University outlines plan to support biomedical workforce at Johns Hopkins

Report offers recommendations related to training and professional development, transparency and coordination, funding and resources

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A committee of faculty, staff, and students has issued a final version of 24 recommendations to strengthen Johns Hopkins University's biomedical enterprise, offering ideas related to training and professional development, transparency and coordination, and funding and resources.

The Committee on the Biomedical Scientific Workforce, which convened in the fall of 2016, was asked to explore steps the university should take in the face of nationwide challenges, including declining funding opportunities, fewer tenure-track positions and limited clear pathways for alternate careers, gender and racial inequities, and pressure to obtain grants and publications.

"[M]any aspects of this work will benefit not only biomedical faculty, trainees, and staff, but the Johns Hopkins University community at large."
Ron Daniels and Sunil Kumar

There is "an emergent view that the incentives in the current system contribute to a culture of hyper-competition and conservatism for the incoming generation at a moment when we should be emphasizing creativity, collegiality, and team-based science," the committee said in their introduction to the report.

The committee released an initial report in December 2017 and asked for feedback from faculty, students, trainees, and others across Johns Hopkins, and from the national biomedical research community. The final version incorporates that feedback and represents the final recommendations of the report to the committee.

In a message to the university community, President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar described the university's plans for acting on the report's recommendations, which include creating an implementation committee and several efforts for the next year, among them:

  • Broadening implementation of doctoral and postdoctoral professional development plans to better prepare trainees for careers
  • Developing universitywide mentoring expectations for faculty mentors and doctoral and postdoctoral mentees
  • Addressing an array of workplace challenges confronting midcareer and senior investigators, which can contribute to a sense of faculty burnout (this effort will draw on current divisional programs, such as the Joy of Medicine Initiative in the School of Medicine)
  • Identifying mechanisms that enhance university support for research collaboration
  • Establishing a Research Core Coordinating Committee that will improve how faculty can access and share core resources. For example, it will develop new processes to incentivize shared instrumentation and strengthen junior faculty access to core facilities.

Some of the report's recommended reforms are already under way. Last year, for example, the university announced a new coalition of universities agreeing to publish outcomes related to PhD students and postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences. Johns Hopkins exceeded that commitment by publishing those data for every department of the university.

In January, the university announced an extension of the Catalyst and Discovery Awards programs for an additional three years to support early career faculty and cross-divisional research collaborations, and the Faculty Diversity Initiative continues to provide resources to build and sustain a more diverse faculty community.

"Nevertheless," Daniels and Kumar wrote, "as indicated by the breadth of recommendations in the committee's report, much work remains to be done. To that end, we have formed an implementation team composed of university leaders with expertise in the report's three categories to work with colleagues across the schools."

They added: "We expect many aspects of this work will benefit not only biomedical faculty, trainees, and staff, but the Johns Hopkins University community at large."

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