August 24, 2016
The United States has become the world’s leading jailer with 2.2 million people in jails and prisons across the country. With a combination of government and privately run facilities, the nation faces the moral issues surrounding the prison-industrial complex. As … Continue reading →
August 24, 2016
Need I say more?
The post The Relentless Rise of Healthcare Expenditures appeared first on PeterUbel.com.
August 23, 2016
A symposium that I edited is coming out shortly from Johns Hopkins University Press: "Patient, Family, and Clinician Experiences with Voluntarily Stopping Eating And Drinking (VSED)."
The symposium includes 15 personal narratives from those invo...
August 22, 2016
Postdocs in the U.S. have been earning around $40,000 for
the longest time. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students constitute the
bulk of the academic biomedical research workforce. In May of this year, a new
regulation on overtime pay was proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor which
aimed to raise salaries (Benderley 2016). Because postdocs work more than 40
hours per week, the regulations, now approved, will raise stipends to $47,484
which is the rate for Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards
(NRSAs) but serves as the standard for stipends used by most institutions (Kuo
2016). Institutions are obligated to either raise the pay or can put in punch
card systems (track their pay somehow) and pay postdocs overtime. This overall
9% increase will not be seen right away. According to the new rule, the first
two years of a fellow’s salary will be significantly lower (just 0.8% increase),
but at the third year, the increase would be 4% (Kuo 2016). There are more
caveats. The new rule has exemptions for overtime pay and it does not apply to
teachers including graduate student teaching assistants or tenured/non-tenured
faculty. So those postdoc with teaching responsibilities may fall through the
cracks at receiving this increase in pay. Postdocs heavily dependent on
teaching, such as those in the social sciences and humanities will likely be
unaffected by the stipend increase. Most commentators have been supportive of
increasing postdoctoral salaries. But the question that is on everyone’s mind
is how will this increase impact the biomedical workforce?
Several who have chimed in on this debate have claimed
that the pay hike will not significantly impact the current situation.
Institutions have several months to begin implementation and this should be
relatively straightforward. But will we see postdocs being dropped at the 3
year mark when stipends are dramatically meant to increase? Certainly some bean
counters might try and utilize caveats in the rule to not pay postdocs a better
salary because they are doing some side teaching or may decide to count their
hours placing in time consuming time sheet systems. Also, postdocs may be
pressured to finish up after their first couple years or perhaps fewer postdocs
will be hired overall. But is this a bad thing? In a seminal paper by Bruce
Alberts and several prominent biomedical scientists titled Rescuing US Biomedical Research From Its Systemic Flaws (among
other key papers), the authors explain that the current biomedical science environment
is unsustainable and in a state of hypercompetition where postdoctoral
fellowships are becoming longer and researchers may undertake multiple postdocs
(Alberts et al., 2014). Additionally, it is difficult to secure Principal
Investigator (professorial-type) positions and the mean age of first time R01s
(NIH’s flagship grant) has increased to about 42 years from 37 in the 1980s. I
am positive that according to many, raising postdoc salaries means that less
NIH dollars will go to research labor and decrease the workforce which is an
overall drawback. But decreasing the overall workforce might be beneficial in
that the competition for professorial positions might be reduced and grant
success rates could increase. Because scientists have an ethical duty to
promote entry of our youth into scientific professions, this should be done
with a caveat in that students should know that a scientific profession might
be a long and difficult road. And in many cases, this road might not lead to
the ultimate position scientists desire: a research-based academic position
with decent prospects at obtaining funding. Raising postdoctoral stipends,
albeit in the right direction, is just one small step into making our
biomedical science workforce in the U.S. sustainable. Greater efforts are
required to make career prospects for future scientists reasonable.
Alberts, B., Kirshchner, M.C., Tilghman, S. and Varmus,
H. 2014. Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences (USA) 11(17):5773-77.
Benderly, B.L. 2016. Postdoc pay to increase due to new
overtime rule. Science
Last updated: August 15, 2016.
Kuo, M. 2016. NIH sets new postdoc stipend levels. Science http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2016/08/nih-sets-new-postdoc-stipend-levels.
Last updated: August 15, 2016.
August 21, 2016
"Right before I Die" is a new photographic exhibition at the LA Museum of Tolerance. The photographs show people facing serious illness along with the subject's words of wisdom and hope.