Every now and then I get a bug up my butt about something and spend some time poking around on CRISP. Thanks to the readership of this blog, I know that I’m not the only demented wackaloon that does this. Anyway, the convergence of grant rejection, paper rejection, general lack of motivation to pick up those two grants that I am turning over in July, and all those fabulous soccer graphs that keep appearing over at Mad Hatter’s site… I did some poking around on CRISP and graph making of my own. Seems like I should have done this little bit of market analysis long ago… but nevertheless.
So, I searched in CRISP using my favorite organism (MFO) as the sole keyword. I printed the list, and tallied up all the R01s funded in 2008 (competitive and non-competitive) that have MFO as a keyword. Then I eliminated the ones that aren’t directly related (i.e. those that have MFO mentioned in the abstract with a list of 20 other organisms and it’s clear that the biology of MFO isn’t being studied in this proposal). Then, I went through the list to see how many of these MFO centered funded R01 are held by ASSISTANT PROFESSORS. I was shocked by the result.
In case you are wondering, that’s 3 of 71 funded R01s on MFO in 2008 were held by investigators at the rank of Assistant Professor (Yes, I updated the ##s when I discovered that I failed to remove two funded assistant professors when I determined that their R01s weren’t directly related to MFO, so it is actually nearly twice as bad as I thought originally). What does this look like for your favorite organism?
My MFO has almost 700 R01s awarded in 2008 fiscal year so far, too many to sift through to see which are to assistant professors.
This obviously won’t be feasible for some highly funded areas. I had to weed out the R21s, larger projects, and some miscellaneous to get the R01s. My field is smaller but this wasn’t that much work because I can pretty much eyeball the list in my field and know for many of them is senior and who is not – because I’ve been around and know these people. I probably had to look at about 1/2 of the abstracts to see a person’s rank- and of those there were 5 who didn’t list their rank and I had to use other methods to determine their rank.
The bottom line for my field, is that the number of young people is vanishingly small. I knew it was small, I just didn’t anticipate that it was so incredibly small.
Crisp is a great resource to scope out trends. It is also great to see what those people who have grants but never seem to publish anything are up to.
ha ha! CRISP wackaloons unite!
DrdrA I do think we need some comparators, though to conclude any fields are either better or worse on the seniority measure.
For the organism my lab works on: 7 R01s. Of those, 0 are held by assistant professors. Hopefully that changes soon!
Yeah- I know we can’t make a rule across fields, but geez 3 of 71- my field is notorious for this. Whether it is better or worse than other fields- it sucks even without the comparison. There is NO youth at the bottom of this field.
I can also tell you that 16/71 of those R01s are held by 8 senior male investigators, most of whom also have an R21 as well and R01 on other organisms or project grants (I didn’t count R21s). Those labs are THE high powered labs working on MFO (one of them is HHMI as well).
WHERE are all the post-docs that these people are putting out…. I’m sure that together these 8 labs have recently trained more than the three at the bottom.
Also interestingly- only 8 of the 71 R01s are held by women at all levels.
That graph is just utterly depressing. And so is your commentary.
(just had to add my 2 cents)
Cool idea, despite the depressing result! I tried looking up the virus I work on, but ran into the same hurdle as when I do lit searches for it on PubMed. That virus has at least 3 different names which are commonly used in publications. One of those three names has multiple spelling variants. Searching for the portion of those 3 names that is in common pulls up everything related to the entire virus family (at least 8 viruses, and that’s just in humans). Argh!
So that was just a long-winded way to say that I don’t know the situation for my virus. When I briefly scanned the list, I did see the names of several junior investigators I know, although I didn’t check to see if those were R01s.
Are the postdocs that have emerged from the 8 big labs in your field getting faculty positions and publishing on MFO? I’m wondering if they’re leaving the field altogether.
Yes, it’s depressing. But- here’s the thing- I know right now I’m in good company with the unfunded. I also know that if you don’t have help from great senior colleagues you don’t make it. In a weird sort of way this actually provides a lot of comfort in my current situation.
Yes, I see the problem with doing this for your area. I wonder if it is possible to do this by study section, because I would like to compare across everyone that works on pathogenic bacteria… but short of typing in each organism one at a time… the best way to go about this is that we all pretty much go to the same study section.
The postdocs that have emerged from the 8 big labs … are they getting faculty positions? Interesting you should ask that… me and another colleague in the field yesterday tried to name off postdocs that we know came out of these labs that are currently in faculty postions. The list is pretty darn short- I think we had about 4 we could name in the united states (in faculty positions, none at assistant professor level)- but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more- we simply don’t know the credentials of all the younger faculty on the list from our memory. The list was longer (by 3 people) if we took those that went overseas.
six out of 56: ~9%.
Your field is doing better than mine… I wonder why?
This doesn’t mean they’re not getting funded, right? it could just mean that there are no asst. professors in the field. All professorial rankings are skewed away asst. profs, ’cause it’s a limited duration profession.
If it’s as top-heavy as this suggests, though, it would suggest that the field is dying, unless you’re in a special special sub-specialty where people live forever.
But, you do bring up something I’ve thought about a lot — there are fields where the senior people are generous, and there are fields where they are not (and people cross-link, too, so you can be generous both to underlings and cross-lings). Sometimes, this seems to depend on the personality, the character, of the people who made it big. I know one particular person, who is a middling-senior person now, and he’s one of the most scientifically generous people I know. To some extent, it’s because he’s just incapable of keeping his mouth shut. But, because of this he shares ideas — even if the shared idea will result in someone scooping him to a CNS paper. Behavior like this changes the field, if those generous folk can survive. It can mean that the field gains prominence over other fields, where the people are more pinched and selfish. It should be an incentive, but it doesn’t end up being one if you know you’ll survive no matter what.
(Keep fighting! I wasn’t a Hillary supporter, but there’s a quote from a friend — in a Washington post article that has rung true for me “‘She Could Accept Losing. She Could Not Accept Quitting.’ Fighting doesn’t guarantee success, but quitting guarantees failure. It’s a lesson that we don’t seem to teach women. I sat in on a bicycling class for 6 year olds the other day. At the end of the one hour session, all four boys were on the field, and agreeing to do the last exercise. The girls were giving up. I complained to my daughter, and said that we have to learn not to do that).
Yes, it is limited time – but 6 years long… you would think there would be more than 3 at the assistant professor level (at least I would). I wonder why from those 8 high powered labs more people aren’t coming out into faculty positions.
But I think you quite rightly put your finger on the generosity/or lack thereof of the senior faculty in the field. The success of younger faculty depends on them. After all, you can have all the self-starting nature, bright ideas, great oral/written communication skills etc… talents you need as a post-doc, but you won’t get a jr. faculty position without the help of senior faculty, and you won’t get a grant without them either. Just a reality at this moment.
I know one particular person, who is a middling-senior person now, and he’s one of the most scientifically generous people I know. To some extent, it’s because he’s just incapable of keeping his mouth shut.
HA! Sounds like me. The spouting off part anyway. although most of this is because for a very long time I was not really in danger of scoopage. Interestingly I find that people have been moving in on topics that I’ve been working on more and more as time goes by. I wonder how many times it will take me getting burned before I turn into one o’ them paranoid secretive scientist types?
“I wonder how many times it will take me getting burned before I turn into one o’ them paranoid secretive scientist types?”
I hope never. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re burned, as long as you can survive and keep doing the research right? I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. I don’t think you’re the loudmouth I know, but he’s thriving.
I’m like you- I am very free with ideas and unpublished data. I’m sure I’ll develop some caution over the years. I have had some odd experiences with this that I intended to post on today- but something else got in the way.