The National Academies released a report titled Supporting the Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers last month. This report provides recommendations for research institutions and the federal government to implement with the goal of better supporting those who are pursuing careers in biological and social sciences.
Included in the 18 recommendations are suggestions that urge Congress to create a Biomedical Research Enterprise Council, increase the budget of the National Institutes of Health with set-asides to support the report’s recommendations, and expand professional-development opportunities for young scientists.
Additionally, the report urges all stakeholders to remove recruitment and retention barriers to increase diversity in biomedical research, develop better methods to track and analyze people throughout the pipeline, limit postdoc tenures, and develop new policies and funding mechanisms to better support the next generation of researchers.
Read the full report here.
While the National Academies’ report highlights many of the structural problems that exist and offers recommendations for how to fix them, the list of suggested policies and cultural changes is not novel. Stakeholders, including the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, have been addressing the biomedical research enterprise’s sustainability issues for some time.
In 2012, the ASBMB launched its Sustainable Biomedical Research Enterprise initiative. Through this initiative, the ASBMB’s public affairs staff and Public Affairs Advisory Committee held a symposium and published a white paper, ASBMB Today articles and a journal article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which presented a set of eight recommendations that arose from the society’s activities in this space. Many of the recommendations that have been developed by the National Academies echo ASBMB’s recommendations.
It is encouraging to see that among the recommendations presented in the National Academies report is an emphasis on the staff scientist position. In 2016, the ASBMB urged the National Academies to conduct an analysis of new laboratory staffing models highlighting the role of the staff scientist position. Moreover, the ASBMB published a paper in the journal eLife about the inequities of the postdoctoral fellow experience, which the National Academies report also addresses.
The report’s lack of regulatory teeth means that the document is largely symbolic. The real weight of the report will be assessed if and when Congress, federal agencies and institutions begin to implement the laundry list of suggestions.
The ASBMB will continue to operate in this space and monitor the responses of the stakeholders involved.