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Can we teach Belshazzar to read? (TRR-VIII)
or, How can we create a sustainable workforce?
My most recent post (1) summed up the case for nine proposals (see Table) designed to re-fashion a sustainable biomedical research workforce in the US. Today’s essay, the last focused on
the Tilghman-Rockey report (TRR; 2), will try to answer the hardest question of all: if these proposals will prove more effective than the TRR’s feckless recommendations, as I argue, how can we make sure the proposals are implemented? I’ll begin with principles to guide this implementation. We should:
- Create a system able to harness the energy of its strongest elements and to adapt nimbly to change.
- Make the transition to the new system deliberate and decisive, but also gradual and measured.
- Recognize that the most essential elements of this transition—and the hardest to implement—require cooperation of multiple stakeholders in biomedical research.
The two right-hand columns of the Table summarize my guesses with respect to the difficulty of implementing each of the nine proposals (and their sub-proposals), along with the stakeholders who care the most about each. Relevant stakeholders will not vehemently oppose proposals that reinforce current policy: e.g., PhD training should focus primarily on research (proposal 2a); postdocs should be defined as working scientists (proposal 5); and institutions determine the course of training for students after award of a Master of Science (MS) degree. Instead, I shall concentrate on three proposals that will be hardest to implement—those that score 3+ or 4+ in the (for the rest of this post, click here)
This is the last post in a series that critiques the NIH-sponsored Tilghman-Rockey report (TRR), which recommended ways to improve the lot of the US biomedical research workforce. While workforce problems are dire, the report’s recommendations are seriously flawed. Earlier BiomedWatch posts describe positive feedback loops that trigger rampant expansionism of research capacity in universities and unrelenting expansion of graduate and postdoctoral training. The two expansions even stimulate one another. See Why ignore those icebergs? (I) and II. Both posts extend the metaphor and arguments of an editorial in Science: Henry R. Bourne and Mark O. Lively, Iceberg Alert for NIH, Science Express 3 July 2012 (pdf here). This editorial appeared in Science on July 27, 2012.
Also, look at two articles on the “sequester” of federal largesse, scheduled for January 2013: an op-ed piece in Politico, focusing on consequences for biology; a piece in the Boston Globe about the many disasters the sequester will trigger throughout the country.
In addition . . .
Sally Rockey’s “Rock Talk” blog on the NIH Extramural Nexus.
Biomedical Research Workforce, Final Report
Science Insider: Breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy
Science Careers Blog: Beryl Benderly