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NIH ACD’s Working Group Releases Report on the Biomedical Research Workforce

June 15, 2012—The Biomedical Workforce Working Group June 14 presented a draft report to the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD).  The report summarizes the workforce data collected and analyzed, and presents recommendations on how to attract, prepare, and retain the best and diverse scientific workforce, and to how better prepare biomedical Ph.D. students and postdoctoral trainees. The working group is chaired by Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D., president, Princeton University, and Sally J. Rockey, Ph.D., deputy director for extramural research, NIH.

The working group acknowledges the importance of K-12 and undergraduate education to the success of the future biomedical research workforce, but confines its recommendations to graduate and postdoctoral training.

The report recommends that NIH increase the proportion of postdoctoral researchers supported by training grants and fellowships and reduce the number supported by research project grants.

The report notes a decline in biomedical Ph.D.s in tenured or tenure-track faculty positions, and suggests modifying training programs to include diverse types of training and career development experiences to prepare students for various career options outside the academic research career track. In her presentation to the committee, Dr. Tilghman pointed out a widening of the gap between the dates of first academic position and the first NIH RO1 award, and urged institutions to contribute and support early scientists.

Among other suggestions, the working group recommends to better track trainees’ career outcomes, to increase the minimal stipend for postdoctoral researchers, to cap the number of years a graduate student can be supported by NIH funding, and encourages NIH study sections to be receptive to grant applications that include staff scientists.

The working group recognizes prior, similar work by other groups that studied the biomedical research workforce and the fact that the implementation of recommendations was limited by funding constraints and some resistance from the scientific community. Therefore, the working group urges NIH to provide the funds necessary to implement these recommendations and encourages support and collaboration from the community.

The group strongly believes that implementing the recommendations will increase the attractiveness of the biomedical research career and will draw and sustain more underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities and women in the pipeline.


Irena Tartakovsky, M.D.
Director, Constituent Engagement
Telephone: 202-862-6134


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