publication date: May. 2, 2014


On Biomedical Malthusianism 
Varmus, et al. Propose a Strategy For Saving Biomedical Research

Relying on Staff Scientists

According to the paper, laboratories in the U.S. haven’t relied on staff scientists, in part because they command higher salaries than trainees and postdocs.

“These arguments ignore the fact that beginning graduate students and fellows are also costly because they often require considerable time to become highly productive,” the paper states. “We believe that staff scientists can and should play increasingly important roles in the biomedical workforce. Within individual laboratories, they can oversee the day-to-day work of the laboratory, taking on some of the administrative burdens that now tend to fall on the shoulders of the laboratory head; orient and train new members of the laboratory; manage large equipment and common facilities; and perform scientific projects independently or in collaboration with other members of the group. Within institutions, they can serve as leaders and technical experts in core laboratories serving multiple investigators and even multiple institutions.”

To make this change work, universities would have to create a career path for staff scientists and granting agencies would need to learn to value the contributions of long-serving lab members. “Two of the likely consequences of these changes in graduate and postdoctoral training and employment of staff scientists will be an increase in the unit cost of research and a reduction in the average size of laboratories, the paper states. “We believe that the significant benefits—including brighter prospects for trainees, less pressure to obtain multiple grants to sustain a group’s financial viability, increased incentives to collaborate, and more time for investigators to focus on their science—substantially outweigh the limitations.”

Continue reading 40-18 On Biomedical Malthusianism 2
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