Concept: Graduate school
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget expansion from 1998 through 2003 increased demand for biomedical research, raising relative wages and total employment in the market for biomedical scientists. However, because research doctorates in biomedical sciences can often take six years or more to complete, the full labor supply response to such changes in market conditions is not immediate, but rather is observed over a period of several years. Economic rational expectations models assume that prospective students anticipate these future changes, and also that students take into account the opportunity costs of their pursuing graduate training. Prior empirical research on student enrollment and degree completions in science and engineering (S&E) fields indicates that “cobweb” expectations prevail: that is, at least in theory, prospective graduate students respond to contemporaneous changes in market wages and employment, but do not forecast further changes that will arise by the time they complete their degrees and enter the labor market. In this article, we analyze time-series data on wages and employment of biomedical scientists versus alternative careers, on completions of S&E bachelor’s degrees and biomedical sciences PhDs, and on research expenditures funded both by NIH and by biopharmaceutical firms, to examine the responsiveness of the biomedical sciences labor supply to changes in market conditions. Consistent with previous studies, we find that enrollments and completions in biomedical sciences PhD programs are responsive to market conditions at the time of students' enrollment. More striking, however, is the close correspondence between graduate student enrollments and completions, and changes in availability of NIH-funded traineeships, fellowships, and research assistantships.
Many US biomedical PhD programs receive more applications for admissions than they can accept each year, necessitating a selective admissions process. Typical selection criteria include standardized test scores, undergraduate grade point average, letters of recommendation, a resume and/or personal statement highlighting relevant research or professional experience, and feedback from interviews with training faculty. Admissions decisions are often founded on assumptions that these application components correlate with research success in graduate school, but these assumptions have not been rigorously tested. We sought to determine if any application components were predictive of student productivity measured by first-author student publications and time to degree completion. We collected productivity metrics for graduate students who entered the umbrella first-year biomedical PhD program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2008-2010 and analyzed components of their admissions applications. We found no correlations of test scores, grades, amount of previous research experience, or faculty interview ratings with high or low productivity among those applicants who were admitted and chose to matriculate at UNC. In contrast, ratings from recommendation letter writers were significantly stronger for students who published multiple first-author papers in graduate school than for those who published no first-author papers during the same timeframe. We conclude that the most commonly used standardized test (the general GRE) is a particularly ineffective predictive tool, but that qualitative assessments by previous mentors are more likely to identify students who will succeed in biomedical graduate research. Based on these results, we conclude that admissions committees should avoid over-reliance on any single component of the application and de-emphasize metrics that are minimally predictive of student productivity. We recommend continual tracking of desired training outcomes combined with retrospective analysis of admissions practices to guide both application requirements and holistic application review.
Historically, admissions committees for biomedical Ph.D. programs have heavily weighed GRE scores when considering applications for admission. The predictive validity of GRE scores on graduate student success is unclear, and there have been no recent investigations specifically on the relationship between general GRE scores and graduate student success in biomedical research. Data from Vanderbilt University Medical School’s biomedical umbrella program were used to test to what extent GRE scores can predict outcomes in graduate school training when controlling for other admissions information. Overall, the GRE did not prove useful in predicating who will graduate with a Ph.D., pass the qualifying exam, have a shorter time to defense, deliver more conference presentations, publish more first author papers, or obtain an individual grant or fellowship. GRE scores were found to be moderate predictors of first semester grades, and weak to moderate predictors of graduate GPA and some elements of a faculty evaluation. These findings suggest admissions committees of biomedical doctoral programs should consider minimizing their reliance on GRE scores to predict the important measures of progress in the program and student productivity.
We examine gender differences among the six PhD student cohorts 2004-2009 at the California Institute of Technology using a new dataset that includes information on trainees and their advisors and enables us to construct detailed measures of teams at the advisor level. We focus on the relationship between graduate student publications and: (1) their gender; (2) the gender of the advisor, (3) the gender pairing between the advisor and the student and (4) the gender composition of the team. We find that female graduate students co-author on average 8.5% fewer papers than men; that students writing with female advisors publish 7.7% more. Of particular note is that gender pairing matters: male students working with female advisors publish 10.0% more than male students working with male advisors; women students working with male advisors publish 8.5% less. There is no difference between the publishing patterns of male students working with male advisors and female students working with female advisors. The results persist and are magnified when we focus on the quality of the published articles, as measured by average Impact Factor, instead of number of articles. We find no evidence that the number of publications relates to the gender composition of the team. Although the gender effects are reasonably modest, past research on processes of positive feedback and cumulative advantage suggest that the difference will grow, not shrink, over the careers of these recent cohorts.
There is a growing realization that graduate education in the biomedical sciences is successful at teaching students how to conduct research but falls short in preparing them for a diverse job market, communicating with the public, and remaining versatile scientists throughout their careers. Major problems with graduate level education today include overspecialization in a narrow area of science without a proper grounding in essential critical thinking skills. Shortcomings in education may also contribute to some of the problems of the biomedical sciences, such as poor reproducibility, shoddy literature, and the rise in retracted publications. The challenge is to modify graduate programs such that they continue to generate individuals capable of conducting deep research while at the same time producing more broadly trained scientists without lengthening the time to a degree. Here we describe our first experiences at Johns Hopkins and propose a manifesto for reforming graduate science education.
