June 22, 2012

There is no excuse for this. None.

The head of the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research, Sally Rockey, has just posted this amazing comment within her report on the biomedical workforce.

I was quite surprised by the idea that the majority of our trainees do not end up in academia. Did this surprise you?

It is 2012. The trends have been unrelenting since the 70s. Fewer PhDs landing jobs within three years of defending. More taking postdoctoral “training” slots. Those postdoctoral stints lengthening in time. The increasing age of the time to first R01 award. People bailing the hell out of this racket because they can’t see a path to the success they wanted.

How can someone this high in the NIH, someone who has the responsibility to oversee all the F32/F31/T32 training mechanisms, be this utterly clueless about what time it is on the streets?


This kind of incompetence is just mind blowing.

But you know what? It’s familiar. The NIH likewise didn’t seem to have any clue the only “New Investigators” getting decent scores were not young or early stage but rather grizzled researchers who happened to have funding from DOD, NSF, CDC, other federal or big private funders or just moved to the US from other countries. They had no idea, apparently, that the A2 queing/traffic pattern phenomenon was developing. R21 demands for prelim data. Failure of R29/FIRST winners to blossom as expected. Etc. They can’t even work out that clinical K-level mentored trainees fall out of the pipeline because they can just go back to doctoring. Their response to the growing soft-money “deal” was “well you shouldn’t take a job at a place like that if they aren’t going to support you!”.

So yeah, I’m used to this.

But it still gasts my flabber when the latest bit of unexplicable ignorance is revealed.