Career outcome numbers in biomedical sciences

Again from Paula Stephan’s How Economics Shapes Science, p. 179-180:

The evidence that problems exist is perhaps even more striking when one studies the over 400 National Institute of General Medical Sciences NIH Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) fellows awarded during 1992-1994. Kirschtein fellows are supposedly the very best, selected for their research promise. This particular group of Kirschstein fellows also had the good fortune of launching their careers when the NIH budget was doubling.

What happened to their careers? By 2010, slightly more than a quarter of the former Kirschstein fellows had tenure at a university; 30 percent were working in industry. What about the others? A handful (about 6 percent) were working at a college; 4 percent were research group leaders at institutes. Another 20 percent were working as a researcher in someone else’s lab and a startling 14 percent could either not be located after extensive Google searches or had not published a paper since 1999. This was not exactly what one would expect from “the best” who came of professional age during the doubling of the NIH budget. If times were tough for them, times will be much tougher for those who have graduated since or will graduate in the near future.

That’s remarkable – there are more former fellows who are working as staff scientists in someone else’s lab or who seem to have left science (34% total) than have taken tenure track jobs (~25%), or than have taken jobs in industry (~30%).

Keep in mind that today, a Kirschstein fellowship or some other private fellowship is absolutely a minimum requirement for a faculty position these days.

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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