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Meeting the Nation’s Needs for Biomedical and Behavioral Scientists: Summary of the 1993 Public Hearing
providing the mentoring for selected students may have its place in certain instances. But in order to assure the maintenance of high quality research training environments especially in the behavioral sciences, I would like to see more support for interdisciplinary and team efforts and even multi-university cooperation. The problems we are researching today in behavioral science often demand an interdisciplinary approach. Collaboration needs to be modeled for students. The concept that research in a particular area is the work of one or two persons fosters isolationism and competitiveness which is no longer appropriate to scientific development; it is not conducive to learning nor to the multiple roles many of us assume in academia.
Qualified scientists may be in smaller or lesser known universities, or have limited access to advanced graduate students and postdoctoral students. It is possible that these scientists could play an important role in mentoring young researchers, and fees for their consultation might be incorporated into NRSA funding, similarly but perhaps on a smaller scale, to that done with academic awards and RO1s. Such contacts early in someone’s research career can be critical as one begins to develop those important broad linkages. This relationship could be highly advantageous to a smaller or less prominent university as it attempts to respond to the research needs of this country.
In addition, some sort of “match” system may be advisable in areas of high need research; a match with faculty in another university who might provide significant input into the student’s research program might be useful.
The needs of women and minorities have been identified as an area of special concern by this committee, and this is the second area I want to address. There are gender differences in the timing of graduate education based on long standing social traditions. Many women enter the graduate track later in life due to family care responsibilities, second careers, and often develop first careers later in life than men. Many of these women are single parents. The NRSA needs to reconsider its limited support structure if increased participation by women and minorities is a goal. More options are needed. For example, incentives for completing early may be appropriate for some, while others need support for additional years with funding spread out over that time and with the student allowed more employment hours than is presently the case. I will make more specific comments on the funding issues in the third and final section of this report.
To assure a continuing supply of skilled investigators in the biomedical and behavioral sciences I believe we need to expose promising undergraduate students, especially women and minorities, to research early in their educational experience through creative course work and independent study.
Programs such as the Summer Research Opportunities Program at The University of Michigan which allows young women and minorities to work with university researchers, for pay, during the summer, may be critical for attracting young researchers.
Recently women’s groups have suggested that daughters spend a day at work with their mothers. That concept may need to be taken seriously on a broader scale. To recruit women into research we need to suggest that high school students and college undergraduates spend not a day but a term with a woman or minority researcher.
Incentives to universities and faculty who encourage and sponsor students in these sorts of programs are needed. Linkages may need to be developed across universities as already suggested. We might invest more doing this, but the overall product would be worth it.
The third and final area I want to address is that of funding. Although I am grateful for the funding that accompanied my NRSA, I and many of the other women doctoral students at The University of Michigan found the stipend and rule regarding employment extremely limited. Cost of living in Ann Arbor for one is estimated to be $1100 per month by the university. Many of us are parents, some single parents, and some of our children are in college so education costs are often not just our own. The existing structure of a $700 monthly stipend and employment limitations to 25 percent time is simply not sufficient. If the stipend cannot be increased, then I would strongly urge that employment limits be lifted and the NRSA annual progress report be the basis for evaluating productivity and continued financial support. The assumption seems to be that work is not educational and may interfere with educational productivity. In my case my work was part of my mentoring experience and was critical to my progress.