In an October 13 op-ed appearing in Scientific American, Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, calls on the scientific community to develop ways to embrace and encourage younger scientists.
Stanley’s article highlights current obstacles to career development for young researchers, especially women, and urges new funding strategies to encourage early hands-on research.
By way of example, Stanley cites the situation of his daughter, an MD/PhD student at Johns Hopkins University who will be 30 by the time she graduates with both degrees. Yet, according to data from the National Institutes of Health, she could have another 13 years to go before she becomes competitive for the most common and substantial NIH grants.
“Prolonged training greatly shortens the independent careers of new researchers, and puts tremendous pressure on new faculty to be productive during the years when they are most likely to have the most extensive family demands,” Stanley writes.
“We need to find a way to fund these investigators earlier in their careers, when they are most innovative and productive.”
Stanley also highlights the continuing problem of gender inequality in research funding. Studies show that scientists will score an identical application higher when it comes from “John” than when it comes from “Jennifer.”
“It is critically important that we scientists either do a better job educating ourselves about our inherent biases and their impact on our decision-making or find effective ways to blind reviewers to irrelevant data, like the gender, race or ethnicity of the applicant,” Stanley writes.