Where do all of the scientists go?

The Biomedical Research Workforce Report laid out recommendations for the NIH last year on creating a diverse and sustainable scientific workforce. A new website was published on August 30th providing updates on the initiatives distributed into seven sections with the ultimate goal of achieving changes by 2015. One section aims to track scientists throughout their careers.

In response to the report, the NIH is going to require all individuals listed on a grant to have an eRA Commons ID. This includes post-docs, graduate students and undergraduate students working on the study for at least one month. In addition, the NIH addressed tracking academic workers for the long haul. The first system is the Science Experts Network (SciENcv), which permits researchers to upload data to generate a CV and biosketch amenable for federal agencies. Similarly, another organization, Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID), is providing a service to create an account on their system, which will keep track of research output with a bank of IDs. These two systems will be linked to one another to easily identify researchers, their grant funding and their publications.

The overarching theme here is that one would have a unique ID where all research accomplishments can be easily found, which begs the question of what happens to the scientists that leave academia and how can we keep track of successfully trained scientists as they venture into non-academic professions? Taking advantage of these systems to follow each individual throughout their career, academic or not, will ultimately shed light on areas where trained scientists are needed and where opportunities lie for young researchers. However, while this also leads to concerns of privacy and consent, it appears that all participation in SciENcv and ORCID is voluntary for the time being. Ultimately, this raises a double-edged sword of wanting to track the successes of trained scientists for future studies but also having to respect each individual’s right to their personal information.

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