Goal 4: Develop Workforce and Resources

Challenges in attracting students to research careers

What are the best methods for NHLBI to contribute to reforms that make careers more attractive to people from disadvantaged backgrounds?

Tags (Keywords associated with the idea)

Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

It would potentially increase the diversity of the biomedical research workforce.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Yes, it is feasible, but systemic reform is always challenging.

Pursuing a biomedical research career often involves 5–8 years of graduate education earning very low income (and suffering high opportunity costs), post-doc positions that pay less than some entry-level jobs with an undergraduate degree, and significant career uncertainty (as revealed by the work of Michael Teitelbaum (http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10208.html) and other scholars who have studied the scientific workforce). An undergraduate degree holder contemplating alternative options, such as simply taking a job or pursuing an MBA or a clinical career (MD, PA, physical therapist, etc.), would likely recognize that obtaining a PhD in biomedical science, compared to these alternative options, involves significantly lower lifetime earnings (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK36349/), more deferment of adult milestones, and less career stability. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds may be especially wary of careers that present continued financial struggle and uncertainty. Proposals to modestly increase post-doc pay (from its current $42,000) and to favor training grants over research grants (http://www.pnas.org/content/111/16/5773.full.pdf+html) seem unlikely to change the financial calculus: that pursuing these careers is often a bad financial deal.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : NHLBI Staff

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Idea No. 75