The most important resource for the successful future of biomedical research is not buildings, instruments, or new technologies – it’s the scientists doing the work. But by now, it’s no longer news that biomedical researchers are stressed – stressed by a hypercompetitive environment that’s particularly destructive for early- and mid-career investigators. But those are the researchers who, if we don’t lose them, will comprise the next generationof leaders and visionaries. Almost 10 years ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took steps to improve funding opportunities for “early stage investigators”, those who were 10 years or less from their terminal research degree or clinical training. Those steps helped, but many stakeholders have concluded that more is needed. Stakeholders include members of Congress, who included a “Next Generation Researchers’ Initiative” (NGRI) in the 2016 21st Century Cures Act. This act asked NIH to support a comprehensive study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) on policies affecting the next generation of researchers and to take into consideration the recommendations made in their report. The National Academy began their study in early 2017 and completed it in April 2018. The NIH has initiated steps to fund more early stage investigators to improve opportunities for stable funding among investigators who, while funded, were still beset by unstable prospects. The NIH also convened a special Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group, focused on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) with members included from all career stages – from a graduate student through senior faculty.
The flexibility, nimbleness, and willingness to collaborate demonstrated by the philanthropic sector over the past year in response to a rapidly changing policy environment could serve as a model for the sector going forward, a report from theTCC Groupfinds.
Based on interviews with nearly thirty leaders of philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs), the report, (Un)precedented: Philanthropy Takes Action in the First Year of a New Political Reality, found that in the first year of the Trump administration, PSOs and funder collaboratives were called on to keep funders well informed of policy changes. To that end, PSOs have played a critical role in enabling funder learning, dialogue, and action, and have helped accelerate important funder conversations in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion; the need to think beyond issue silos; and the foundational benefits of creating space for dialogue across political and ideological divides through nonpartisan civic engagement.
Almost 11 years ago, Stefan Duchy, Benjamin Jones, and Brian
Uzzi (all of Northwestern University) published an article in Science on "The Increasing Dominance of Team in Production of Knowledge."They analyzed nearly 20 million papers published over 5 decades and 2.1 million
patents and found that across all fields the number of authors per paper (or
patent) steadily increased, that teams were coming to dominate individual
efforts, and that teams produced more highly cited research.
In a Science review paper published a few weeks ago, Santo Fortunato and colleagues offered
an overview of the "Science of Science." One of their
key messages was that “Research is shifting to teams, so engaging in
collaboration is beneficial.”
Beaten down by technological change and economic pressures, the long-held notion of scientific peer review is losing its status as the"gold standard"measure of scholarly reliability. The problem facing universities in 2018, however, isn’t so much that peer review has inevitably evolved, but that scientists collectively have failed to respond with a better replacement.
We recently released our annual web reports, success rates and NIH Data Bookwith updated numbers for fiscal year 2017. Looking at data across both competing and non-competing awards, NIH supports approximately 2,500 organizations. In 2017 about 640 of these organizations received funding for competing Research Project Grants (RPGs) which involved over 11,000 principal investigators.
Over the next four years, the foundation's new Gender Equalitystrategy will focus on connecting women to market opportunities, ensuring that they have access to financial services, and supporting peer groups that build women's collective knowledge, economic power, and voice. Economic power is one of the most promising entry points for gender equality, Gates Foundation co-chairMelinda Gatesargues in aposton Quartz. In the post, Gates notes that while fully a third of married women in the poorest countries have no control over household finances, those who do are far more likely than men to spend money on nutritious food, health care, and education; and that when women gain access to a bank account, they work outside the home more, which not only increases their income but changes men's perception of them.
The upsides of research ties between companies and universities are legendary. Silicon Valley, Route 128, Research Triangle, and their numerous superstar companies with academic roots are leading examples. Annual benefits are now measured in the billions of dollars, thousands of patents, and hundreds of start-up companies.
But corporate bias is a known risk to scientific integrity. And as universities find themselves increasingly enticed by governmental budget cuts to court industry dollars, their eagerness for private-sector partners appears to be outpacing their willingness to set firm rules on ethical boundaries and to investigate when things go wrong.