myPostdoc Monthly: Redefining Research Independence for Postdocs
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Academic research is typically managed through group leaders or principal investigators overseeing independent research programs. However, training and experience for early career researchers (ECRs) to become independent in preparation for running a research program must compete with the de facto requirement for many ECRs to fulfill the aims of someone else’s grant as staff rather than as trainees.

7/1/2020
When: Wednesday, July 1, 2020
1:00 p.m. E.T.
Where: Webinar
United States
Contact: NPA staff
301-984-4800


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Academic research is typically managed through group leaders or principal investigators overseeing independent research programs. However, training and experience for early career researchers (ECRs) to become independent in preparation for running a research program must compete with the de facto requirement for many ECRs to fulfill the aims of someone else’s grant as staff rather than as trainees. Dependence on their supervisor’s funding can hinder the ability of ECRs to plot their own research course. Future of Research (FoR) conducted workshops at both public and private universities in the United States and Japan, aimed at better understanding the barriers faced by ECRs in achieving research independence, and proposing solutions for a variety of stakeholders. This work was recently published in a preprint (Training transitions: From research dependence to independence), and serves as a primer for participants ahead of the webinar. During the webinar, we will highlight major findings from these workshops, and solicit input from the audience, in order to discuss how (and whether) to train ECRs for research independence.

Adriana Bankston, Ph.D., is a principal legislative analyst in the University of California (UC) Office of Federal Governmental Relations, where she serves as an advocate for UC with Congress, the Administration, and federal agencies. Prior to this position, she was a policy & advocacy fellow at The Society for Neuroscience (SfN), where she provided staff support for special and ongoing projects, including SfN’s annual lobby event and the society’s annual meeting. In addition to working at UC, she also serves as vice-president of FoR, and is chief outreach officer at the Journal of Science Policy and Governance (JSPG). Bankston obtained her doctoral degree in biochemistry, cell and developmental biology from Emory University and a bachelor’s in biological sciences from Clemson University.

Gary McDowell, Ph.D., is the CEO and founder of Lightoller LLC, a consultancy providing expertise on early career researchers. He has a doctoral degree in oncology from the University of Cambridge, UK, and carried out research as a postdoc at Boston Children’s Hospital and then Tufts University before co-founding and serving as the executive director of the nonprofit, FoR. He became involved with FoR during the early days of the Boston postdoctoral association, was co-lead organizer with Sarah Mazzilli for the 2015 Boston symposium, co-chaired a workshop at the FOBGAPT meeting in Michigan, and a subgroup at an ASBMB-led national summit to identify action items to implement consensus recommendations identified by the biomedical research community, and drove efforts to better categorize postdoctoral researchers at universities. In 2017, he was corresponding author on the comment piece in Nature, “The New Face of U.S. Science,” and the corresponding working paper, the result of a collaboration with labor economists at the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2017 he was appointed to the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, a Congressionally-mandated committee convened by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine which will examine the policy and programmatic steps that the nation can undertake to ensure the successful launch and sustainability of careers among the next generation of researchers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences in the United States. The report was published in April 2018. McDowell currently sits on the steering committee of Rescuing Biomedical Research.

Harinder Singh, Ph.D., is the program director of the University of California Irvine’s Graduate Professional Success in STEM program (GPS-STEM). Harinder obtained his doctoral degree in cardiovascular biology from Temple University School of Medicine followed by postdoctoral training in neurosciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Harinder has been actively involved in career development & science advocacy to support junior researchers. He was part of the Chicago-based scientist organization, CHIentist, helping to bring scientists together to network and provide a sense of community amongst them. Harinder also serves on the executive board of FoR.

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