Bethesda, MD - The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) strongly supports the effort to "improve the quality of the training experience for graduate students and postdoctoral scientists and prepare trainees for success in a broad range of science-related careers," said FASEB President Judith S. Bond, PhD. Writing in a letter to the co-chairs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group, Bond expressed support for many of the recommendations in the working group's recent report. FASEB agreed that NIH should limit the length of time students can be supported by the agency, encourage the provision of improved career and professional development resources, and increase postdoctoral stipends and benefits. The working group's "thoughtful recommendations deserve careful consideration," said Bond.
The Federation also expressed concern about some of the proposals and the feasibility of implementing them in the current fiscal climate. Noting that NIH has been flat-funded for many years, Bond stated that providing funds for new training activities would either have to come at the expense of funding for existing programs, or NIH would have to reduce the number of trainees it supports. "Both of these options would have negative repercussions for the research enterprise," she said. "We urge NIH to consider carefully how to integrate any new training activities into its existing programs."
In addition, FASEB is concerned about supporting more trainees on training grants. Shifting funds from research grants to training grants could have a negative impact on research productivity and innovation. It could also make it difficult for exceptional investigators at specialized institutions to recruit trainees. FASEB recommended that NIH implement policy changes that would encourage institutions to provide the same quality of training to students and postdocs regardless of the source of their funding, thereby mitigating the need for a shift from one source of support to another.
In a separate letter, the Federation hailed many of the recommendations made by the NIH ACD Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce. "The research community must develop a better understanding of the reasons that certain groups are underrepresented in the pursuit of careers in biomedical research in order to implement effective interventions for remediating these serious problems," said Bond.
FASEB is composed of 26 societies with more than 100,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Celebrating 100 Years of Advancing the Life Sciences in 2012, FASEB is rededicating its efforts to advance health and well-being by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.