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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program Summary The Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust was created as a 15-year, limited-term philanthropy in support of basic medical research by the will of Lucille P. Markey who died on July 24, 1982. Mrs. Markey wished that a trust be established “for the purposes of supporting and encouraging basic medical research.” The Trustees, who provided governance for the Markey Trust, targeted its programs to specific needs within the biomedical sciences where funding could potentially make a difference. Three primary areas of support emerged over the life of the Trust targeting: Support of young researchers in the biomedical sciences Funding the establishment, reorganization, or expansion of major biomedical research programs or centers led by established investigators Providing training opportunities in translational research for doctoral and medical students. During the 15 years following its creation, the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust spent more than $500 million in these areas. In response to a request by the Markey Trustees, the National Research Council established a study committee to evaluate the Markey Trust’s grant programs. The evaluation project overseen by this committee addresses two general questions: (1) were the Trust’s funds well spent? and (2) what can others learn from the programs of the Markey Trust both as an approach to funding biomedical research and as a model of philanthropy?
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program The Markey Trustees developed an approach to philanthropy they believed would maximize the impact of the Trust’s assets on the biomedical sciences. This approach had the following key attributes: Distribute all of the assets of the Trust over a limited period of time, allowing more funds to be distributed in a given year and larger awards to be offered; Operate with a small core staff, thereby reducing administrative costs and allowing a higher proportion of funds to be awarded to grantees; and Provide funds with only a minimum of required reporting, thereby freeing recipients from the burdensome paperwork often associated with grants. The Markey Scholar Awards in Biomedical Science and the United Kingdom and Australian Visiting Fellows1 were developed in response the Trustees’ perceived need for funding to enhance the transition from postdoctoral fellow to faculty status. With guidance from expert consultants, the Trustees formulated a program that made about 16 Markey Scholar awards per year to outstanding young biomedical scientists for the seven years between 1985 and 1991 for a total of 113 awards. The program had a rigorous selection process that contributed to its success. The Trustees stipulated that half of the Scholar awardees should have Ph.D. degrees and half should have M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. degrees. The program funded up to 3 years as a postdoctoral fellow followed by 5 years as a faculty member. Stipend and laboratory expenses were included in the funding package that ranged from $570,000 to over $700,000 for Scholars who remained in the program. In addition, between 1986 and 1993 the Trustees supported 36 outstanding young scientists from the United Kingdom and Australia for two-year fellowships at American research institutions. This report assesses the impact of the Markey Scholars program from three perspectives—were Markey funds well spent, did the Scholars do well, and are there lessons for other funders of biomedical researchers to be gleaned from the Markey Scholars program? The committee adopted a multifaceted approach to evaluating the Markey Scholars program that drew on: 1 The official names of the programs are the Markey Scholar Award in Biomedical Science and the United Kingdom and Australian Visiting Fellows. The terms Scholars Award or Markey Scholars program and Visiting Fellows program will be used throughout the report.
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program Resume analysis Citation analysis Analysis of NIH databases Analysis of Markey Trust archival information Interviews with Markey Scholars and Visiting Fellows In order to better understand the career outcomes of the Markey Scholars, the study committee compared indicators of achievement for the Scholars with those for individuals who were unsuccessful applicants for Markey Scholar awards. The Markey Scholars authored more articles, had a higher level of citations per individual and article, received more R01 grants, achieved higher rank, had a shorter time to tenure, and were located in higher ranked institutions than the biomedical scientists in the comparison groups. There was no difference, however, between Scholars and comparison group members in total number of NIH grants. With only two years of postdoctoral funding, the Visiting Fellows program did not have the same impact as the Markey Scholars program. Nevertheless, it was an invaluable experience for the Visiting Fellows that enriched their research. Thus, the committee concluded that both the Markey Scholars and Visiting Fellows programs were successful. The committee recognized that there were two aspects of the Markey award that could account for differences between the Markey Scholars and the comparison groups—the process used to select Markey Scholars and the size, structure, and duration of the award itself. The committee concluded that it was unable to differentiate the impacts of these two factors, but that they could evaluate the Markey award program generally. The committee recommends the following based on its findings: Recommendation 1. Other funders, especially NIH, should consider creating awards that facilitate the transition from postdoctoral fellow to faculty status. The committee recognizes that the transition from postdoctoral fellow to faculty status can be stressful. Moreover, very few funding programs provide career transition awards, although there has been recognition for their need for such programs for several years. Recommendation 2. Other funders of biomedical researchers should consider adopting the Markey Scholars Award as a template that can be used by philanthropic and governmental funders (especially the NIH) to identify and fund biomedical scientists at this important time in their careers. The committee recommends that any future funders of career transitions awards give careful consideration to this template since it can enable funders to (1) identify postdoctoral fellows who believe that they are
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Evaluation of the Markey Scholars Program independent or nearly independent in their research agenda, (2) provide funding not only for salaries but also for laboratory equipment, supplies, and staff, and (3) monitor awardees to ensure that they establish independent research careers in a timely manner. The committee urges funders to make certain that institutions making nominations ensure that female and minority nominees are fully included in all aspects of the nomination process. The committee recommends that future funders incorporate annual meetings modeled after the Markey Scholars Conference to enable awardees to benefit from networking. Finally, both the Scholars and comparison group members offered innovative suggestions for features that went beyond the Markey template and might enhance the funding of biomedical scientists. The committee recommends that any future funders consider these suggestions as part of the funding process. Recommendation 3. The committee recommends funding to foster the international exchange of biomedical scientists for research and training. The committee recommends that funders establish mechanisms to bring foreign biomedical scientists to laboratories in the United States for intensive research and training and to fund research and training opportunities for U.S. biomedical scientists abroad. Recommendation 4. Any funders of biomedical researchers should incorporate a prospective, data-driven monitoring and evaluation system as part of the program. The committee strongly believes that a data-driven, prospective evaluation should be fully integrated into any new funding initiative. The committee recommends that funders undertake (at least) annual monitoring of awardees activities for several years. Data generated from monitoring should be used to target appropriate candidates and tailor funding to meet changing needs. Recommendation 5. The biotechnology industry and the government are making important contributions to the biomedical research agenda and should not be excluded from transitional funding mechanisms. The committee recognizes that the biotechnology industry and government are increasingly attractive destinations for biomedical researchers. It recommends current and future funders of biomedical scientists continue support for those who transition to these destinations outside of academia.
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