This article describes efforts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 2013 to 2016 to train a national workforce in biomedical data science. We provide an analysis of the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) training program strengths and weaknesses with an eye toward future directions aimed at any funder and potential funding recipient worldwide. The focus is on extramurally funded programs that have a national or international impact rather than the training of NIH staff, which was addressed by the NIH’s internal Data Science Workforce Development Center. From its inception, the major goal of BD2K was to narrow the gap between needed and existing biomedical data science skills. As biomedical research increasingly relies on computational, mathematical, and statistical thinking, supporting the training and education of the workforce of tomorrow requires new emphases on analytical skills. From 2013 to 2016, BD2K jump-started training in this area for all levels, from graduate students to senior researchers.
- Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology
- Published over 7 years ago
Graduate education programs in conservation science generally focus on disciplinary training and discipline-specific research skills. However, nonacademic conservation professionals often require an additional suite of skills. This discrepancy between academic training and professional needs can make it difficult for graduate students to identify the skills and experiences that will best prepare them for the conservation job market. We analyzed job advertisements for conservation-science positions and interviewed conservation professionals with experience hiring early-career conservation scientists to determine what skills employers of conservation professionals seek; whether the relative importance of skills varies by job sector (government, nonprofit, and private); and how graduate students interested in careers in conservation science might signal competency in key skills to potential employers. In job advertisements, disciplinary, interpersonal, and project-management skills were in the top 5 skills mentioned across all job sectors. Employers' needs for additional skills, like program leadership, conflict resolution and negotiation, and technical and information technology skills, varied across sectors. Our interview results demonstrated that some skills are best signaled to employers via experiences obtained outside thesis or dissertation work. Our findings suggest that graduate students who wish to be competitive in the conservation job market can benefit by gaining skills identified as important to the job sector in which they hope to work and should not necessarily expect to be competent in these skills simply by completing their chosen degree path. Guía para el Estudiante de Grado de las Habilidades Necesarias para Carreras de Conservación Académicas.
My winding path toward a career in science was awkward, like an adolescent finding an identity. It did not follow a classic course; it had many interruptions, complications, and challenges. It also involved a bit of luck and extremely supportive colleagues, mentors, and family, including my husband, children, and in-laws. I was inspired to tell my story here because I met a young woman interviewing in 2018 for graduate school who is growing up with the same complicated family expectations, social challenges, love for science, and desire to be a scientist as I had four decades ago. Her future is uncertain, because her chosen academic path is not encouraged by those around her. We, as a society, must find ways to encourage, promote, enable, and give strength to those who want to follow their dreams despite facing many challenges in their lives. Here are some things I learned on my career path that I hope might be helpful for others.
Research misconduct has become an important matter of concern in the scientific community. The extent to which such behavior occurs early in science education has received little attention. In the current study, using the web-based data collection program REDCap, we obtained responses to an anonymous and voluntary survey about science fair from 65 high school students who recently competed in the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair and from 237 STEM-track, post-high school students (undergraduates, 1st year medical students, and 1st year biomedical graduate students) doing research at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Of the post-high school students, 24% had competed in science fair during their high school education. Science fair experience was similar overall for the local cohort of Dallas regional students and the more diverse state/national cohort of post-high school students. Only one student out of 122 reported research misconduct, in his case making up the data. Unexpectedly, post-high school students who did not participate in science fair anticipated that carrying out science fair would be much more difficult than actually was the case, and 22% of the post-high school students anticipated that science fair participants would resort to research misconduct to overcome obstacles. No gender-based differences between students' science fair experiences or expectations were evident.
- Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology
- Published about 6 years ago
Development of skills in science communication is a well-acknowledged gap in graduate training, but the constraints that accompany research (limited time, resources, and knowledge of opportunities) make it challenging to acquire these proficiencies. Furthermore, advisors and institutions may find it difficult to support graduate students adequately in these efforts. The result is fewer career and societal benefits because students have not learned to communicate research effectively beyond their scientific peers. To help overcome these hurdles, we developed a practical approach to incorporating broad science communication into any graduate-school time line. The approach consists of a portfolio approach that organizes outreach activities along a time line of planned graduate studies. To help design the portfolio, we mapped available science communication tools according to 5 core skills essential to most scientific careers: writing, public speaking, leadership, project management, and teaching. This helps graduate students consider the diversity of communication tools based on their desired skills, time constraints, barriers to entry, target audiences, and personal and societal communication goals. By designing a portfolio with an advisor’s input, guidance, and approval, graduate students can gauge how much outreach is appropriate given their other commitments to teaching, research, and classes. The student benefits from the advisors' experience and mentorship, promotes the group’s research, and establishes a track record of engagement. When graduate student participation in science communication is discussed, it is often recommended that institutions offer or require more training in communication, project management, and leadership. We suggest that graduate students can also adopt a do-it-yourself approach that includes determining students' own outreach objectives and time constraints and communicating these with their advisor. By doing so we hope students will help create a new culture of science communication in graduate student education. Estrategias Prácticas para la Comunicación Científica para Estudiantes de Posgrado.