing a scientist’s contributions has long been the number of papers published as the first or last author, Bargmann noted that some of the most valuable contributions are resources that are shared with others, including software, tools, models, and datasets. In the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s philanthropy, she said, these shared resources are considered evidence of productivity. She cited the Human Genome Project5 as being a particularly good example of a collaboration where recognition is given to large numbers of individuals who contribute in different ways to a particular project.

Tessier-Lavigne said that while he thinks using scholarly articles as the primary measure of individual productivity will continue for the foreseeable future, there has been a gradual evolution to identify other measures that

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4 For more information, see https://www.braininitiative.org (accessed February 9, 2021).

5 For more information, see https://www.genome.gov/human-genome-project (accessed February 9, 2021).

Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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recognize scientific contributions more broadly. For example, large team science projects such as the Human Genome Project and the BRAIN Initiative have begun to adopt new ways of assessing and recognizing the contributions of individuals to group efforts.

Tessier-Lavigne identified two other groups of scientists who may not get the appropriate recognition for their contributions because of the type of research: (1) scientists engaged in interdisciplinary work, and (2) basic scientists who recognize a potential application to a disease and pivot to developing a possible therapeutic or diagnostic rather than a publication in a scientific journal. Tessier-Lavigne noted that interdisciplinary approaches are highly valued in the neurosciences, yet while Stanford University and other institutions have pushed hard to break down siloes between disciplines by creating interdisciplinary institutes and programs, changing the culture of individual departments to function effectively across disciplines has been a slow process. Those pursuing applications of their research may benefit if this pursuit leads to a patentable invention and institutions may have mechanisms to encourage and reward their efforts. Because NIH is committed to encouraging discoveries that reduce the burden of nervous system disorders, mechanisms are needed to reward scientists taking that extra step, said Tessier-Lavigne.

At NIH and other granting agencies, the levers used to reward scientists include different types of grant mechanisms, said Koroshetz. For example, NIH established a new grant mechanism that is restricted to individuals who have never had an R01 and are working in a new area. No preliminary data are allowed for this application. The idea, he said, is to give young people the opportunity to try something brand new. NIH has also established pioneer awards that support exceptional scientists with innovative new projects and new investigator awards to reward exceptional and creative scientists early in their careers. Even for well-established research programs, NIH has worked to ensure that early-career scientists are given leadership opportunities, said Koroshetz. For example, in the Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research, applications must include new projects run by early-career scientists who bring diverse perspectives to the research effort.

Getting Top-Down Buy-In to Change How Neuroscientists Are Trained, Mentored, and Rewarded

The field is changing, and as Bargmann noted earlier, the impetus for change is coming from the bottom up, yet a sense of urgency and buy-in from leaders of institutions will be needed to move from the traditional mechanisms of training, mentorship, and rewarding progress, said Brose.

Martin agreed with Tessier-Lavigne that change within an institution typically evolves slowly, but suggested that the pressures on universities and medical schools resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences have forced reexamination within those institutions. For example, she said, leaders at her institution are working with the community to develop an antiracism roadmap for redesigning the medical school curriculum. They will look at racism within the institution from the perspective of graduate students’ and postdocs’ experiences in their labs, staff and faculty recruitment experiences, and the composition of search committees, among other issues. Martin characterized this approach of incorporating diverse perspectives across the community as “a new and different way of making collective decisions [that is different from the] norm in many academic institutions and medical schools.”

Brose suggested that because philanthropy is not constrained by the structures in academia, it might be able to seize the moment to make rapid changes around systemic racism and other issues to accelerate the future of science. Bargmann agreed, noting that unlike NIH and large universities, philanthropic organizations can try new things that would be irresponsible to do with taxpayers’ money. For example, they can try out new ways of funding or supporting an institution or different approaches to collaboration that include non-traditional partners such as community organizers and patient groups. If these experiments are successful, said Bargmann, they can create examples for others to build on, essentially de-risking efforts to alter traditional approaches.

Ensuring the Long-Term Health of Science and Technology in the Nation

As the COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest have highlighted the place of science in society, society has also influenced science, said Brose. Redefining the field of neuroscience includes embracing other realms of expertise, she said.

Brose closed the workshop by asking panelists to consider one of the five questions posed by President Joseph Biden (who would be sworn in the day after the workshop) to the incoming lead science advisor, Eric Lander. He asked what can be done to ensure the long-term health of science and technology in the nation.

The future depends on young people, said Koroshetz. Yet, he maintained that not nearly enough is done to “hook” young people on science, particularly neuroscience. More efforts are needed to enable young people to see how fulfilling a career in science can be, he said. Tessier-Lavigne agreed, envisioning a three-pronged approach to achieving this goal: (1) making science training accessible, inclusive, and exciting; (2) helping young scientists understand the many ways in which they can apply their scientific expertise to benefit society; and (3) supporting them as they launch their careers.

Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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Martin advocated for better articulating the long-term value of science to the nation. Bargmann added that science will only be as good as the scientists are. “To the extent that we have a vital, supported, critical, curious, interactive, and diverse scientific community, we will generate great science, especially in neuroscience,” she said. ◆◆◆

REFERENCE

Community of Scholars. 2020. 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America. http://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/1000-inspiring-black-scientists-in-america (accessed February 9, 2021).


DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Lisa Bain, Sheena M. Posey Norris, and Clare Stroud as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The statements made are those of the rapporteurs or individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants; the planning committee; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Huda Akil, University of Michigan, and AZA Stephen Allsop, Yale University. Leslie Sim, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, served as the review coordinator.

SPONSORS: This workshop was partially supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and the Alzheimer’s Association; Cohen Veterans Bioscience; Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (1R13FD005362-06) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) (75N98019F00469 [Under Master Base HHSN263201800029I]) through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Eye Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, and NIH BRAIN Initiative; Department of Veterans Affairs (36C24E20C0009); Eisai Inc.; Eli Lilly and Company; Foundation for the National Institutes of Health; Gatsby Charitable Foundation; Janssen Research & Development, LLC; Lundbeck Research USA; Merck Research Laboratories; The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research; National Multiple Sclerosis Society; National Science Foundation (DBI-1839674); One Mind; Sanofi; Society for Neuroscience; Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.; and Wellcome Trust. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

For additional information regarding the workshop, visit https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/01-19-2021/neuroscience-training-in-challenging-times-a-virtual-workshop.

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience training in challenging times: An opportunity to address long-standing problems and move forward: Proceedings of a workshop—in brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26120.

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Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
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Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26120.
×
Page 8
Neuroscience Training in Challenging Times: An Opportunity to Address Long-Standing Problems and Move Forward: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief Get This Book
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The global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in laboratory closings, class disruptions, and hiring freezes. Combined with challenges experienced by the entire population, these situations have brought to light systemic institutional challenges faced by neuroscience trainees. At the same time, there has been a collective awakening around issues related to race, diversity, and inclusion. To explore these issues in more depth, consider changes needed across the ecosystem, and spark continuing discussion, a virtual workshop held on January 19, 2021. This workshop was the second in a series originating from the Action Collaborative on Neuroscience Training: Developing a Nimble and Versatile Workforce, an initiative of the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The workshop series aims to illuminate critical issues and catalyze a reconsideration of how neuroscience training could be designed to meet current and future workforce needs across multiple sectors. This publication highlights the presentations of the workshop.

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